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The BLT is partnering with the EVOLUTIONS (Evoking Learning and Understanding through Investigations of the Natural Science) Afterschool Program. EVO, as it is known, is a free, hands-on science, career, and college prep program at the Yale Peabody Museum for New Haven and West Haven public high school students. Established in 2005, EVO has grown to serve 100 area students each year through weekly classes, weekend employment, and summer internships, along with field trips, special events, and support through college.

Through peer mentoring and training provided by Sci.CORPS (Science Career Orientation and Readiness Program for Students), EVO students work as science educators in paid positions in the Museum, learning communication and work skills as content creators, exhibit interpreters, and event leaders. Students in 9th and 10th grade are eligible and, once accepted, remain through graduation and on through college.

The BLT recognizes that youth involvement is crucial to the future of land conservation, but that the average American child spends 4-7 minutes per day playing outside, and over seven hours per day in front of a screen. Lacking time outdoors is particularly relevant for urban kids and those from communities that have historically been denied access to — or removed from — lands. Stark disparities in access to open space exist across income, education, race and ethnicity including right here along the CT shoreline. The BLT is addressing these issues by partnering with partnering with the EVOLUTIONS.

• Visit EVOLUTIONS online

• Read “Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature”

The BLT and EVO received a grant from the Donald A. Pels Charitable Trust to introduce EVO students to conservation related science, activities and experiences. After COVID delays, program kicked off in autumn 2021 with a BLT guided walk for several EVO members introducing trail blazes, ecosystems, land conservation, human history of the land, and the work of the BLT. EVO members enjoyed a day of “forest bathing” — a modern Japanese practice of paying attention to the five senses in nature — on the Red Hill Woods property offered by a certified guide. Current activities focus on mentoring advanced standing SciCorps students to lead junior members on similar hikes through BLT properties themselves. They have experienced a BLT led bird walk on the Vedder preserve, a marsh ecology walk on Partnership and a botanical walk on Jarvis Creek Preserve. Creative endeavors have included EVO students producing a BLT promotional video and painting a BLT door for the “Doors of Branford” on the green. All activities are led by BLT volunteers.

Our aspiration is to foster access to nature for all young people and to create a pipeline of youth who are enthusiastic about land conservation and the science that supports it.