Youth Team Developing Technology in Acadia | Sports & Recreation
ACADIA NATIONAL PARK—The world is quickly changing with technology creeping into every aspect of daily life. A January 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study determined that young people, ages 8-18, spend on average 7.5 hours every day using electronic media, whether television, computers, cell phones, or other devices. Simultaneously, youth are spending much less time exploring the outdoors, potentially leading to future generations with less appreciation and connection to national parks and other natural resources.
This summer, Friends of Acadia and the National Park Service are working together to bridge this gap through an innovative project to find new ways to engage young people with Acadia and the outdoors through technology. The Acadia Youth Technology Team, four high-school-aged interns and two leaders, have been working together since late June to generate ideas on how to use technology in the park.
The team has visited points of interest in the park and interviewed people about their expectations and experiences. Using that information, the team has begun assessing which park goals are not being met and has brainstormed ideas about how technology could or should not be used to address that problem. The team will be working together through mid-August to generate a plan for the Acadia National Park on how to use technology in future years to accomplish tasks ranging from park interpretation to modeling museum artifacts to informing visitors why they should not take rocks from the shore. The overall goal is to use technology appropriately to preserve the park, improve the visitor experience, and attract youth to Acadia.
The interns participating on the youth technology team are all current students or recent graduates of Mount Desert Island (MDI) High School. They were selected through a competitive process because of their academic achievements, familiarity with technology, and their dedication to Acadia. The team is lead by Colin MacArthur, a 21-year old from Los Alamos, New Mexico studying Psychology at Carleton College in Minnesota. Assisting him is John Carll, a 21-year old from Augusta, Maine who is studying Secondary Education at Husson University in Maine. Both MacArthur and Carll have strong backgrounds in and a passion for technology.
The students have been busy this summer, using a wide variety of technology as they engage in experiences across the park. “We have been field-testing a variety of devices, applications and online services to see how we can innovatively use them to facilitate meaningful interactions with nature and the park,” said MacArthur. The team has spent time with the volunteers working on the trails and carriage roads, gone on many boat and island tours, worked at Schoodic on the recent Lepidoptera Bio-Blitz, and participated in youth summits. Sophia Krevans, an incoming high school senior who is a passionate sailor and leads many student organizations, indicated that the summer has been an incredible experience for her. Audyn Curless, an incoming junior who plays soccer and is leaning computer programming, added that the summer has flown by.
“The students are doing an amazing job, “said Carll. “Every team member is meeting personal goals and contributing work that is truly meaningful for Acadia National Park.” Liam Torrey, a student intern who will be a senior next year and who is an avid longboarder, agreed, “so far, the team is doing great. We never have arguments that aren't relevant debates, and we produce not only feasible, but fantastic ideas weekly.”
“I am impressed by the pace and creative energy of the Youth Technology Team,” said Marla O’Byrne, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia. “We are fortunate to have this talented team working with us this summer and delighted to support this innovative pilot project that is so important for the future of the park.” Friends of Acadia hired the four interns and the assistant team leader working on the technology team. This funding was matched by Acadia National Park who hired the team leader and organized the program.
Over the next three weeks, the Youth Technology Team will hold afternoon sessions with Friends of Acadia and Acadia National Park staff to present ideas and engage in discussion. Ryann Rourk, an intern who graduated MDI High School this year and who will attend Wheaton College in the fall, summarized the project, “All park employees I've spoken with are very interested in and supportive of our group, and look forward to seeing what we accomplish.” O’Byrne added, “We are excited to hear from this group of young park stewards, whose work stands to make a meaningful difference to their generation and Acadia. They will provide us with invaluable insights into how Friends of Acadia and Acadia National Park should be engaging youth over the next ten years.”