Themes of environmental stewardship and justice are getting attention in the U.S. Bahá’í community, due in no small part to a program for junior youth (ages 12-14), called, “Environmental Stewards: Champions of Justice!” Now in its fourth year of development, the program is scheduled to take place at Green Acre and Bosch Bahá’í schools, in July and October 2013, respectively (see links below). Participants explore the wonders of the created world and our relationship with it, and learn to apply the Bahá’í teachings to modern-day social and environmental issues. In order to maintain the quality of the experience, enrollment is limited, so those with an interest are encouraged to apply early.
The short video is intended to share some of the excitement and learning taking place as students participate in the program. It reflects the program’s success in awakening junior youth to the deep connections that can be drawn between the environment and Bahá’í spiritual teachings.
A quote from the Bahá’í Writings featured in the video begins, “Whatever I behold I readily discover that it maketh Thee known unto me…”. One can see in nature a reflection of the Divine: the highness and loftiness of the heavens; the power and bounty of the earth; the majesty, potency and grandeur of the sea; and the omnipotence of the mountains. “Participants draw inspiration from this quote throughout the program,” notes Peter Adriance, who serves as Representative for Sustainable Development in the U.S. Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs, which oversees the program. As part of that process, students create a 30-foot mural, inspired by the quote, which is then hung up and displayed.
The video captures the joy that emerges from the outdoor sessions which comprise literally half the program. Adriance noted that many of the outdoor activities draw upon the expertise of gifted outdoor educators. Many of these activities have been influenced or designed by the renowned environmental educator, Joseph Cornell, whose methods of “sharing nature with children” have helped generations of diverse students to establish a feeling of deep connection with the natural world.
“Many young people today are not exposed to nature the way kids were even a generation ago,” notes Adriance. “They are bombarded with electronic media and often have busy schedules full of programmed activity” allowing for little unstructured time outdoors. But, according to Adriance, “The program goes beyond merely placing kids in nature, though. It truly awakens a sense of wonder and appreciation for God’s creation.”
Complementing the outdoor learning, the program also helps junior youth to explore current issues such as climate change, materialism, poverty and inequities between and within countries, through a range of interactive learning activities. In addition, they learn what some others their age have done in response to some of these contemporary challenges and come away with a sense of hope and possibility, Adriance says, inspired to arise in diverse forms of service in their own communities.