On June 25, the Metro Council awarded 12 community organizations $700,000 in grants for projects designed to increase racial equity and climate resilience in greater Portland by connecting people of color to nature.
This round of Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods grants include a project that bring together Indigenous students and teachers at the Sandy River, another that will provide year-round, culturally specific environmental science education, and a career mentorship program that offers youth with low incomes opportunities to learn about natural resource management as they restore local habitats.
The grants are funded by voters who approved the renewal of the parks and natural areas levy measure in November 2016. This year, Metro received 42 applications that requested funding for projects totaling $2.38 million. Racial equity criteria have guided the grant program since 2018.
The review committee included local experts in nature education, outdoor experiences, cultural programs, racial equity and related fields. The committee rewarded proposals that leveraged thoughtful, authentic partnerships and collaboration between organizations. Each awarded program has between two and 12 partners, with most bringing together five or six schools, governments, community organizations and conservation nonprofits.
“One of Metro's roles in the region is to be a convener,” said Crista Gardner, program manager of Metro’s Nature in Neighborhood community grants. “Our nonprofit partners are coming together through these grant dollars, each bringing their particular skills, knowledge and abilities to the program.”
Tualatin Riverkeepers received $80,700 for a program that partners with Centro Cultural de Washington County to run a work-training program that promotes diversity and representation in the environmental career field. Dana Schot, community engagement coordinator at Tualatin Riverkeepers, said the organization acknowledges the intersections between racial equity and environmental justice.
“We know that conservation is a hugely white-dominant industry that was essentially made by white people, for white people,” Schot said. “We really do feel like it's our responsibility to make sure these voices, identities and experiences that have historically been ignored get a seat at the table and get a chance to create a world that works for every single person in it.”
Camp ELSO is a community-based education nonprofit that connects Black and Brown kids to the natural world and STEAM fields, whose related industries employ disproportionately few people of color. The organization received a $100,000 grant.
“We want to have more Black and Brown children arriving at college or ready to enter a career field with a balance of both traditional Western ecological and science knowledge, and nontraditional knowledge,” said Camp ELSO cofounder and executive director Sprinavasa Brown. “We're hoping they will have a strong sense of self and identity from participating in our programs.”
Brown said that affinity spaces, settings and gatherings of people with shared identities like race and culture, are key for children of color who are likely entering the outdoors for the first time.
“Having the opportunity to be surrounded by people who look like them, to learn from adults and educators who look like them – it reinforces the message that these kids belong there, that nature is meant for everyone.” Brown said.
Many grant recipients have adapted their programming in the wake of COVID-19. In Camp ELSO’s case, that means running summer programs as hybrids that include both virtual sessions at home and in-person sessions at local parks, as well as designing activities that youth can do at home with their families.
“We are shifting our programs to focus on getting kids outdoors as much as possible – growing food, learning how to prepare cultural foods and just fostering that connection with nature as best we can in the midst of everything that's happening,” Brown said.
Full list of 2020 Nature in Neighborhoods nature education and outdoor experiences grant recipients:
East African Youth Environmental Leadership Program
Recipient: African Youth and Community Organization
Amount requested: $70,000
Program Partners: Johnson Creek Watershed Council, Camp E.L.S.O., Zenger Farms, and Leach Botanical Garden.
Potential Partners: Blueprint Foundation.
Program summary: Launches an environmental literacy and leadership program for 3rd- to 12th-grade youth of the pan-African diaspora that connects the climate emergency in Somalia to issues of environmental injustice and sustainability impacting Somalis in Portland.
Culturally Responsive Nature Education
Recipient: Camp E.L.S.O. Inc.
Grant ammount: $100,000
Program Partners: Blueprint Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife, Lower Columbia Estuary Partners, Tualatin Riverkeepers, Friends of Tryon Creek, PGE- Project Zero Greater Than, Morrison Child and Family Services, SUN providers.
Program summary: Improves and expands year-round, culturally specific environmental STEAM education programs for children and youth, designed by and for communities of color in partnership with schools and community organizations, with a focus on STEM career pathways.
SLOUGH SCHOOL 20-22
Recipient: Columbia Slough Watershed Council
Grant ammount: $40,755 (partial grant award)
Program Partners: Portland Parks and Recreation, Bureau of Environmental Services, Portland Water Bureau, City of Gresham, City of Fairview, Multnomah Co Drainage District, Native American Youth and Families Center (NAYA), Verde Club Aves, and Schools: Cesar Chavez, King, Rigler, St Andrew Nativity, Woodland, Fairview, Salish Ponds.
Potential Partners: UNIDOS, Project Blueprint, Wisdom of the Elders, Portland Harbor Community Coalition, and Schools: Reynolds Learning Academy, Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc. and Rosemary Anderson High School (POIC+RAHS), Alliance HS at Meek, De La Salle North HS, Rose City Park, Sabin, Astor, Sacramento, Prescott.
