Youth Stewardship Program

YSP at Bernal Hill

The Youth Stewardship Program (YSP) engages youth, 2nd – 12th grade, in environmental education and service-learning field trips in parks citywide.

Our mission is to foster in youth an understanding of their important role in helping to build healthy social and natural communities.

YSP exposes urban students to an outdoor learning environment that proves to be engaging and challenging; mentally and physically. Students are taught science, environmental education, local natural and cultural history, social responsibility, a personal connection to their communities, and fundamental life skills.

The program is free of cost and available to any youth group in San Francisco.

YSP is a school year program that runs from October through May each year. To get involved, fill out the application to the right on behalf of your classroom or youth group at the beginning of each school year. We schedule on a first-come first-serve basis, with preference given to long-term supporters of the program.

More Information:

YSP curriculum meets California State Standards through place-based learning. We offer tailored lesson plans to meet your group’s current educational focus and any special needs. We are excited to offer for the second year programming en español. An electronic copy of the curriculum is at the bottom of the page.

Our full program includes one in-class introduction and five field trips to a park close to your school. Each field trip consists of environmental education activities and hands-on habitat restoration.

We offer abbreviated programs, consisting of an in-class visit followed by one to three fieldtrips. We also schedule one-time experiences, either a classroom visit, a one-time fieldtrip, or a one-time service trip.

We expect each fully participating group to complete a Community Action Project. This project takes what your group learns with YSP to the next level, engaging our communities through education, action, or change.

Over 9,000 youth served since 1997.

Accomplishments: 2011-2012

  • 1616 student participants
  • 57 teachers served
  • 34 schools and organizations represented
  • 2nd – 12th grade standards taught
  • Programming in English and Spanish
  • 13 Natural Areas and 10 Parks/Open Spaces stewarded
  • 32,000 sq. ft. of land worked
  • 3,281.5 total hours of restoration facilitated
  • 3,461.4 total hours of education received

Student Voices:

“You’ve helped me feel like I was a part of something big.”

-Emma, 3rd grade Grattan Elementary, Oak Woodlands - Golden Gate Park

“You taught me how to get down and dirty. I will start in my back yard then I will go to natural parks then I will travel the world and pick weeds.”

-Devin, 3rd grade Grattan Elementary, Oak Woodlands - Golden Gate Park

“I really enjoyed the Youth Stewardship Program for many reasons. First, I like how kind they were to me and the respect they gave me. Second, I really like learning about the native plants and animals. Another thing I enjoyed was the freedom I had at McLaren Park. Finally, I like pulling weeds and invasive plants from the ground because I got exercise.”

-Dante, 5th grade E.R. Taylor Elementary, McLaren Park

“We got to learn in a fun way instead of reading out of a text book, which when I do, I don’t usually remember. It’s an easy way to get a big, beautiful, healthy mountain… besides some kids don’t have a backyard. Since we’re cutting our gardening program we won’t get enough outdoors time without YSP”

-Sarah, 5th grade Miraloma Elementary, Mount Davidson

“In a book you can read and see a plant, but you can’t smell feel and taste in a book.”

-Griffin, 5th grade West Portal Elementary, Pine Lake

“I think the Bayview Hill Youth Stewardship Program is important because it ties into science with habitats. Also with budget cuts you guys were our only field trip in the school year.”

-E’mani 7th grade Kipp Bayview Academy, Bayview Hill

“The Youth Stewardship Program was one of the best programs that I have even been in. It combines learning, fun, and environmental awareness in one big great experience. Where is there not to like? We do stuff like getting rid of cape ivy, pulling out nonnative plants, water testing, and games. It actually makes learning fun…”

-Jun Hao 7th grade Aptos Middle School, Pine Lake

“To be honest, I’ve passed Stern Grove so many times. I didn’t understand why it was there. Then YSP helped me understand more about natural science and my local park. Not only did I get to learn new things, I was able to experience an outdoor classroom. Having sunshine on my skin and hearing the birds chirp is a cool experience. It has also driven me to go to the park more often.”

-Cuc 7th grade Aptos Middle School, Pine Lake

Teacher Voices:

“The program gives students – largely “city kids” with little outdoor experiences – an opportunity to learn about their natural communities and shows them how they can become responsible caretakers for these natural areas. It’s the best kind of learning: interactive, hands-on, service-oriented… the list goes on!”

-Kay Kirman, Miraloma Elementary, Glen Canyon

“This class gave me such HOPE that if you expose kids to the natural world without putting pressure on them, just for the pure reason to enjoy learning through play, THEY DELIVER! These students whom I was truly afraid would whine each trip, SHOWED ME that kids do want to matter and be respected and yes, working hard is a way to show their teachers and themselves that they can contribute and make a difference.”

-Cheryl McCue, West Portal Elementary, Pine Lake

“I owe a significant piece of my success as a teacher to the Youth Stewardship Program. Students are applying academic knowledge to actions that support and help the greater San Francisco community. Conversely, what they are learning through these experiences further taps into their interest and inquisitiveness, and they express their desire to continue to learn more.”

-Gil Guillermo, Bryant Elementary, Glen Canyon

Would you like to support our programming? We are grant funded and deeply appreciate any additional support.



San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department

YSP is a city program that engages San Francisco youth in local parks.

Volunteer Program

The Youth Stewardship Program began under Kristen Bowman as a specialized part of Rec and Park’s work with youth volunteers. YSP continues under the leadership and guidance of Kimberly Kiefer.

Natural Areas Program (NAP)

The majority of YSP field trips are held in the natural areas of the San Francisco city parks. The habitat restoration half of each field trip accomplishes work needed by the NAP gardeners and staff.

The Student Conservation Association

The SCA supports the staffing of YSP as an intern position through their organization. SCA's mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of our environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.


AmeriCorps has supported YSP with intern positions to run the program for over ten years.

Port of San Francisco

The Port supports our intern positions, and in exchange we provide Environmental Justice focused trips at Heron’s Head Park with support from former non-profit partner Literacy for Environmental Justice.

CA State Habitat Fund

The California State Habitat Conservation Fund has fully supported the Youth Stewardship Program from 2010-2015.

The Habitat Conservation Fund (HCF) Program allocates approximately $2 million per year to the California Department of Parks and Recreation for grants to cities, counties, and districts to provide for nature interpretation and other non-capital outlay programs which bring urban residents into park and wildlife areas, to protect fish, wildlife and native plant resources or to acquire or develop wildlife corridors and trails.


YSP is a founding member of the Stewardship & Environmental Education Collaborative of San Francisco (SEEC-SF) with the Green Schoolyard Alliance, Literacy for Environmental Justice, California Academy of Sciences, Kids in Parks and the Presidio. These organizations are united by the following themes: environmental justice, restoration and stewardship, place-based learning & biodiversity.


The Jewish Volunteer Service provides stipend education and service opportunities for teenagers from Downtown High to work with YSP and the Natural Areas Program.