Connecting Oregon Communities: DEI Initiatives and Practices in Action

Connecting Rural & Urban Communities: Breaking the perceived barriers with intentional, place based environmental education

Karelia VerEecke croppedKora Mousseaux croppedClint Nicols croppedKarelia Ver Eecke, Kora Mousseaux and Clint Nichols, JSWCD - Jackson Soil & Water Conservation District
Saturday, September 29, 9:15-10:45am

By definition, rural and urban communities are different. But as society has become more mobile, more educated, and more heterogeneous, how different are these communities, really? A current literature review of environmental education and environmental perceptions in communities around the world indicate that when we get down to the nuts and bolts of it, a rural resident may be just as likely, maybe even more likely, to have conservation and environmentally oriented values. Conversely, an urban resident may be deeply connected to natural resources, despite being far removed from them. In a world where we are continuously bombarded by media, how does the media we are fed and consume influence our values? How does our place of socialization shape our behavior? How can we create lasting, intentional, place-based, and realistic environmental education opportunities for a diverse audience? Are our current perceptions hobbling our successes and approaches in Oregon’s communities?

During this session we will explore these questions and associated explanations and theories through a presentation, and interactive role-play session with session attendees.

Karelia Ver Eecke, her husband, young daughter, and dog live and work in the Rogue Valley. Karelia’s background is diverse and includes time spent at JSWCD as a plant and habitat technician and aquatic conservation technician, and as an adjunct professor, environmental educator, and ski bum. Karelia’s passion is to bring people together to improve and better understand the landscape in which they live through hands-on experiences with their human and natural communities.

Kora Mousseaux graduated from Southern Oregon University with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Land Use Planning. Her work at JSWCD provides technical, financial, planning, and design assistance to urban landowners and other clients to implement stewardship projects that protect and conserve our natural resources. Such natural resource concerns include water quality, soil erosion, invasive plants, riparian health, and stormwater runoff/low impact development.

Clint Nichols provides technical assistance to help rural landowners develop land-use plans that conserve water, maintain water quality, improve soil health, maintain healthy and fire resilient forests, while allowing for economic benefit from working the land through JSWCD. Much of his educational background applies to rural landowner challenges and his knowledge includes soil science; plant, fire and aquatic ecology; hydrology, hydrogeology, environmental policy, ecological economics, and resource management.


Reflecting on Personal Perspective: A Tool for Educators

Sarah Anderson croppedSarah Anderson, The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science
Saturday, September 29, 11:00am-12:00noon

How do we prepare ourselves to teach diverse perspectives within environmental education? How can we ready ourselves to meet our students where they are instead of making assumptions about their beliefs and experiences? At the Cottonwood School of Civics and Science, teachers have created a simple reflection tool to help examine their personal values, assumptions, and biases concerning content before they teach it.

In this workshop you will see the practice modeled and have the opportunity to practice self-reflection using your own topics. You will also come away with a greater understanding of the many ways place-based education and culturally responsive teaching naturally overlap.

Sarah Anderson taught middle school at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science in Portland before becoming their Fieldwork and Place-based Education Coordinator. She leads workshops and mentors teachers in place-based curriculum design through a school-sponsored effort to disseminate PBE across Oregon. Anderson has written for Teaching Tolerance and Educational Leadership, among others, and her book Bringing School to Life: Place-based Education across the Curriculum was published last fall.


Cultural Curiosity in the Outdoor Classroom

Robin Butterfield croppedCiarra Greene croppedRobin Butterfield, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska with ancestry from the White Earth Ojibwa Tribe of Minnesota, Education
Ciarra Greene, Nimiipuu, Traditional Ecological Knowledge/Chemistry/STEM Education
Saturday, September 29, 1:45-3:15pm

Culture is something everybody has. With a willingness to be curious, participants will gain cultural self awareness and cross-cultural understanding to help educators and students become co-responsible for building healthy communities. This workshop will provide guiding principles and activities for educators to engage students on a journey of inclusivity from an indigenous perspective in an outdoor setting and will include a discussion led by a Native leader in Traditional Ecological Knowledge on what matters most when teaching about place from a multicultural framework.

Participants will engage in activities adapted from and learn about guidelines associated with REACH (Respecting Ethnic And Cutlural Heritage ) and Since Time Immemorial Curriculum from Washington State. Traditional Ecological Knowledge and NGSS will be introduced in panel discussion.

Robin Butterfield, an enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska with ancestry from the White Earth Ojibwa Tribe of Minnesota has over 45 years of experience as a Native educator impacting youth at local, state and national levels working with Indian Education programs, the National Education Association, Bureau of Indian Affairs, as President of the National Indian Education Association (NIEA). and advisor for the US Department of Education.

