Two young women in natural area pick up trash

Youth Program

Conservation Crew Conservation Minnesota

About the Crew

Conservation Crew is a student-led extracurricular school program for middle schoolers. Rooted in service learning, students develop leadership skills by designing and implementing conservation projects to impact their schools and communities. The program provides the support and resources students need to succeed.

Using a student-led model ensures participants learn about conservation issues that affect their daily lives and feel empowered to find solutions. Each Crew decides on its own interests and is given the resources to create a plan that fits its needs, including a $3,000 teacher stipend, connection to Conservation Minnesota staff, and industry experts. The hands-on learning model encourages students to research, understand, and ultimately take action to improve conservation initiatives in their communities.

Conservation Crew serves students at schools across the state. In the 2022–23 school year, the program has grown from the 6 pilot schools to 40 schools statewide—42% of which are Title 1 schools.

Program Values

Much of the program design and implementation is determined by the students, helping to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They decide the best approach to fit their school and community. This mirrors the local control and agency we want students to feel when it comes to addressing conservation issues.

By engaging and informing youth through a service-learning model about conservation, we are building their feelings of ownership and responsibility to lead in their schools, communities, and world.

Environmental issues disproportionately affect low-income and BIPOC communities, yet these communities are usually left out of the solutions. We strive to shift this by introducing students in these communities to conservation concepts at a young age, educating them about the issues and supporting them in developing the leadership skills to advocate for changes that will improve their quality of life and their community.

Low-income schools often lack the resources for high-quality, out-of-school programs like Conservation Crew, so we provide staff support, program materials, and funding to address this opportunity gap.

Conservation Crew is a way for youth to learn and understand more about the natural world around their school and community. The program fosters a lifelong connection to nature by allowing students to find the conservation issues that are important to them. Research shows that children who spend more time outdoors connecting to nature have improved concentration, productivity, and mental health.

The program is set up to give students the tools they need to tackle the conservation issues that matter to them by connecting them to local experts and providing project funding. Crew also supports teachers through a $3,000 stipend, helping alleviate financial barriers.

Each Crew will have an opportunity to share their unique project with other Crews from all across the state. At the end of the school year, a panel of experts will select three outstanding projects from participating schools and award an additional grant to support future activities.

Pilot Year Schools & Projects

Cottage Grove Middle School—built a pollinator garden on school grounds that doubles as an area for students to rest and relax

Hiawatha Academies—Northrop—constructed a pollinator garden at their school using found materials from their neighborhood

Black Hawk Middle School—worked with a wetland specialist to restore an on-campus pond & used the winter months to construct monarch habitats

Jane Goodall Environmental Sciences Academy—partnered with Wright Country to do invasive species removal and habitat restoration at their parks

Mounds Park Academy—renovated an outdoor classroom

Hastings Middle School—overhauled their school’s existing recycling program and installed a new solution

“Facilitating an after-school environmental club has been a dream of mine for many years but I was intimidated trying to figure it all out  alone. Conservation Crew provided us with the resources and support in getting it started, and to keep it going.”

—Shelbee Jaeger, Hiawatha Academies teacher

Sign Up Your School Today

The deadline for each academic year is September 1. We will review applications submitted after September 1 for the following academic year.

SIGN UP for Conservation Crew

Backing Up the Crew

Conservation Minnesota is dedicated to protecting the people and places we love. We invest in programs that equip leaders of today and tomorrow to care for our natural resources.

Conservation Crew is generously supported by a grant from the Manitou Fund, Xcel Energy, and the Carolyn Foundation.

Contact Us

Contact crew@conservationminnesota.org with questions about Conservation Crew.