Development of a Youth-Engaged Environmental Assessment Toolkit

This internship would be part of a multi-year project is to engage youth in New York State in the co-development and testing of a youth-led environmental assessment toolkit for evaluating how well community outdoor spaces (with an emphasis on recreation and/or green spaces such as parks) support and welcome local youth aged 12-18 years. In addition to an assessment tool, the toolkit will also trial and refine diverse engagement methods that will help youth to evaluate their community spaces, as well as develop action plans and/or knowledge translation materials to communicate their needs to decision makers and help advocate for change in their communities.  The project will also examine whether participation in the development and/or the use of the toolkit will contribute to positive youth development outcomes. The final output for the project will be a comprehensive but flexible toolkit that youth and/or their communities can use to evaluate and improve the youth-friendliness of outdoor recreation/green spaces. In Summer 2023, we aim to work with the 4H educators and programs in one or more NYS counties to engage local youth in the testing of a pilot assessment tool and engagement methods, and development of potential youth action planning methods.

Roles and responsibilities 

The intern will work with Dr. Loebach and other members of the DECALab and local 4H associates to recruit and work with youth in Rockland County over the course of the summer. The intern will be involved in delivering participatory planning workshops with local youth aged 12 to 18 to assess local recreational and green spaces for youth-friendly amenities, and test out the use of a youth-delivered environmental assessment tool.  Workshops with youth will also explore methods for helping them to envision and communicate changes they would like to see in local community spaces to make them more youth-friendly.  The intern will also help to liaise with 4H partners, document and report on the engagement process, and support the refinement of the assessment tool and methods.

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to students in Cornell University's College of Human Ecology.

Completion of a Research Methods course and/or participation in research would be a significant asset.  Coursework in environmental assessment or design would also be valuable. They will also need to have strong communication, facilitation and organizational skills; experience developing and/or delivering research or community reports or presentations would also be considered valuable. Experience working with children, youth and/or communities would be considered an asset. Before beginning work with youth, the successful intern will also need to pass relevant background checks, and complete short online Cornell courses related to working with minors.

Learning outcomes 

The student intern would gain significant experience in various methods for conducting field research with and for youth; will learn effective methods for engaging youth in participatory assessment and planning processes; will gain experience in synthesizing and effectively reporting data in both academic and community-based venues.  Interns will gain an understanding of the environmental needs and preferences of youth, as well as their capacity to contribute to community evaluation and planning. The internship will also provide improved understanding of and experience of youth survey design and analysis, as well as assessment of qualitative methods such as Photovoice and community asset mapping. The intern will also learn more about the 4H system and initiatives through engagement with Extension Associations and local 4H leaders.