YouthCaN: Information,          

             Communications, Community


                            Millard Clements

                            New York University



 What is YouthCaN?


         YouthCaN, Youth Communicating and Networking, is an initiative of faculty and students of the NYU Program in Environmental Conservation Education in cooperation with the H. Frank Carey High School Ecology Council, I*EARN, The International Education and Resource Network, and the Education Department of the American Museum of Natural History.



        The mission of YouthCaN has been to develop sustainable computer networks of youth groups for the coordination and expression of youth concerns regarding environmental issues. The strategy of YouthCaN has been to organize opportunities for young people, with computer telecommunications skills, to teach other young people how to develop such networking abilities and how to connect with like minded young people around the world.




              YouthCaN events for the last eight years have been planned, organized and administered by elementary and high school students It is a project in "kids teaching kids" about technology and the environment. Workshops deal with a range of environmental issues such as endangered species, recycling, air pollution, toxic waste and restoration projects. Computer workshops include developing Home Pages, e-mail, and developing cooperative projects with schools and organizations in the New York area and to some degree around the world. We have had slow-scan phone and computer video communications with students in Argentina, Uruguay Australia, Spain, China, Canada, India and Africa.




              YouthCaN is not a professional conference planned for the education of young people. It is a conference organized by young people for fellow students, teachers and parents and other interested adults. The primary mission of YouthCaN is to provide what might be called real experiences of responsibility in the development of global environmental projects and activities.






              YouthCaN annual meetings take place in the spring near Earth Day at the American Museum of Natural History. About 1000 students, teachers and parents attend YouthCaN events.  Planning this conference involves a consideration of:


An Opening Ceremony


A Day of Workshop Events


A Closing Ceremony


YouthCaN students making presentations to adult Professional Groups Regarding YouthCaN Projects And Activities



Participating in Developing Publicity for YouthCaN Activities.



Participating in Activities that will Encourage Schools in New York and Globally to Participate in YouthCaN


Documenting YouthCaN Activities


Maintaining a YouthCaN Web Page



Recent themes have been The Oceans - 94, HELP - Help Earth Live and Prosper - 95, Rebirth of the Earth - 96, S.O.A.P. - Save Our Amazing Planet - 97, HOWL - Help Our World Live -98, and the Theme of YouthCaN' 99 was Gone With The Fish! . Students from around the world were asked to share their projects that focus on restoring damaged ecosystems, creating habitats, or protecting existing wildlife. The themes are in the voice of young people; the workshops are critical and thoughtful.



              YouthCaN, in the course of its activities, has experienced many changes in telecommunications. We started with e-mail using the IGC, International Global Communications network, the I*EARN system, Glasnet, a Russian network and the NYU Academic Computer Facility. When YouthCaN began at The American Museum of Natural History, the museum had very few communications resources. YouthCaN paid to have many AMNH rooms wired. The Museum now has is own sophisticated system and some students have AMNH accounts others often use Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL.


        Today schools in Eastern Europe, many states, Australia, Africa, South and America are involved in YouthCaN. Students from Belarus Slovakia and Russia have attended YouthCaN events.



       YouthtCaN98 in cooperation with the Rogers, Texas School District developed a YouthCaN-Texas and a YouthCaN-New York. We had joint opening and closing sessions with a workshop developed by YouthCaN-Texas for New York participants and a workshop developed by YouthCaN-New York for Texas participants. Five Texas high school students spent several days in New York meeting with YouthCaN New York students.



        During the life of YouthCaN there has been a profound change in communications systems. Computers and computer communications have changed the world and these changes have been an integral part of YouthCaN. Through the new communications technologies it has become possible for young people to study, to become personally aware of the fact that there are very rich nations of the world that enjoy an abundance of food, comforts of secure housing, benefits of health care, education and freedom of personal choice in many aspects of life. And, there are nations of the world that have people living on the edge of existence, with little food, inadequate shelter, poor health care, inadequate access to education, and few options for personal choice. Through YouthCaN Projects and communications we seek to be aware of the environmental challenges of both the rich nations and the less affluent nations of the world.




 YouthCaN and Changing Communications Technologies



        YouthCaN is based on the idea that telecommunications involving young people, scholars, poets, artists and philosophers, in the various nations of the world, may address and clarify some of the deep divisions among the nations the world today. That is a possibility and a reality of telecommunications, YouthCaN activities and education today.




        Computer telecommunications basically does three things for YouthCaN:












For almost any environmental issue, there are online resources that are more current than any textbook, more diverse in perspective than the commercial media provides. For some issues such as climate change, rainforests, population, sustainable development, toxic waste, the ozone layer or global warming, there are no better resources than those on line today.  Information, communications and community are the basis of YouthCaN projects, plans and daily life.





