Celebrating Earth Day with Hands-On Learning Experiences:

Teenage Travel Programs that Focus on Global Conservation and Sustainable Development

Earth Day is an important day for us to reflect and understand the larger impact we have in the world as individuals and as an organization.

Since it’s inception in 1970, Earth Day has grown to symbolize our global recognition that the environmental issues that face our planet not only have to be tackled on the ground but must also be addressed as a global community. Observed in over 190 countries, Earth Day is celebrated every April 22 with demonstrations and special events to bring awareness and show support for important environmental topics and legislation. Considered the largest non-secular holiday in the world, it is estimated that over a billion people worldwide participate in Earth Day activities. Beyond demonstrations, April 22 also marks the signing of one of the most important modern environmental legislatures, the Paris Agreement.

Here at ARCC, Earth Day is an important day for us to reflect and understand the larger impact we have in the world as individuals and as an organization. As an office filled with avid travelers and outdoors people, and an organization that focuses on service and volunteer travel programs for teenagers, it important for us to take a step back and view our impact on local and global environments. How can we be part of the positive change that is occurring across the globe? How can we help raise awareness of important global issues? How can we leave the world a better place for future generations?

As we examine these questions we realize that we have the power to introduce young adults to important global issues and help them explore how and why we are facing these issues. With hands-on experiences we allow students to connect with the people and places that are affected by global issues in hopes that by creating these meaningful connections students will develop an understanding of the issues and a desire to help improve the situation for future generations. Through our volunteer travel programs for teens, we hope to instill a sense of responsibility to the world, both for the people and the local environments, in hopes that our students return home and continue to give back to their communities and the world at large.

Each summer ARCC students travel off the beaten path to learn about some of the environmental issues that our world faces, and how we as individuals and small groups can make a difference for the future. From exploring topics like clear-cutting and deforestation to examining the issue of access to clean drinking water, our students learn about many global environmental issues hands-on and volunteer their time and energy to do their part and leave the planet better for the next generation. To understand the impact our students have on the world check out our community service trips for highs school students that focus on global conservation and sustainable development.

Orangutan Habit Restoration Programs in Sumatra

Bali/Sumatra: Operation Orangutan

Known for its beautiful beaches and unique cultures, Indonesia is an island nation that stretches across 17,000(!) islands in the warm equatorial waters between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Straddling the equator Indonesia is one of the most biodiverse countries in all of the world. With active volcanoes, pristine rainforest teeming with rare flora and fauna, and ocean biomes unmatched anywhere else on the planet, Indonesia is filled with unique and important ecosystems. Despite only making up 1% of Earths surface area, Indonesia’s rainforest contains 10% of the worlds known plant species, 12% of the worlds mammal species – including endangered orangutans and critically endangered Sumatran Tigers and Rhinos – and 17% of all known bird species. Unfortunately, this critical biodiversity in Indonesia is disappearing faster than anywhere else in the world (Data sourced from the Rainforest Action Network)

Our high school volunteer program in Bali and Sumatra explores these intricate environmental issues. We explore these rich ecosystems and partner with international NGOs to lend a hand on important service projects. Working with our partners from Gunung Leuser National Park and Orangutan Information Center our students take a guided trek through the pristine rainforest to learn first hand about the importance of rainforest habitats and the plight that faces the endangered orangutans. After observing orangutans in their natural habitat and gaining an understanding of this important ecosystem, students volunteer to help create green corridors for wildlife and restore illegal palm oil plantations into suitable jungle habitat for these endangered species. Through their trip our students are able to gain an understanding of why deforestation is occurring throughout Indonesia and how we, even thousands of miles away, can help protect these important ecosystems.

Animal Service Programs in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Wildlife Conservation and Cost Rica Ultimate

Costa Rica is a country at the forefront of sustainability and conservation. With 25% of the land in the country set aside as national parks (27 of them), wildlife reserves (58), and wetland areas (15), Costa Rica is a model of what it takes to put the environment first. It’s the perfect place to learn how we as individuals and a global community can balance development and conservation. It’s a country teeming with biodiversity; 10,000 species of plants and trees, 850 species of birds travel through Costa Rica, 205 species of mammals, tens-of-thousands different insect species, 160 amphibians, 220 unique reptiles all call Costa Rica home.

Our Costa Rica Ultimate and Wildlife Conservation programs help contribute to this massive conservation effort through projects like volunteering with sea turtle conservation groups to patrol nesting beaches for these ancient animals. With lineage going back around 110 million years sea turtles are being threatened by human encroachment, over fishing, and illegal poaching. Working with local wildlife biologist our students understand the work that is being done to protect these unique creatures worldwide and how our actions can have a huge impact on wildlife across the globe.

Our Costa Rica Wildlife Conservation program takes animal conservation one step farther, going beyond just sea turtles and working with some of Costa Rica’s most famous wildlife. Students on the Costa Rica Wildlife Conservation program volunteer with a non-profit organization that helps rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife that has been rescued from traffickers seeking to sell rare and exotic animals as pets. Through our hands-on experiences during the program students learn about illegal trafficking, deforestation/urbanization, and how we can ensure the survival of these important animal species.

