New grant allows for expansion of Latino Earth Partnership program

Inspired by success of the Indigenous Arts and Sciences model of Relationship, Reciprocity, Respect, and Responsibility, Earth Partnership (EPS) is now applying these values to a program designed to motivate Latino youth to become engaged in STEM careers and environmental stewardship. EPS has committed to this program because of the racial disparities that exist in scientific fields. While Latinos comprise 16.7% of the U.S. population, only 7% of Masters degrees and 3% of PhDs in science and engineering are held by Latinos (National Science Foundation).

Through community dialogues and partnerships, Latino youth are being shown to use their culture and heritage as strength and inspiration to engage in science and stewardship. New EPS activities are being developed that celebrate and utilize Latino history, language, and environmental justice, and community-based restoration projects are being planned that will recruit from the Latino community. Throughout this process, EPS is cultivating and strengthening Madison partnerships with Latino-serving schools, Centro Hispano, the Catholic Multicultural Center, and the UW Nelson Institute. This initiative is currently supported by a new Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, in the amount of $109,279, awarded this past summer and ending in the summer of 2015.

The Latino Earth Partnership (LEP) program is grounded in providing solutions to local environmental issues, but maintains a strong international component as well. As part of the Arboretum’s emphasis on addressing local stormwater management issues, nearby Madison schools (for example, Wright, Badger Rock, and Cherokee Middle Schools and Midvale, Leopold, Lincoln, and Thoreau Elementary Schools are all within five miles of the Arboretum) with large Latino populations are opportunities for community engagement. LEP will also continue to grow partnerships in Latin America, which EPS initiated in 2009 with a restoration education training session at the Arboretum for teachers from Puerto Rico. Since then, additional interest has been expressed from Puerto Rico, as well as Mexico, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. LEP will work to respond to this interest and build global partnerships surrounding education and environment.

LEP will use the EPS 10-Step Restoration model as a foundation for learning, but it has a particular focus on strengthening relationships within a community, from students to parents to teachers to citizen scientists, respecting cultural context and using Latino heritage as an asset to scientific engagement. For all youth, EPS wants to emphasize hands-on, meaningful engagement with the natural world and considers this to be a cornerstone in the life of an environmental steward. A teacher from Milwaukee described this type of experience after participating in an EPS summer institute: “Kids need to feel important, that they make a difference in this world. Earth Partnership provides ways to give kids a sense of purpose and build competency.” LEP continues with this philosophy in mind, with the addition of activities and initiatives that are culturally relevant and sensitive to community strengths and needs. LEP hopes that through these efforts, Latino youth in Madison and beyond will be a strong presence in the next generation of environmental stewards and scientists.