Youth Participatory Action Research Projects (YPAR) engage middle and high school youth (ages 12-18) in projects that address and promote nutrition and physical activity issues in their community. YPAR aims to empower youth and achieve environmental changes related to health and nutrition. An adult ally works with the youth to help mentor, support, and facilitate the youth team. Through YPAR, youth engage in leadership, critical thinking, problem solving, strategizing skills, and lead to learning how to address their target issue related to nutrition and physical activity.
YPAR projects consist of a project coordinator, adult ally and youth team. Due to the nature of the approach, no two YPAR projects will look the same.
YPAR is based on a variety of social learning, popular education, health promotion, and youth development theories. Key principles of the approach include:
- Youth opinions are solicited, respected, and applied.
- Youth identify their own issues, problems, and possible solutions.
- Youth initiate project ideas, carry out planning, and goal setting.
- Youth drive the process and are involved in all states of decision-making.
- Youth teach other youth.
YPAR utilizes a participatory action research framework that includes the following steps:
- Identify the issue or problem.
- Define what is known about the issue or problem.
- Identify what additional information is needed to understand the issue.
- Determine what methods and approach will be used to collect this information and then work together as a team to accomplish this.
- Use the information for education, understanding, strategic action, and/or community change.