Welcome Our Newest Youth Board Member!!!

One of Solar Youth’s core tenets is that youth should have a voice in who we are and what we do. Teenage Interns lead programs and deliver curriculum and Stewards design and implement service projects that address issues of importance to them. Youth also play an active role in Solar Youth’s governance, and in fact youth representation on the board is a requirement of Solar Youth’s bylaws. In keeping with this tradition, we are delighted to announce that our Board of Directors has its newest youth representative, Kenaya!

Kenaya Streater  has been a part of Solar Youth for the past 9 years!  She started off in Citycology,  our program for our youngest Stewards, and has continued on to take advantage of every program in Solar Youth's Cycle  of Stewardship!  In 2012, Naya became a Leader-in-Training, a program for 7th and 8th graders that serves as a steeping stone to Solar Youth’s Internship program.  Kenaya has always been very invested in the future of Solar Youth.  As an LIT, Naya volunteered to testify on behalf of Solar Youth in front of the state Appropriations Committee.  Here is the testimony she delivered:

“Hello.  My name is Kenaya and I have been a part of Solar Youth every year since I was six years old.  I am now going on fourteen and I am still involved.  In the time that I have been in Solar Youth I have gained a lot of experience.  I have taken part in many Community Service Action Projects (we call them C-SAP’s) like planting a peace garden, a butterfly garden, and Eddie’s garden in tribute to a boy who was shot and killed from the neighborhood.  The Service Adventure program gave me the chance to make and blaze a new trail in West Rock Ridge State Park, making it easier for people from the neighborhood to hike there.  We also built a small bridge along the trail over a seasonal stream.  I took part in many community clean-ups over the years.  Other Solar Youth participants and I also took part in designing a new playground that Solar Youth helped get for us.  As a Leader in Training, or LIT, I took the responsibility of planning and leading some of the younger program groups.  During this, L.I.T. members led and planned an end of the season trip.  I got the chance to help out adult educators in different groups.  With Solar Youth I have been on trips that went sledding, bike riding, hiking, and cooking for the homeless.  As long as Solar Youth can stay around, there are many more opportunities for me as I get older.  Please help us keep our funding, and even find some more if you can, so more youth can have the benefits I have had.” 

In 2013 Kenaya became an Intern and worked for Solar Youth’s Summer Camp.  She also volunteered to represent Solar Youth and speak at the Youth@Work press conference, which launched the start of the city’s summer work program! To check out an article about the press conference, click HERE!  All of us here at SY are thrilled to have Naya as our new board member! She'll make a great addition to the team!

Pond Lily Cleanup Fall 2013!

Solar Youth Stewards, Whole Food Market in Milford, New Haven Land Trust, Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, and community members all teamed up this past Sunday for a Kids Day of Service to clean the Pond Lily Nature Preserve! Solar Youth Stewards who live in the neighborhood bordering Pond Lily have been a key player in the restoration of Pond Lily by coordinating cleanup events, removing solid waste from the surrounding flood zones, and mobilizing community residents to ensure Pond Lily’s stewardship over the long term.  Sunday’s event was a huge success with a total of 27 volunteers and over 400 lbs. of solid waste cleared! 

All of our younger volunteers had a blast EXPLORING the woods, learning about the ecology of Pond Lily, and seeing the impacts that people have on the land. As we were walking out of the woods, a youth (8 years old) who came out to volunteer said, “Wow, who knew picking up trash could be so fun!”  

Interestingly enough a few of our volunteer Stewards recognized some of their old toys in the mix of trash.  It was as if they were finding a long lost buried treasure; an Easy-Bake Oven gifted to them from grandpa, a blue Croc that disappeared years ago, and an old rusted Tonka truck.  This turn of events led to conversations/problem solving and questions about how some of their possessions and other debris ended up in the woods and what we could do to prevent that from happening.  SY Steward, Ashley (9 years old), suggested that we put up signs along the fence between her neighborhood and the woods, asking people kindly not to dump their waste over the fence.  We thought this was a great idea and sounded like the start of a Community Service Action Project (C-SAP)!

Besides discovering all of the interesting waste in the woods, our Stewards enjoyed the calm sound of the West River, two baby snakes, a deer jaw, and buried clam shells!  It wouldn’t be a SY trip without a little nature lesson! Check out the video below of Gammy teaching a youth how to hold a snake!

Overall it was a great event!  Special thank you to Whole Foods Market in Milford for teaming up with us to make this event possible, and for supplying us with delicious snacks and a fabulous lunch!

A Summer of Extreme Weather! SY Partners with WXedge!

This summer Solar Youth Steward Team Camp, 9-13 year olds, partnered with News Channel 8 and WXedge to learn about extreme weather!  The theme for the summer was “Extreme Weather, Weather or Not?”  As part of their daily routine, Solar Youth Stewards tracked the weather on their own weather tracker.  They recorded humidity, temperature, precipitation, and pressure while learning the science behind each.  In the beginning of the summer SY Stewards were able to Skype with meteorologist Quincy Vagell!  Click HERE for the full video!

The Mobile Weather Lab

SY camp was visited by the mobile weather lab!  Youth were able to see the different weather tracking instruments, understand how they are used, and learned the importance of the mobile lab.  Some of the instruments they saw were thermometers, rain gauge, wind vein, and a hygrometer (measures humidity).  After meeting meteorologist Quincy and learning about the mobile weather lab, many of our Stewards declared that they wanted to become meteorologists!

