Stewards of Syracuse provides a 6-week summer program for youth (14-15 year olds) that combines education and employment opportunities into an exciting form of experiential learning. ESF SCIENCE, in partnership with CNY Works and Syracuse City Department of Parks, Recreation & Youth Programs , aims to inspire youth to appreciate nature and its influence in their daily lives. This is accomplished by exploring urban ecology through hands-on environmental conservation stewardship programs specifically designed to enhance participants' awareness and appreciation of natural resources in the urban environment.
Programs engage youth in the improvement and maintenance of their communities, including park clean-ups, water quality assessment, trail building, and planting of rain gardens. Service projects in Syracuse and field trips provide fun opportunities to see the practical applications of what they are learning. In 2009 the Stewards of Syracuse removed water chestnut from the Seneca River, built American kestrel nesting boxes with the Montezuma Audubon Center, assisted the with a fish survey at Clark Reservation, removed invasive species in City and County parks, cleared vegetation for the DEC along Onondaga Creek, and taught visiting youth groups about Onondaga Lake fish and stream ecology. The group also learned about the scientific method with Dr. Chris Nomura, made biodiesel & soap at ESF, practiced using GPS units with Dr. Ted Endreny and Paul Szemkow, participated in a chemistry lab with Dr. Neal Abrams, toured the greenhouses, and made liquid nitrogen ice cream. Summer activities are led by ESF Science Corps members (read their bios here), with support from ESF in the High School educators.
Program participants can expect to acquire valuable experiences that will serve them well in future work endeavors. Skills such as communication, leadership, team work, initiative, and networking are emphasized in Stewards of Syracuse activities. Youth also have an opportunity to safely handle scientific equipment and work tools that they have had little previous experience with.