Clean Water Programs in Cambodia

Southeast Asia: Grassroots Initiatives and Vietnam/Cambodia: Project Clean Water

Despite plenty of water throughout Cambodia, over 75% of people live in rural areas where access to clean drinking water can be challenging. According to, this amounts to around 4 million Cambodians who don’t have access to water that’s safe to drink. This lack of access can lead to the spread of infectious diseases and serious health issues for families and rural communities.

Students on our volunteer programs in Southeast Asia set out to tackle this issue head-on. Student groups work to build concrete bio-sand water filters and then install them in rural homes. During the clean water project students gain an understanding of the lack of access to clean water and how we as a global community can help these rural communities ensure they have safe water to drink. Over the course of their time in Cambodia a single student group may build 10 or more of these life-changing filters which help provide clean drinking water to a family for up to 40 years.

Large Mammal Conservation Programs in Thailand

Thailand: Elephant Experience

What is the number one way to offset your carbon footprint, and save wild mammal habitat? Plant a tree. Plant lots of trees! Literally, slingshot tree seeds into the jungle to help provide elephant habitat. And for the mammals leaving in the oceans, plant seagrass–a sea cow’s favorite food–into soft sand at low tide. Stabilize seashores by replacing destroyed mangrove forests. Over the past couple of centuries, agriculture and development have overwhelmed the jungle and seashores of Thailand, causing large mammal numbers to dwindle, and leaving coastal areas prone to hurricanes bare and vulnerable.

Thailand’s ecological issues are not only complicated, but they are also tied up with longstanding Thai traditions, an ever-growing population, and a dependence on agricultural land use. On our Thailand: Elephant Experience program, we work with organizations that put conservation first, while also deeply examining the issues involved in the decrease of habitat for wildlife throughout Thailand. We get our hands dirty planting elephant habitat and building dams and salt licks to keep elephants off of fragile farmland, while also providing natural spaces for these massive, wild mammals, whose habitat has largely been destroyed in the past. We help rehabilitate elephants who have been brought up in confinement while working alongside Thais to help change the way Thailand views and protects an animal that has always been part of its history. Then we head to Thailand’s beautiful coast to learn about the elusive Dugong and lend a hand planting seagrass and mangrove habitat. Living amongst local fisherman we gain an understanding of how these communities are changing their traditional practices in order to ensure the survival of this majestic animal. Our time in Thailand gives us a diverse look at the issues that exist around land use and how we can ensure a balance between development and conservation.

Sustainable Agriculture Programs in Peru

Peru: Sacred Valley Service

Our High School service program in Peru is a 14-day exploration of a remarkable country with a rich historical past. Best known for the staggering number of archaeological gems, ranging from the mountaintop ruins of Machu Picchu to the circular steppes of Moray, archaeologists have uncovered evidence that demonstrates the Incan’s in-depth understanding of their connection to the Earth. As you travel out of the Sacred Valley towards higher elevation, you begin to notice the terraced landscape rising out of the lowlands around you. These methods of farming were first developed by the Incans over 700 years ago and they are still in use today!

Each terrace’s depth, design, and orientation are structured in respect to wind and sun to create temperature differences that can range of as much as 27 °F between the top and the bottom. These practices are still in use by farmers and families around the country; however, even with these traditional techniques rural families are having to rely heavily on food from outside sources. This means a strain on economic resources as families must travel and purchase food that they cannot grow.

Our Greenhouses for a Greater Good project gives students on our teen community service program an opportunity to play a role in the next generation of Peruvian agriculture. The greenhouses we construct allow families to sustainably grow their own food and to ensure their own food sovereignty. The fruits and vegetables grown in the greenhouse not only feed the community and provide a more diverse diet, but also provide vital income that funds youth education in the villages, helping to break the cycle of poverty. During their exploration of Peru, our participants gain an understanding of ancient agricultural techniques and how communities across the globe are adapting to ensure they have enough resources to feed their growing communities.

Environmental Service Programs in California

California: Urban & Wilderness Service

On our California: Urban & Wilderness Service Program students travel from San Francisco on a grand road-trip across Northern California. On route, we surf on Stinson Beach, ride the rapids in an inflatable kayak, and explore the sheer granite wonderlands of Tahoe and Yosemite. As we venture into the Sierra Nevada’s we link up with organizations working to protect and maintain California’s National Parks and wilderness areas. Working with park rangers in and around Yosemite National Park, we learn about the conservation efforts in place to help preserve America’s third oldest national park and then put what we learn into action as we build common spaces for visitors and help preserve and maintain natural areas of the park.

From there, we continue our road trip and head north to the Lake Tahoe Basin. Once there we soak in the azure blue water of this one-of-a-kind treasure before linking up with local non-profits whose mission is to “keep Tahoe blue.” By working with these awesome organizations on important environmentally impactful projects we are able to help ensure that generations to come will be able to enjoy the beauty and majesty of these special places.


ARCC Programs has offered summer travel programs for high schools students for over 35 years. With travel programs for teens on six continents, there is something for everyone. Find a summer program on our website or request a catalog today.