Program summary: Provides free K-12 education for schools in the Columbia Slough Watershed that reduces barriers to outdoor learning for students in Title I schools in Portland, Parkrose, Reynolds and Gresham-Barlow Districts with classroom lessons and field trips.
Grant ammount: $20,000
Program Partners: Sandy River Watershed Council, Beaverton School District’s Title IV Indian Education Program, Hillsboro School District’s Title IV Indian Education Program, Native American Youth and Families Center (NAYA), and the Cottonwood School for Civics and Science.
Program summary: Connects Native American students from Hillsboro, Beaverton and Portland with Indigenous educators at the Sandy River Delta to learn lessons in history, culture, ecology and art.
Healing Generations and Land through Cultural Ecology
Recipient: Friends of Tryon Creek
Grant ammount: $70,000
Program Partners: Friends of Tryon Creek, Parrott Creek Child and Family Services, Cultural Lifeways Community, The Inn Home for Boys, The I Am Academy, CASA of Clackamas County, Clackamas Women’s Services, Northwest Family Services, Redstone Collective.
Potential Partners: Clackamas Education Services District, Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), Oregon State University Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Program, Red Lodge.
Program summary: Brings healing to the community and landscape through traditional Indigenous healing practices that involve healing youth alongside the land, stabilize healthy families, and build ecosystem resilience for future generations.
IRCO Slavic Youth Environmental Stewardship program
Recipient: Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization - IRCO
Grant ammount: $80,000
Program Partners: David Douglas School District, Parkrose School District, Multnomah County SUN Service System, Clackamas County Water Environment Services, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Johnson Creek Watershed Council.
Potential Partners: Wild Salmon Center, Clackamas Web Academy.
Program summary: Fosters environmental stewardship in youth via education with conservation and outdoor activities that connect immigrant and refugee students with nature.
Student Crew Leadership Training
Recipient: Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc.
Grant ammount: $50,000
Program Partners: Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc. and Rosemary Anderson High School (POIC+RAHS), Friends of Trees, Portland Parks & Recreation, Gresham Parks and Recreation, Outgrowing Hunger, Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Friends of Columbia Children’s Arboretum, Ecology in Classrooms & Outdoors (ECO).
Program summary: Provides youth from families with low incomes and youth of color with the opportunity to restore local habitats and receive career-track natural resource mentorship/education.
Nature Education Outings
Recipient: The Forest Park Conservancy
Grant ammount: $39,000
Program Partners: Elevate Oregon; ViveNW.
Program summary: Builds and executes curriculum for nature education outings in Forest Park and Metro-owned Natural Areas for 7th and 8th grade students at the Park Rose Middle School, with the objective of supporting their academic and personal development.
Partners in Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Recipient: The Wetlands Conservancy
Amount requested: $38,750
Program Partners: Wisdom of the Elders, Cascade Education Corps, Bridgeport Elementary, Greenway Elementary, Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors, Clean Water Services, Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation, Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District Potential Partners: Mary Woodward Elementary, Oregon Community Foundation, Portland Garden Club, TE Connectivity, Grey Family Foundation.
Potential Partners: Mary Woodward Elementary, Oregon Community Foundation, Portland Garden Club, TE Connectivity, Grey Family Foundation.
Program summary: Improves the health of various Washington County communities and environments using Indigenous knowledge methods of natural area enhancement to urban wetlands.
Nature Experiences and Workforce Training (NEWT): Changing the Face of the Field
Recipient: Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District
Grant ammount: $90,795
Program Partners: Adelante Mujeres, Beaverton School District, and Clean Water Services Potential Partners: Friends of the Tualatin Hills Nature Park.
Program summary: Provides after school nature programming for Latino audiences and expand our current multiyear, workforce development program focusing on Latino students.
Growing Green: Environmental Workforce Training
Recipient: Tualatin Riverkeepers
Grant ammount: $80,700
Program Partners: Centro Cultural de Washington County.
Potential Partners: Tualatin Soil & Water Conservation District; Washington County, Oregon Department of Forestry, Forest Grove School District, Pacific University, Portland Community College.
Program summary: Collaboratively provides career development opportunities with culturally-specific partners to promote and improve pathways to environmental careers within communities of color.
Rooted Youth Ecology
Recipient: Wild Diversity
Grant ammount: $20,000
Program Partners: Latino Network, Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, Portland Audubon Potential Partners: Verde, Brown Girls Rise, Boys & Girl Club, Betties 360, Kairos PDX, Native American Youth and Families Center (NAYA).
Program summary: Builds youth of color's relationship around the water and waterways, makes the outdoors more accessible for communities of color and fosters a respect for nature and outdoor experiences.