Staying Engaged During the Pandemic

By Jordan Robinson

Grand Canyon Youth sitting in a circle next to the river connected

GCY expeditions are on pause, but we’re still working hard to connect with young people and our broader community.

Like many of us, young people are experiencing the trauma of a global pandemic. It has changed their plans and the world they will inherit with disconcerting and dramatic speed. While we miss the in-person magic of the GCY experience, we are excited to provide these new and innovative ways to stay connected. Follow GCY on Facebook or Instagram, or bookmark this post to keep informed as we roll out initiatives through the season.


Responsible Recreation Series

On social media, we are connecting to one of our core values of education and curiosity by dialoguing with our community about responsible recreation. What does it mean to be respectful of outdoor spaces and others during COVID-19? How can we decide which activities to do and which to stay away from right now? By sharing guidelines and recommendations about outdoor recreation, we are communicating how to get outside and enjoy nature as a responsible community member.


We are creating resources for our Flagstaff community to use outside this summer. Check them out:

  • Buffalo Park Scavenger Hunt – Take a walk around Buffalo Park while solving clues and enjoying the beautiful views of the San Francisco Peaks.
  • More coming soon!


GCY Virtual Author Spotlight

One of our favorite ways to connect with place is through literature! Reading can transport you anywhere in the world. Starting at the end of July, GCY will post weekly readings by authors who write about the rivers and canyons of the Southwest. We hope to excite youth about topics and places they might not know about, and to celebrate the work of the incredible authors in our community. Follow this series, and you might just find a book to add to your summer reading list!

  • More information coming soon!


Pandemic Pickup

Community service is an important aspect of GCY’s programs. We hope to continue engaging youth in service projects through efforts like our Pandemic Pickup.

This summer has the potential to see a big increase in people using outdoor spaces. Local city parks and federal public lands alike are operating short on staff and overwhelmed by visitors. This could lead to outdoor spaces being impacted more than usual, with fewer resources to help.


As part of GCY’s commitment to promoting environmental stewardship, we will host a trash cleanup challenge – the GCY Pandemic Pickup! Spend the day cleaning whatever public outdoor space you choose. Those who pick up the most trash will receive this year’s Alumni Fund sunhoodie!

  • More information coming soon!


Healing Lands Project

The Healing Lands Project provides the healing power of nature and community to youth who have experienced trauma.


For these participants, the cancellation of expeditions can be especially challenging. Without opportunities to connect with their peer groups on GCY expeditions this year, youth can lose connection to each other, their group leaders, and nature, which we believe is vital for their ongoing healing and well-being. GCY is working with all of our Healing Lands partner organizations to support the work they’re doing during the pandemic. This looks different for each organization, but it includes things like creating video postcards from GCY field staff, sharing outdoor activities for families, and offering financial support for projects.


Although the pandemic eliminated our ability to come together for the moment, it’s important we stay connected and engaged with our communities and our natural spaces. We know at-home activities and social media posts cannot replace the transformative experience of a wilderness expedition, but we are grateful to connect with you this way.


We’ll see you all downstream.


Jordan joined Grand Canyon Youth in 2016 after three years of living and teaching in the Grand Tetons. While completing Teton Science Schools’ Graduate Program, she expanded her love of outdoor science education and developed a lifelong passion for watching youth flourish in wild places. Jordan believes wild spaces are the best teachers; the more you understand a place, the more you will appreciate it!

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