Ciarra Greene is Nimiipuu (Nez Perce) and of mixed European descent. Her cultural traditions emphasize an intricate relationship with the environment, driving her academic, professional, and personal endeavors. Ciarra has a BS in Chemistry from Northern Arizona University (2012) with additional experiences with the Dept. of Energy, EPA, US Fish and Wildlife, and the US Geological Survey. She is currently pursuing her MS in Science Teaching at Portland State University.


Soil to Soul: Inquiry into Pan-African Earth Connection

Danielle Jones croppedDanielle Jones, KairosPDX
Saturday, September 29, 3:30-4:30pm

This research aims to explore the interconnectedness of generational trauma, collective knowledge, sustainable practices, and Black identity. This study, conducted in the Portland Metro regions asks: How do Pan-African people perceive their connection to the Earth? What is the relationship between connection to the Earth and personal health? What are participants' values around consumption and materialism and how do these values relate to their racial identity? This exploratory study utilizes findings from 12 interviews and guidance from a small community-advisory board to explore this phenomenon of “earth connection.”

This presentation will discuss major findings from this study, followed by reflective activities (held outside) for educators wishing to explore how to better connect sustainability curriculum to their Pan-African students’ experiences.

Outside, we will engage in reflective activities to explore how, as an educator you might better connect sustainability curriculum to Pan-African students’ experiences (guided meditation, reflective writing, and group discussion).

Danielle Jones is guided by her passions for transformative learning, traditional ecological knowledge and justice. She is a recent graduate of the Leadership for Sustainability Education M.S. program and certificate in Sustainable Food Systems program at Portland State University. In June 2017 she completed Center for Diversity and the Environment’s six-month long E42 Emerging Leaders program. Danielle enjoys facilitated learning in ways that honor learners’ background, creativity, and Mother Earth.


Developing Culturally Responsive Outdoor Education

Antonia Decker croppedLena Baucum croppedAntonia Decker and Lena Baucum, Straub Environmental Center
Sunday, September 30, 10:30-12:00 noon

The problem is clear – there are not nearly enough people of color in STEM-related careers. In addition, science learning occurs along a developmental continuum much like reading, writing, or mathematics. A longitudinal study of 7,757 children indicated large gaps in general knowledge already evident at kindergarten entry. Kindergarten general knowledge was the strongest predictor of first-grade general knowledge, which in turn was the strongest predictor of children’s science achievement from third to eighth grade. Large science achievement gaps were evident when science achievement measures first became available in third grade. These gaps persisted until at least the end of eighth grade.

¡Naturaleza Ahora! (Nature Now!) is the Straub Environmental Center’s community-based, multi-year and multi-phased Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative designed to reduce the necessary barriers for Latinx students and families to access the outdoors in the Willamette Valley through our nature-based education programs and to combat the associated causes of the achievement gap.

Likewise, this initiative involves redesigning and creating new culturally relevant, culturally sensitive and welcoming nature-based education programs—informed from voices from our regional Latinx community—to boost Latinx program participation rates and to create a space/format for our vibrant and ever-growing Latinx community to receive the benefits of interdisciplinary education (natural science, humanities, social studies, health and wellness, cultural ecological knowledge, etc.) in nature.

Antonia will present on the process of establishing and coordinating our Naturaleza Ahora! Initiative and some preliminary findings with respect to creating culturally-relevant and inclusive environmental education programming. Lena’s presentation will address how those findings can be used to develop specific educational content and methods designed to close the achievement gap that are often experienced by students of color. This information will draw on educational research in best practices related to diverse student populations, and how STRAUB applies these principles to outdoor education.

Antonia Decker was raised in Salem and holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and Spanish from Seattle University. Given her own Mexican background and Spanish fluency, Antonia worked for organizations committed to making change within the Latinx and/or other under-resourced communities: an AmeriCorps early education program, Casa Latina, El Centro de la Raza and the Coalition of Refugees from Burma. At Straub Environmental Center, she coordinates the ¡Naturaleza Ahora! Initiative, Latino Engagement Team and leads DEI trainings.

Lena Baucum spent two decades working with diverse communities and language learners. At the Straub Environmental Center, she specializes in curriculum and instruction for language learners from early childhood through high school. She works with educators across various disciplines and grade levels to integrate quality, discipline-specific pedagogy with applicable language supports and structures to ensure success for all students. She is passionate about science literacy as a means of developing a generation of educated decision-makers and stewards.

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Resilient communities where environmental, economic and social responsibility drive individual and collective choices


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  •    EEAO works to ensure everyone in Oregon has an opportunity to learn about the environment and society where they live. We value inclusiveness and welcome everyone to the field of environmental education.