Lynnea Shuck Honored by Earth Island Institute for Creating Refuge’s Junior Ranger Program
Brower Youth Award Winner Lynnea Shuck, on the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy USFWS. Copyright CC-BY-NA 3.0
Lynnea Shuck, a 17-year-old volunteer who created the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge’s first Junior Refuge Ranger program, has been named one of six youth leaders in North America to receive the Earth Island Institute’s prestigious Brower Youth Award.
The awards, part of the Institute’s New Leaders Initiative, recognize young environmental activists ages 13 to 22 for outstanding efforts to promote ecological sustainability and social justice.
Shuck, a senior at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, Calif., has been volunteering with the refuge since 2010. She created her innovative Junior Refuge Ranger program in 2013, when she recognized an opportunity to more actively engage young people who, in turn, can become advocates for wildlife protection and the refuge system.
Shuck said her experiences as a young volunteer at the refuge inspired her effort to reach out to other young students.
“I started volunteering when I was in 7th grade and became totally hooked on refuges. It opened up a whole world of environmental awareness for me—I’ve grown so much as a person here and am so appreciative of what the refuge has to offer. I want to give young children the opportunity to have the same experiences I’ve had.”
As part of her program, Shuck designed a 21-page activity book for 8-11 year-olds. The youngsters earn wildlife collector’s cards for activities like nature hikes, bird counts, wildlife art, and interviews with rangers, managers and educational staff at the refuge. Some of the regular refuge programs that earn participants points are the Wetlands Water Café, All About Owls, World of Butterflies and Nocturnal Wonders. With completion of the activity booklet, youngsters receive a sticker and are certified as Junior Refuge Rangers.
Hands-on experience at the refuge is central to the program.
“It’s one thing to learn about marsh plants in a classroom,” Shuck said. “It’s another to be standing in the marsh, touching the plants, and even tasting the pickleweed.”
Brower Youth Award Winner Lynnea Shuck, kneeling, points out pickleweed to aspiring Junior Refuge Rangers in a marsh on the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy USFWS. Copyright CC-BY-NA 3.0
Besides being fun, the activities impart valuable lessons about refuges and the environment.
“I learned that no matter how old a kid is, they can learn really complicated concepts in environmental science if they are taught in the right way,” Shuck notes. “This program demonstrates that environmental stewardship can be taught at any age.”
Shuck is now working to expand the Junior Refuge Ranger program to other refuges, including California’s Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex.
As part of her award, she and the other winners—who hail from Michigan, New York, Florida and Hawaii, and work on projects ranging from sustainable food security to prevention of marine debris—will get a week of leadership training. Each will also receive $3,000 funding for their programs.
The Brower Youth Awards will be formally presented by the Earth Island Institute in an October 21, 2014 ceremony at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco. More information on the ceremony can be found at broweryouthawards.org.
(By Doug Cordell via Field Notes. Doug Cordell is a Public Affairs Officer at the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service California-Nevada Offices.)