Pay it Forward For The Planet – Engaging Youth in Conservation

The Cause

The Valley Zoo Development Society aims to connect, care, and conserve. A key component of that is to connect students to conservation through the Pay it Forward For the Planet program.
“In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." (Baba Dioum, 1968.)

The Problem

•We live in a world where we are losing 1,000 to 10,000 times more species than the normal rate of extinction (WWF) – dozens of species are going extinct every day.
•Between 2005 and 2020 carbon emissions increased 18.2% (Environment Canada).
•33% biodiversity loss in North America since 1970 (WWF).

Financial Disadvantage:
•Since 2019 schools are facing increased economic pressures for field trips, and Edmonton Valley Zoo considers educating students one of its key cornerstone values.
•In many school districts the parents cannot afford to pick up the difference to send their children on field trips. This means not only are more students missing out on vital hands-on learning opportunities, and connecting their classroom learning to real-world scenarios, but a higher percentage of those missing out are from disadvantaged or financially strained districts.

The Solution:

Pay It Forward for The Planet. This program encourages students to complete a conservation project in exchange for a subsidized field trip to the EVZ. Our pilot year sent 505 children, many of whom would not have been able to attend otherwise. In the words of one of our recipients “For many of our families, the financial cost of a field trip is prohibitive”.
By encouraging students to engage in conservation they are able to learn how they can make an impact on the world they will inherit, and become advocates.
From junior high students completing research projects on endangered species and fundraising for conservation groups, students of all ages banning single-use plastics, to kindergarten students learning about biodiversity through wildflowers.

This program extends its reach beyond a field trip and encourages students to learn about how they can save their world turning them into advocates for conservation in their homes and communities.

For every $250 donated, we are able to send an entire class to the Edmonton Valley Zoo for a curriculum-specific field trip, led by a dedicated interpreter.

Who Will it Benefit?

When granted our requested amount, we will be able to send 2,760 students on a field trip and involve just as many (if not more) in conservation.
This project doesn’t just benefit the students directly involved it also supports:

•During economic decline some of the first things to go for most families are non-essential expenses. Often this includes field trips. By subsidizing field trips, we alleviate the financial burden on parents, making it more likely that children can participate without causing additional financial stress on families. Despite being one of the most reasonably priced attractions in Edmonton, for some families field trips are the only place that child will get to experience the zoo.

The Environment
•Conservation projects help students understand the importance of environmental protection and sustainability. They become more aware of how their actions can affect the planet.
•Students can become advocates for environmental awareness. They can educate their peers and families about sustainable practices, creating a ripple effect of positive change.

The Community
•Students who actively participate in conservation projects feel a sense of empowerment. They realize that they can make a difference, even at a young age, and this can boost their confidence and motivation.
•Many of the projects have a natural ripple effect, from banning single-use plastics for the whole school or introducing new recycling systems to students in all classes. The impact can be seen school-wide.
•Students will be able to engage with their family and peers and encourage them to make better decisions to support the environment. These students become advocates for their environment.