School’s out… YELC is in!

No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks! 

Such is the quintessential end-of-school verse that comes in the month of June. Of course, that was BEFORE the Youth Environmental Leadership Camp (YELC) came onto the scene. 

With the creation of YELC, 60 students now chant a very different rhyme to celebrate all that they’ve learned during camp. Let’s see… how does it go? Ah, yes: 

We love nature! We love air! We’ll show the environment that we care! 

Okay, maybe you could improve upon that. What we’re trying to say is: YELC is the best way to spend the month of June.

Every Monday morning, we’ve welcomed a new set of campers who are excited to spend the week learning about climate change and potential careers in the environmental sector. Each week, 15 campers show up ready to learn about climate change & air quality, transportation, energy, water, food, waste, consumption, land use, and habitat.

Monday: Climate Change, Air Quality, and Transportation

Campers start the day with an intro to Climate Change and start learning about the impacts of a warming planet. Then, they load up onto the bus and drive to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center where they hear from experts from both the CA Air Resources Board and the Sac Tree Foundation to learn about air quality sensors and the importance of the tree canopy. Thanks to David Ridley, Walter Hamm, and Pam Sanchez for making our Mondays great! 

Also, a big heap of gratitude to Katrina May Sutton and George Parrott for allowing all those kids to sit in their cars and ask questions about EVs (electric vehicles). They also got to hear about some of amazing things that can happen (like driving a bright green EV!) if you work hard in school — never hurts to encourage them! Campers also got a start on Tuesday’s theme by making solar ovens.

Tuesday: Energy

Tuesdays are all about energy! Depending on the week, campers visited either the SMUD Solar Farm and former Nuclear site at Rancho Seco, the Van Warmderdam Dairy in Galt, or the Folsom Powerhouse. Campers learned about clean energy options such as solar, water, and bio-gas. Then it was back to the Splash Center to make s’mores in the solar ovens and make solar-powered bugs, followed by wind turbines (another clean energy source). Two of the weeks, when the field trip was a little shorter, the kids also got to have a water fight at Splash to beat the heat. Many thanks to Van Warmerdam Dairy, Maas Energy Works, SMUD, and the Folsom Powerhouse State Historic Park for giving our campers such an amazing day!

Wednesday: Water

Everyone LOVES water day and it’s no wonder, thanks to a fun time at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery and Soil Born Farms with experts from CBEC Engineering and Stillwater Sciences! Wow – what a great time! Campers learned about water quality monitoring, hydrologic modeling, stream surveying, and biological restoration. There was even time to play in the swimming hole. Thanks to CA Department of Fish & Wildlife, Soil Born Farms, CBEC Engineering, and Stillwater Sciences for making our Wednesdays great!

Thursday: Food, Waste and Consumption

Do you know what a wastewater treatment plant looks like? Have you seen worms, busy at work, composting organic food waste at the historic Nicolaus Dairy? Or, have you ever seen how recycling is separated from trash? Each YELC’r can enthusiastically answer “yes!” to all of those questions. Thursdays are definitely an adventurous day for all involved. Many thanks to Regional San and Republic Services for showing us so many amazing things.

Friday: Land Use and Habitat

A field trip to the Westervelt Cosumnes Mitigation Bank (owned by Sacramento Valley Conservancy) is in store on Fridays. Campers spend the morning there, hiking, picnicking, and learning about land and habitat restoration with Westervelt Ecological Services. From there, campers return to the Splash Center for their final activity: a mock planning commission. Campers hear arguments in favor of either development or conservation interests. Campers ponder, “Can development and conservation happen at the same time?” “Does it have to be one or the other?” This close-up look into the decision-making process is the perfect closing activity. We get to see what the campers have learned throughout the week, and they get to use their knowledge to make an informed decision. A win-win! Thank you to our Friday partners at Westervelt Ecological Services!

Our Partners:  

None of these field trips would be possible without our partnership with Paratransit, LLC! Thank you for providing the best transportation around!

Aside from the incredible partners listed above, we would also like to acknowledge Regional San, American Charitable Water Foundation, the County of Sacramento, SMUD, and the City of Rancho Cordova for their support! Splash is fortunate to have received grants from these organizations – grants that made it possible for YELC to be offered at no cost to YELC families. THANK YOU for believing in our mission and for your enthusiasm for this program! Check out our extensive list of partners and sponsors at the bottom of the YELC webpage!

In all, 2023’s YELC program has been nothing short of amazing! We loved working with each YELC camper and we look forward to seeing what volunteer projects they choose this fall!