In the Australian study, Children's Knowledge of Bushfire Risk, the authors recognize that to develop bushfire education programs that accommodate the knowledge and perspective of kids - they must be given an opportunity to voice their views. And in the book, The Power of Positive Deviance - How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World's Toughest Problems, the authors provide the principles needed to achieve a successful social paradigm shift; which includes involving stakeholders and going to improbable places and to unlikely people to find solutions; letting community members provide culturally appropriate expertise; and the concept of don't do anything about me, without me.
Incorporating those ideas along with input from other successful disaster preparedness programs, NFPA's Firewise Program staff conducted a series of six interactive workshops in Colorado and Texas during the summer of 2012. The workshops were an opportunity to talk with middle and high school students and their parents that had been recently impacted by a wildland fire.
In those sessions, the youth we met with shared what they know and don't know about wildfire, the areas they want to learn about, and the best ways to reach and motivate them to undertake actions that will contribute to reducing wildfire risk now and in the future.
At the six two-hour sessions, Firewise staff had the opportunity to talk with 105 students and parents. Invaluable insight was gained on how to target this demographic and what they want in future programs. This age group has voluminous potential to motivate both their peers and adults to implement mitigation actions that will make their communities better prepared for a wildfire.
In my next blog I'll share some of what we learned from the students open and honest comments about how to connect and engage with them. The full Engaging Youth in Reducing Wildfire Risk - Community Conversation Workshop Findings and Research can be accessed on the Youth and Families tab on the Firewise site.