The staff members from the Department of Education and Communities Wooglemai Environmental Educational Centre (WEEC) have hosted an annual residential eco-leadership camp for secondary students since 2011. The name of the camp is ‘Youth Environmental Network Eco-Leadership Camp’ (YEN). The participants have primarily been Year 7 to 10 students from New South Wales government schools. There would normally be thirty students (male and female) attending the YEN, with the duration of the camp being four days and three nights.
The purpose of the YEN camp is to provide an opportunity for students to air their concerns about the state of the planet and create a vision for taking action in their schools and wider communities on critical sustainability issues. Students participate in workshops and activities that promote understanding of both local and global issues about sustainability as well as building their leadership and teamwork skills. The purpose of the camp is to support students in developing projects and campaigns to be carried out at school or community level and beyond. Students receive leadership training as a part of the camp.
The key facilitators of the YEN camp are Frank Calabria and Peter Nicoll from WEEC, Sue Lennox and Ben Maron from OzGreen, and Cate Fredrickson from Taronga Zoo Education Centre.
Previous feedback from participants revealed that through attending the YEN camp they successfully built relationships with other like-minded students, gained a deeper understanding of global sustainability issues, and developed visions and action plans to address some of these issues in their schools and communities. However, staff members of WEEC wanted to know how successful the students had been in implementing their action plans in their schools and communities so that they could make appropriate changes to the make up of the YEN camp if required. The WEEC staff members felt the need to develop deeper understandings of what took place in the schools and communities as the students attempted to implement the action plans that they developed on the YEN camp. In order to achieve these goals, the staff members of WEEC collaborated with Peter Andersen from the University of Wollongong to develop an appropriate research project.
The following sections will describe concisely the research project, findings, recommendations and implications for the Department of Education and Communities.