Youth participatory action research: Integrating science learning and civic engagement
California Agriculture 77(2):74-82. https://doi.org/10.3733/ca.2023a0009
Published online September 08, 2023
Strengthening young people's scientific literacy and civic engagement are important educational goals for Cooperative Extension. We implemented youth participatory action research (YPAR) projects over three years at five schools. The YPAR approach integrates science learning and civic engagement by empowering youth, with the help of adult facilitators, to decide upon a community issue to research, design and implement their research, and then plan a service project based on research findings to address the issue. We explored young people's and educators' perspectives on which project elements influenced youth participation, examined opportunities for youth science and civic-related learning, and asked educators to reflect on their own learning and development. Using data generated from youth focus groups and educator interviews, we found that YPAR grounds science learning in young people's lived experience. It also provides a meaningful approach to science learning through raising young people's critical consciousness of community issues. YPAR may be used in other extension programs to increase motivation for deeper and sustained participation in learning experiences.