Youth Stewardship Program

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. Our application opens in September every year. We schedule on a first-come first-serve basis, with preference given to long-term supporters of the program.

What Program Options are there?

Our program offers field trips to natural areas and parks near your school. Each field trip consists of environmental education activities and hands-on habitat restoration. Please choose from our options below(*denotes program runs from October-May only):

  • Full Education Program*: Includes an optional introductory class visit followed by 5 field trips throughout the school year.
  • Abbreviated Education Program*: Includes an optional introductory class visit followed by 1-3 field trips throughout the school year.
  • Community Service Learning Project: This can be a set of multiple visits or a one-time visit that focuses on meaningful hands-on learning through beautification or restoration projects only.

Within each program, educators can choose from 5 core themes: Sense of Place, Plant Adaptation, Water and Soil, Animal Adaptation, and Interdependence. The full and abbreviated programs consist of environmental education activities and hands-on park restoration projects. Activities within each theme can be tailored to meet your group’s current educational focus and any special needs.

Where are trips FACILITATED?

Trips are limited to the parks and open spaces within the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. That means that educators have over 220 parks to choose from. However, we ask that you consider several factors when selecting a park such as:

  • your group size
  • size of the park
  • your group's age and whether or not access to a bathroom is essential
  • what you want your youth to gain from the experience
  • and lastly, your proximity and ease of transportation to and from the park

In partnership with the Port of San Francisco, the Youth Stewardship Program also facilitates fieldtrips at Heron's Head Park(HHP). Trips at HHP touch on environmental justice principles, wetland ecology and watersheds.

What is the cost to participate in this program?

Nothing. All Youth Stewardship Programming is free of charge.  Following our free services we ask that participating educators encourage their students to continue healthy engagement and stewardship of the parks, refer us to a new teacher, teach students about the San Francisco Children's Bill of Rights, and complete our feedback survey so that we can continue to improve our program and offer free services to educators city-wide.

When SHOULD I apply?

As soon as our application opens. Our application opens in September and by December, our Full and Abbreviated programs are fully booked for the year.

To support new and veteran educators with sign-up, we will be hosting four program kick-off workshops in October. Please stay tuned for dates, times and locations.

Over 20,920 youth served since 1997.

Accomplishments: 2017-2018

  • 1,761 student participants served
  • 155 educators and youth group leaders served
  • 26 classroom visits
  • 255 fieldtrips facilitated citywide
  • 31 Natural Areas, Parks and Open Spaces stewarded
  • 5,795 total hours of restoration facilitated
  • 3,982 total hours of education provided

Student Voices:

"It was 2 thumbs up!"  -3rd grade student, Grattan Elementary, Buena Vista Park

"I liked seeing wild things." -3rd grade student, Guadalupe Elementary, McLaren 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

“In a book you can read and see a plant, but you can’t smell feel and taste in a book.” -5th grade student, West Portal Elementary, Pine Lake

“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…” -7th grade student, 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 '15

“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 '15

“It is not possible for me to isolate any one factor that results in a student's changed attitude. I believe, however, that YSP plays a significant part in my students' experiences that contribute to an overall appreciation, understanding, and enjoyment of nature.”-Gil Guillermo, Bryant Elementary, Glen Canyon '18

"The number one thing that I value is getting the kids to realize the resource that they have available minutes from their home. McLaren Park has so many diverse areas and this opened their eyes to areas that most of them have normally not used, explored, or enjoyed. I want this to be their introduction to all kinds of wonders that are right next door and for free!!!" - Dave Mahon, Guadalupe Elementary, McLaren Park '18

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 service field  focused trips at Heron’s Head Park. YSP collaborates with to lead programming between the EcoCenter and the park.

CA State Habitat Fund

The California State Habitat Conservation Fund has fully supported the Youth Stewardship Program from 2010-2020.

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.


The Jewish Volunteer Service provides stipend education and service opportunities for teenagers from Downtown High to work with YSP annually in the spring semester.

Alemany Farm

YSP leads field trips at Alemany Farm with support from the Friends of Alemany Farm – a group of all volunteers that maintain this incredible site.


YSP has severed on the steering committee for this partnership that created the San Francisco Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, and continues to be involved through involvement in the Youth and Community Engagement committee.