Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Environmental Learning for Kids

Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) was established in 1996 by two wildlife biologists who saw a growing need to educate Colorado’s culturally diverse urban youth about science, leadership, and careers, and offer alternatives to substance abuse and other destructive choices and behaviors. The program provides carefully constructed, science-based access to the natural environment for at-risk youth and their families in northeast Denver neighborhoods. ELK seeks to identify and remove common barriers that often keep such youth from participating (e.g., lack of money, transportation, inclusivity, caregiver buy-in, relevance to daily life).

The program’s five major components intentionally address these barriers, while offering alternatives to negative influences and unhealthy behaviors that are not often available to youth, such as mentorship for building the skills to lead, think critically, and make wise life choices:

  1. School programs offered during or after school
  2. Denver Youth Naturally, offering year-round outdoor excursions to youth ages 5 to 18
  3. Youth in Natural Resources, a year-round program for youth ages 14 to 25
  4. Learning Environmental Activities for Families, year-round events that are particularly appropriate for parents, siblings, and extended family members
  5. Leadership Corps, a year-round program targeting high school youth in the very high-need Montebello community of Denver

With funding from SAMHSA’s FY2014 Subcontracts to Build Evaluation Capacity for Evidence-Based Interventions, ELK will advance program evaluation along the continuum toward becoming an evidence-based program. Specific activities will include:

  • Developing a consistent dosage metric that will capture effectively differences in exposure to the program’s components among participating youth and that can be compared to results from various assessment instruments
  • Analyzing evaluation data about youths’ exposure to ELK programs
  • Formalizing evaluation data collection, management, and analysis to track information about dosage, assessment results, and long-term outcomes for youth together with personal details


Contacts

Deborah Purce
Education Coordinator
Environmental Learning for Kids
14460 E. 50th Ave
Denver, CO 80239
Phone: (303) 291-7147
Email: dpurce@elkkids.org

Stacie Gilmore
Executive Director
Environmental Learning for Kids
14460 E. 50th Ave
Denver, CO 80239
Phone: (303) 291-7147
Email: sgilmore@elkkids.org