              For YouthCaN two realities are significant:


1. There is freedom from standardized sources of information produced by nation states and corporations.


2. There is opportunity to develop environmental projects, educational projects, and research projects that cross national boundaries and form the basis of new communities of work and interest that are no longer based exclusively on propinquity, nationality, or culture.


A very significant aspect of changing communications is that with the new telecommunications there can be few secrets; many governments are online. Computer records often become public. To some degree with telecommunications, governments and business become transparent. The study by school age-students of environmental issues, business and the nations of the world can be based on direct access to credible information. Although, information is not knowledge nor is it wisdom, it can be the beginning of an awareness of global issues, of how governments, the United Nations and business communities of the world operate. A more or less secrete world is becoming public, that reality is changing the world in which we live. One might call this change a democratization of information. That democracy may aid our struggle for a clean environment and social justice in our environmentally damaged and deeply deeply divided world.




       The democratization of communications allows ordinary people, YouthCaN, students parents and teachers to be producers of information about their own lives, activities and circumstances. With television, radio and the print media, owners of newspapers, TV and radio have considerable freedom of speech. With the new technology we are all free to give voice to our concerns and interests. It is the significant communications event in our lifetime. Colleagues and friends may trivialize it; some may seek to incorporate it into old educational and political paradigms. Computer telecommunications may be converted into one more commercial textbook, or political propaganda, or advertizement for products and services or "hate speech." But, the new technologies also provide remarkable educational opportunities.




Here is our web Site:



Here are some web sites that are often germane to YouthCaN ACTIVITIES:



The Environmental Protection Agency


The EPA has educational resources on many environmental issues such as climate destabilization, toxic waste, solid waste disposal, biodiversity, clean water, and many other issues. In addition it has a very useful environmental education site.






iEARN, the International Education Resource Network, is one of the older well established educational networks in the world. iEARN facilitates online projects that deal with a wide variety of issues including the environment, human rights, native or indigenous people and collaboration among schools and students in Eastern Europe and schools and museums around the world.




American Museum of Natural History


The American Museum of Natural History has a very active Education Department. The Museum has a Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. Some of the educational programs are online. The American Museum of Natural History, as many museums, have many programs that deal with the Global issues of our time.





World Game


This website covers food, health, environment, the economy, and population issues. It is a very brief and fast loading set of pages. It is an interesting introduction the challenge of life on our living planet.




The United Nation Environment Programme


This is an important resource for global environmental information, environmental education projects and activities. It is the major UN agency that deals with the environment.



The United Nations Development Programme


The United Nations Development Programme is the UN agency that is concerned with economic development, infant mortality, health and educational  services, and the environmental preservation of more than one half the world's population. More than half the population of the world lives in chronic hunger.



This web site can provide some picture of the world that children in the developed world seldom see.





Audubon is one the vital environmental organizations that provides perspective on many critical issues.



Fish crises illustrated by salmon in the west, codfish in the east and other fish around the world



Mad Cow Disease and related issues



Marine issues



These sites illustrate YouthCaN links with the online world.




 YouthCaN Challenges



              In some sense, in a changing world, YouthCaN is a success; it has continued for about ten years. It attracts a substantial audience every year, a growing number of distant participants are engaged directly or indirectly in YouthCaN planning and activities. YouthCaN students participate and graduate into other life activities. In the course of our work we have faced many challenges.


       Although YouthCaN appears to be sustainable, there have been challenges of technology, changing times, mission, personalities institutional and financial support. We have been involved with:




              In the past some YouthCaN students have used FIDO. NETS; we have used  news groups, gophers, slow-scan phones, listservs and e-mail. Today we have web sites, video conferencing, listservs and e-mail. Changes in technology have been exciting adventures.


       We have had slow-scan phone conversations with students in Beijing and New Delhi. We have had video conferences with students in Slovakia, Australia and Texas. YouthCaN200 at the AMNH will have video presentations from Queens, New York and Texas.





        We have sought to sustain relationships with students, schools and organizations with ever changing students and teachers. As students and teachers move on to other life challenges and professional careers, we seek new relationships here in the New York and globally. Our Web Page brings new participants, I*EARN conferences bring new participants, our graduates bring new participants. We are always looking for new partners in YouthCaN.





        In addition to the practical challenge of organizing a living event, there is a social challenge to maintain YouthCaN as a "kids teaching kids" project of providing young people opportunities to organize and manage a significant environmental event for school age students, teachers and parents. There are temptations to take over, to plan for rather than plan with YouthCaN young people. New YouthCaN students sometimes directly or indirectly invite adult mentors to take responsibility for YouthCaN planning. A focus on Mission is a constant challenge.







