The Environmental Justice and Nature Immersion Program is designed to bring young people, especially underrepresented high school and college students, into nature. The course is a collaboration between North Hennepin Community College, YMCA Camp Northern Lights, Three Rivers Park District, the Anoka-Hennepin School District American Indian Education Program, Brooklyn Center High School, Edina Public Schools, Mounds View Public Schools, Robbinsdale Area Schools, and the St. Paul Public Schools American Indian Education Program. The eight-week, four-credit college program exposes college and high school students from across the Twin Cities to the outdoors at the Eastman Nature Center in Maple Grove and Camp Northern Lights in Babbitt, Minnesota. For many high school students, it is their first college class. The nature-oriented program is free for students thanks to external grant funding, which covers the costs of the course and required outdoor equipment.

The program brings diverse students into a wilderness setting for five days of hands-on, immersive learning in and from nature, each other, staff, community elders, tribal members, and environmental justice activists.

The goals are to expose urban high school and college students to:

  • Environmental justice topics.
  • Issues of equity, access, and inclusion in nature and outdoor spaces in Minnesota, the United States, and beyond.
  • Academic, career, and internship pathways in environmental and outdoor spaces.

The course focuses on contemporary environmental justice issues, such as water quality, climate change, proposed mines near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, food insecurity, and barriers to nature and outdoor spaces for BIPOC and other marginalized groups. The program was founded in 2021 and the first cohort attended the class in the fall of 2022. The collaborative team is busy planning the next class around environmental justice through community building, stewardship, advocacy, and action for fall 2023.

The Environmental Justice and Nature Immersion Program is a creative and safe way to expose urban youth to nature. The many partners in the program show that there is strong interest in providing these opportunities to youth. The experiences and environmental justice issues the participants are exposed to through the program will shape their future and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.

Environmental Innovation Evaluation Team

About the Environmental Innovation Category

The forward-facing Environmental Innovation Award recognizes a partnership working on creative and innovative approaches for environmental breakthroughs or projects with the goal or implementation of systems change or transforming how people work in the environmental field.

Andersen values our work with Environmental Initiative because of their ability to forge new and unlikely partnerships and their track record of success in getting things done that positively affect the environment here in Minnesota and beyond. The Environmental Innovation award is the perfect representation of why Environmental Initiative is so effective. They bring smart, confident, and driven people into their great network and build the relationships that help drive real, measurable change. At Andersen, we are in awe of the great work people are doing through innovation, we are confident in their ability to make a lasting impact in the environment and communities into the future, and we are honored to sponsor the Environmental Innovation Award.