Youth Education & Outreach Program

A girl looks through a microscope on a picnic table at Woodard Bay
Participants in an education event at Woodard Bay with targeted outreach to Spanish-speaking community members observe aquatic organisms under a microscope. The event was coordinated by DNR, the Pacific Education Institute, and the Department of Fish & Wildlife.
In 2023, DNR launched its Youth Education and Outreach Program to facilitate place-based, career-connected, outdoor learning experiences on state lands and cultivate the next generation of natural resource professionals. 
The program is a part of DNR’s larger workforce development strategy and our efforts to cultivate a natural resource workforce that meets the sector-wide needs and reflects the demographics of the communities we serve.

Program Goals

The Youth Education and Outreach Program (YEOP) operates with four core goals at the center of its mission:
  • That formal and non-formal educators have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to teach about the complexities of natural resource management
  • That Washington youth have place-based, experiential learning opportunities on public land to explore careers in natural resources and develop the skills used by natural resource professionals
  • To collaborate with educators, industry leaders, non-profits, and state agencies to inspire interest in and improve recruitment into natural resource sector careers, with a focus on demographic groups that have been historically excluded
  • That DNR staff have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to conduct successful outreach and education work with youth from diverse backgrounds across Washington
Program staff achieve these goals by tapping into the expertise of the more than 1,600 permanent natural resource professionals at DNR, then connecting our experts with youth audiences for career exploration and mentorship. Subjects presented to students include, but are not limited to forestry, aquaculture, ecology, geology, wildfire, horticulture, and wildlife habitat restoration. Students and educators also benefit from YEOP via increased access to the 5.6 million acres of DNR-managed lands across the state. Our public shorelines, rivers, forests, and grasslands are great outdoor classrooms for K-12 students to explore scientific phenomena and learn alongside current professionals, and are currently an underutilized resource in public education.  
Leafprints made during an interpretive walk at Woodard Bay
Participants in an education event at Woodard Bay made leaf prints while learning about plant life in western Washington.
Washington’s youth care deeply about issues that are central to DNR’s mission, issues such as climate and wildfire resilience, protection of ecological and cultural resources, responsible recreation, sustainable resource management, and environmental justice. Many students and young adults feel hopeless about their ability to affect positive change. Additionally, most young people are not aware of the breadth of jobs available in natural resources, nor what educational pathways to those careers are available. 
Through YEOP, DNR will empower youth in decision-making processes, cultivate stewardship behaviors, build environmental literacy, and support the physical and mental wellbeing of young people through outdoor experiences. 
Young people stand on a beach while adults bring in a net from the water
Students from Hip Hop is Green's Youth Excellence Program observe a beach seining during the Fidalgo Bay Day at DNR's aquatic reserve.

Specific Program Actions

YEOP works in partnership with Tribes, education institutions, government agencies, non-profits and industry to support a wide variety of activities and opportunities for students and educators. Some of our most popular offerings to date have included:
  • Field days for students to learn more about land management and how professional scientists evaluate the health of a forest
  • Project-based learning that empowers students through hands-on activities that educate them on issues of local importance and elevates their voices as part of larger discussions about the future
  • Trainings for formal and non-formal educators to learn about natural resource management, career opportunities for their students, and curriculum resources they can use in their classrooms
Since the program launched a little more than one year ago, YEOP's sole full-time staff member helped DNR subject matter experts connect with more than 2,000 K-12 students through field-based learning, classroom activities, career fairs, STEM nights, internships, and other group activities. The program supported professional learning opportunities for more than 120 K-12 teachers, including half-day, full-day, and multi-day workshops. More than 4,500 hours of educational programming has taken place in Washington thanks to YEOP.
DNR is seeking funding from the Washington State Legislature to continue building on the early momentum of YEOP by adding staff and expanding the roster of programs and tools available to support students and educators statewide. You can read more about our funding ask here.
As our staff increases, we will be able to support more incoming requests from schools and educational programs and conduct more targeted outreach to schools to improve the equity of our programming. We are working to build our network of statewide partners and would love to connect with you! You can reach the Youth Education and Outreach Program at 
Youth and adults stand in a semi-circle in the woods at Toutle Lake
Toutle Lake Middle School students learn about the research process that informs the identification of locations for wildlife crossings during a field trip as a part of a project facilitated by DNR, WSDOT, UC Davis, and Conservation Northwest.

Available Resources

YEOP is a small program with limited resources, but we are committed to responding to as many requests as we can. 
Click here to request a guest speaker for an educational event or program with a youth audience. 
YEOP has created kits containing forestry tools that are available for check out for use in educational programs. Click here to request a kit.