In 2017, the Lawrence Hall of Science received a planning grant from the Pisces Foundation to convene partners in the environmental education (EE) field, including Youth Outside, YES Nature to Neighborhoods, Crissy Field Center (at Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy), and José Gonzaléz (independent consultant and founder of Latino Outdoors). Specifically, the planning grant focused on the design and development of tools, resources, and professional learning to build the capacity of EE organizations to foster equitable, inclusive and culturally relevant work environments. Early on in our partnership, we decided to focus on the experiences of people of color within the EE field, while acknowledging the many dimensions of diversity and intersectional identities. Specifically, we asked ourselves, how might we shift the burden of change from individuals toward organizations, while being responsive to the needs and concerns of EE professionals of color?
One of our first steps was conducting a study to systematically document how EE organizations think about and operationalize equity and inclusion in the work environment and what the experiences of people of color in the field are in order to add to the chorus of stories and anecdotal evidence we’ve heard for several decades. The findings, informed by a survey of 51 organization leaders across the U.S. and focus group interviews with 26 educators of color, reveal a narrative that highlights the disconnect between the ways in which organizations believe, or intend, to be addressing equity and inclusion and how it is operationalized in the work environment. For example, organization leaders often expressed their commitment to equity through attempts to operationalize diversity through hiring people of color. Yet educators of color highlighted that addressing equity must go beyond outreach and hiring and must also include an explicit focus on addressing the systemic structures in place that reinforce a work environment that is exclusive and marginalizes people of color.
The findings and implications for organizations are included in a practitioner’s brief, titled, “Examining Equitable and Inclusive Work Environments in Environmental Education: Perspectives from the Field and Implications for Organizations.”
In addition to this practitioner’s brief, this study has also resulted in several national and international conference presentations and contributed to the development of is a 2-year pilot workshop series, Working Towards Equitable Organizations, co-facilitated by the Lawrence Hall of Science and Youth Outside. That is a story for another blog post, though (coming soon!).