Naturaleza Ahora!/Nature Now! Latinx Engagement Intiative
Latinx is a gender neutral term often used in lieu of Latino or Latina that refers to individuals with cultural ties to Latin America and individuals with Latin American descent.
The Straub Environmental Center is launching Naturaleza Ahora! a new initiative designed to help Latino students access the outdoors and learn about natural science. It will be one of the most important community-based efforts the Center has embarked upon to date.
This multi-year project will identify the needs and priorities of Latino students and their families, develop outdoor programs that are responsive to those needs, and find innovative ways of reaching out to the Hispanic/Latino members of our community. Our goal is to double the number of Latino students who participate in outdoor education over the next year and help them develop social, academic and workforce readiness skills through natural science education . . . in nature.
Our goal is to get kids outdoors.
Science instruction has been reduced or eliminated in most elementary schools in our region and understanding natural science concepts is posing new challenges for students of all ages. At the Straub Environmental Center, our programs provide student-centered, inquiry-based outdoor education at field sites throughout the Willamette valley with a focus on oak savanna and other native valley ecosystems.
Our teacher-student ratio is 1:6 and our award-winning educators each have an average of 28 years of classroom experience. We help kids of all learning styles and cultural-economic backgrounds explore nature, discover science, and learn how to become environmental stewards.
Why a Latinx Engagement Initiative?
37% of students in the Salem-Keizer School District identify as Hispanic/Latinx. And statistically, Latinx families are the second lowest participants in outdoor activities in the United States. It's now common for children—especially minority status and economically disadvantaged students—to have little or no contact with nature. We want to reduce barriers for Latinx students through welcoming and culturally relevant programs.
To do this, we have developed "Naturaleza Ahora!," an initiative that will increase the number of Latinx students participating in our outdoor programs and enhance their academic success. By developing programs that serve all children in our Willamette Valley community, we can continue to engage and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.
What will Naturaleza Ahora! achieve?
Naturaleza Ahora! will strengthen our ability to:
• Introduce more Latinx kids and their families to outdoor experiences. Latinx youth spend less time on outdoor activities than other populations and they have the highest media exposure: an average 13 hours of screen time per day. We want to double the number of Latinx program participants in the next year.
• Help English Language Learner students understand natural science concepts and succeed in school.
• Provide internships and job training opportunities for Latinx youth as well as information about careers in natural resource skilled trades and environmental studies.
What will this initiative involve?
• We'll convene a community-based Latinx Engagement Team to help us plan and conduct a series of qualitative interviews with Latinx educators, students and their families.
• We'll also provide diversity and Spanish language training for our educators and hire a bilingual education coordinator.
• With the help of a bilingual education consultant, we'll redesign existing programs, develop new programs, and measure outcomes and impacts.
The Straub Environmental Center is currently seeking bilingual educators, high school students, and college students who are interested in outdoor education and would like to participate on our Latino Engagement Team, as a volunteer at one of our upcoming outreach events, or as an intern. Contact us for more information.
We are launching a crowdfunding campaign to support this initiative! Consider donating today.
Ware excited to announce that a generous donor has offered to match contributions to this project up to $10,000, so please consider making a donation today. Any amount is helpful and will be stewarded wisely for the benefit of everyone in our regional community!