         A serious challenge over the years has been the occasional participation of adult mentors who seek to have their own vision of YouthCaN events imposed on plans and arrangements for YouthCaN events. YouthCaN is a collegial project involving adults and students in which the mission is to engage young people in the practical work of organizing a large, complex conference that addresses, important environmental issues. It is an unusual mission and both adults and students may have difficultly in adjusting to it. The mission of education often appears to be to teach students a specified curriculum; the mission of YouthCaN is to join with young people in a common task.





        This is a volunteer project In our early years we raised money to wire the AMNH for telecommunications projects. We paid for ISDN lines. Our financial needs are minimal. We have received small grants from the NYU, School of Education Graduate Student Organization, ConEd and NYNEX.


        Environmental/technology projects are sometimes measured by how much money they can raise. YouthCaN assess its achievements on the basis of the quality of the planning of its events and the integrity of its workshops and the ability to sustain and develop its activities globally. YouthCaN lives modestly with a small budget.





        There are several institutions that have had some relationship with YouthCaN. They are the New York University School of Education, The New York University, School of Education Program in Environmental Conservation Education, the United Nations Environment Programme, I*EARN, the NYU Academic Computer Facility and the American Museum of Natural History.



         For many years the NYU School of Education discouraged the use of telecommunications. The initial events that led to what is now called YouthCaN were organized by students in the NYU Program in Environmental Conservation Education with UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme, at the United Nations. This UNEP relationship developed because there was no interest or support for projects involving technology and the environment in the NYU School of Education.

         There were changes of personnel in UNEP that led us to change our meeting site to the American Museum of Natural History. The AMNH has been a congenial home to YouthCaN. Jay Holmes who works in the Department of Education is a very gifted facilitator  of YouthCaN activities.


        Jim Van Tassell is an early pioneer in the use of communications technologies in environmental education to study the living world. He is a science teacher at the H. Frank Carey High School. His students used FIDO NETS and other successive technologies. His students over the years have made an enormous contribution to YouthCaN.


        Ed Gragert, Executive Director of I*EARN, International Education Resource Network was an early participant in YouthCaN events. Over the years he has made resources of I*EARN available to YouthCaN. YouthCaN is now an environmental project in I*EARN. For the last three years we have sent selected YouthCaN students to annual I*EARN conferences in Spain, Chattanooga, and San Juan, Puerto Rico to make presentations relating to YouthCaN and to recruit new YouthCaN participants. We expect to send some students to the I*EARN conference in Beijing in the Summer of 2000.


        Students from NYU continue to play a vital role in YouthCaN; Susan Jacobson has for several years been a mentor to web page activities and to related technical activities. Jason Gerber and Ian Stimler have worked as coordinators of YouthCaN events. Other NYU students have played vital roles in YouthCaN.



       In the early years of YouthCaN people connected with the NYU Academic Computer facility in many small but critical ways were helpful to YouthCaN. Some YouthCaN students were provided NYU computer accounts. Occasionally equipment was provided  for YouthCaN events. Last summer in the NYU Innovation Center,  YouthCaN students had a very successful video discussion with students in Slovakia.





         What is the YouthCaN Model of Education, of Environmental Education? It is a project led by volunteers: Jay Holmes works in the Education Department of the American Museum of Natural History, Jim Van Tassel, is a science teacher who organized the H. Frank Carey High School Ecology Council in Nassau County, New York, Ed Gragert is Executive Director of I*EARN, Millard Clements is a Professor in the School of Education at NYU.


         Although a modest amount of fund raising was essential for the conduct of YouthCaN events, it has no big budget activities. Students and teachers from the New York City schools have been involved with YouthCaN but there is no connection with the New York City Board of Education. Students from NYU and some other universities have worked with YouthCaN but there is no involvement with professional education with any city university. Environmental education and environmental education involving the new communications technologies is absent from professional education in New York. New York State and NYU give little or no consideration to environmental education either as an element of teacher education or as a strategy for the reform of education.


         YouthCaN, an environmental education project using ever changing communications technologies, is a community of trust. YouthCaN is a way for the adult mentors personally to address the global environmental crisis. Working with YouthCaN is not a career, it is personal environmental citizenship. YouthCaN is a vison of education: The task is to engage students in responsible work using the new communications technologies. YouthCaN activities do not teach young people about  the environment; we seek to engage students in restoration, analysis, and preservation. We seek to engage students in the work of the world.


YouthCaN is based on the notion that education that is not founded on the new Communications Technologies and not grounded on a Curriculum of Care for the Living Earth is the problem and not part of the solution to the challenges of the new  millennium.