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Critical Perspectives on Positive Youth Development and Environmental Education  

Marianne E. Krasny, Tania M. Schusler, Jesse Delia, Anne Katherine Armstrong, and Lilly Briggs

Positive youth development (PYD) assumes that, when given appropriate support, all youth have the capacity to develop the assets that enable them to succeed in life. Such assets include competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution to community, otherwise known as the six Cs of PYD. Environmental education (EE) programs that focus on youth action and empowerment offer the support needed for youth to develop these assets. Youth after-school, summer, and residential programs, often serving low-income and minoritized youth, increasingly are using environmental action and learning as a means to achieve PYD outcomes. Yet both PYD and EE have been criticized for not addressing the root causes of poverty and environmental degradation. In response, critical traditions in PYD and EE have emerged, in which youth reflect and act on structural barriers to human and environmental well-being in their communities. As youth and their mentors seek to address systemic inequities impacting themselves and their environment, they develop additional “Critical Positive Youth Development/Environmental Education” assets including critical reflection, efficacy, the ability to take collective action, and community-level empowerment.