 “Lilly is more interested weather; she now watches the weather channel.  She has also started a rock collection.  She enjoyed learning about the clouds and visiting WTNH”
Quote from a SY parent

SY Visits WTNH

Towards the end of the summer SY Stewards took a field trip to WTNH and were allowed to be on set as the noon news was being broadcasted!  Stewards were able to see the behind the scenes process of what it takes to put on the news.  They learned about the cameras, the set, the green screen, and how things look differently on the TV than they do in the broadcasting room!

Overall our Stewards had a blast learning about extreme weather.  At the end of the summer SY Stewards took over the New Haven Green as part of their Teach Back Project to teach community members about acid rain, emergency preparedness, and the importance of storm drains.  Stewards raised money to buy flashlights/ponchos to donate for emergency preparedness.  They also created posters and pamphlets about acid rain and emergency preparedness, which they handed out on the green! Great job SY Stewards!!! Thank you to WTNH and WXedge Academy for making this opportunity possible.  Special thanks to Quincy Vagell for skyping with us, visiting us with the weather lab, and for coming to our Public Education Forum and supporting us, we really appreciate it!

For more pictures of Summer Camp click HERE, for more pictures of SY with WTNH click HERE!

Westville Manor teens spend summer beautifying their community!!

Thanks to funding from the Housing Authority of New Haven and a Youth Violence Prevention Grant from the City of New Haven, ten teens from Westville Manor spent the summer implementing community service projects and learning leadership and job skills as part of Solar Youth’s Green Jobs Internship program.

Over the course of five weeks, four young women and six young men participated in several skill-building workshops and educational field trips – to Quinnipiac and Southern Connecticut State Universities for college tours and info sessions, to the Yale farm to make pizza, to Start Community Bank for its Loot Camp financial literacy workshop and to New Haven Housing Service to learn about sustainable building. Interns finished the season with a celebration at Lake Compounce!

Interns also developed beautification projects in the neighborhood over the course of the summer, including several flower planting sessions,  a big litter clean-up and a community garden project. For their project finale, Interns decided to paint boards that cover up vacant houses in Westville Manor, with help from a team from Shake Shack. Check out this New Haven Register article on that exciting project!  

Interns received a stipend for their efforts over the summer and reported that they learned a lot  - about landscaping, about problem solving and about preparing for their futures! Great work, Green Jobs Interns!

Citycology Summer Camp 2013

Solar Youth’s youngest Stewards (5-8 year olds) just wrapped up another successful five weeks of Citycology Summer Camp!  Citycology Summer Camp is one of Solar Youth’s citywide programs.  Throughout the summer, Stewards had a blast getting to know each other as they explored the city’s local ecology! The five weeks of camp were divided into five themes with corresponding games, activities, learning objectives, and trips!   

Week one: Welcome to the New England Forest.   

While exploring the woods around West Rock, Lake Wintergreen, and West River SY Stewards learned about the parts of a tree, ecosystems, and how everything is connected.  They learned a song about the parts of an insect and were excited to point them out when we found a cicada!  

Week two: Under the Long Island Sound! 

The second week of camp Stewards explored the Long Island sound at Lighthouse Park while learning about brackish water, tide pools, salt water, and sea life!  

Every week SY Interns decorated the camp club house according to the theme of the week.  Below are photos from the Under the Long Island Sound club house and the faces of our Stewards when they first saw it redecorated! 

Week Three: Mother Earth 

Stewards learned about seeds, planting, germination, compost, weather, clouds, and rain.  Youth first learned about germination through making seed necklaces that sprout over time.  At the end of the week SY Stewards joined forces with Friends of Edgewood Park and their Summer Intern Crew to plant Daffodils around the West River Park!  

Week Four: Urban Ecosystem

By the fourth week of camp our campers had the daily routine down and were really excelling!  Throughout week four youth explored the impact that humans and urban areas have on the environment.   Youth focused a lot on water pollution, learning everything from what a watershed is to the difference between non-point source pollution and point source pollution!  They even had time to be super heroes for a day!

Week Four Steward Spotlight and the Word of the Day

This summer Solar Youth implemented a new morning activity called Word of the Day.  Isaiah, the Steward above, thrived so much at this activity that by the fourth week of camp he was leading the activity all on his own!  Here is a quote from his Educator regarding the Word of the Day.

“One of my favorite moments from camp was when Isaiah came up to me and asked if he could lead the word of the day activity.  I had recently talked to him about his success with the word of the day and had asked him to try and encourage other youth to get involved.  When he asked if he could lead the activity I was so proud of him for stepping up into a leadership role and for choosing to be a positive role model.

Watching him lead the activity was amazing; he wouldn’t call on anyone unless they were sitting down with their hands raised.  He was also very supportive and helpful with youth who were struggling to get the correct definition.  Watching him lead this activity was one of those moments where as an Educator you really see the SY mission in action.  Youth teaching youth, mentorship, and empowerment!”
-Citycology Educator-

What is the Word of the Day?

For every day of camp there are one or two words that correspond to a lesson from that day.  At the end of morning meeting an Educator introduces the new Word of the Day and all the previous words from the days before.   If a youth knows the word they get to wear it around their neck until someone else learns it and then the word gets passed on!  The object of this is to see how many times youth could pass the word on in a day!  While collecting the words at the end of the day, Educators would ask everyone who wore a word that day to raise their hand so youth could see how many times the word got passed around.  Through this activity youth learn the words and are supportive of their peers in learning them as well!

Week Five: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! 

 Youth learned about the 3 R’s through songs, games, relay races, and Cyril the Sorcerer (a magician who teaches about recycling)!!! We finished the week off with a Public Education Forum, a small carnival on the last day, and a Talent Show!!!  Overall we had a fantastic summer!