ASTC’s Community Science Team is proud to share the work resulting from our Partnership Planning Seed Grant Program. Successful community science begins with establishing trust among collaborative partners and ensuring that all partners are working toward shared goals. To that end, our newest grant program was designed to support new and emerging collaborations between ASTC member institutions and community-based organizations looking to deepen their relationship to advance local priorities. Each grantee team received funding to support their participation in the five-month program and participated in strategic training workshops to support them in developing an actionable community science project plan.
Here are the ambitious plans our grantee teams have developed, in their own words (edited for clarity):
Combatting Gun Violence in Allentown, Pennsylvania
“Youth are not immune to gun violence; however, they are often left out of the conversation when it comes to potential solutions. Da Vinci Science Center and Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley, a Black-led, anti-racist, woman-centered liberation-based grassroots community organization promoting public health, will provide a safe, trusting space where youth can productively discuss solutions to gun violence they would like to see implemented in their communities. We hope to give youth a sense of ownership and empower youth to advocate for their needs, not wait for adults to tell them how they will “fix” the situation. In the long term, Allentown youth will feel safer in their communities, and Allentown will be a safer, happier, and healthier city for everyone.”
Prairie Restoration in Manhattan, Kansas
“For Flint Hills Discovery Center and Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education, our vision is: Sustainable solutions that utilize ecological services of the tallgrass prairie for stronger and more resilient communities. This stems from an awareness that the Manhattan, KS community is disconnected from the local, native prairie ecosystem and related to many local environmental issues. To address this disconnect, we are planning to facilitate planning and site evaluation sessions for local teachers and their students in collaboration with K-State’s Ecological Engineering and Landscape Performances programs to explore connections of prairie ecology and ecological services prairies provide. The connections will support and build a community knowledge base of ways the prairie supports and can further support quality of life and innovative environmental solutions in the community by bringing elements of the prairie closer to home.”
Showcasing STEAM in Southwest Tennessee
“Jackson and its surrounding counties are seeing an increase in STEM-focused industries, and the community acknowledges that it needs additional resources to support this industry and future workforce development. The Museum of Science and History Memphis and Jackson-Madison County Library will partner to create a regional Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) Fest, with the intent of ongoing collaborations. By gauging interest in such an event with an Eclipse Viewing Party in April 2024, we will gather feedback and adapt the STEAM Fest to properly address the needs of Madison County and surrounding areas. The team will build collaborative relationships with regional businesses and organizations all over West Tennessee in support of this event to increase STEAM knowledge and appreciation. The purpose of the STEAM Fest will be to generate interest in STEAM, showcase STEAM-based careers, and prepare students for the workforce as more opportunities in the area arise.”
Adapting Agriculture in Warren County, North Carolina
“Warren County’s past, present, and future cannot be separated from its agricultural landscape and economy. Despite these integral links, many individuals–including youth–do not understand where their food comes from. Simultaneously, the climate crisis will require shifts in the agricultural landscape to mitigate and adapt to changing weather and climactic conditions. This collaborative project lead by Museum of Life and Science and Working Landscapes, a rural development organization working to build more sustainable livelihoods in Warren County, seeks to engage youth around the concerns of food access and the climate crisis. In doing so, we will take a community science-based engagement approach, which may include activities such as soil health monitoring, mapping of the agricultural landscape of Warren County, and interviews with older relatives about the past present, and future landscape of food and agriculture. The analysis that emerges from this engagement will be used to shape future programming for youth, as well as workforce development programs for young adults interested in the future of agriculture and food in Warren County.”
Centering Indigenous Youth Leadership in Los Angeles County, California
“Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory of North America (“AIUP”) with the Gabrielino-Shoshone Nation of Southern California reclaimed 12 acres of Land in Otsuunga (El Sereno) where the Chief Ya’anna Vera Rocha Regenerative Learning Village and Tuatukar EcoCultural Center for Indigenous Resurgence (“Ya’anna Village”) will be established. Reclaiming Land includes language, traditional ecological knowledge, songs, culture, and the autonomy to determine access to the Land in a city planning structure that polices and denies community access to even unsold, undeveloped “plots” of Land. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will work alongside AIUP to learn how Ya’anna Village can support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC) youth in Los Angeles by hosting two gatherings at the museum, as well as supporting community science-based data gathering for use by students and the Gabrielino-Shoshone Nation in educational content and evaluation of Indigenous Land Stewardship in urban areas. The first gathering (September 2023) will form youth working groups that will create proposals for research and stewardship of the Ya’anna Village with the support of staff and other mentors. The second gathering, the 2024 Indigenous Youth Summit, will include more youth voices from L.A. County to further develop proposals.”
Youth Leading on Mental Health and Social Media in Portland, Oregon
“Today’s youth are facing an unprecedented crisis of mental health. Simultaneously, youth are engaging with social media at unprecedented rates and in unprecedented ways. To better understand these intersectional issues, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and Self Enhancement Inc., a community-based organization supporting African Americans and others living in poverty, are collaborating on a youth-led, participatory research project wherein youth a) identify their most pressing questions related to mental health and social media; b) research those questions in the context of their own community using qualitative, multimedia-based methods (e.g. photo-voice, video-voice or similar); and c) share their findings via a youth-developed, multimedia product of their choosing (e.g., short film, social media campaign, photography exhibit, etc.). We anticipate that this project will reveal localized solutions that promote mental health and positive social media engagement for SEI students, their peers, and community. Youth will share these solutions via their multimedia products with their community and beyond, through digital and/or in person venues that they deem relevant (e.g., social media, website, exhibit gallery, etc.).”
Researching Avian Flu in the Adirondack Region of New York
“Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has potentially devastating effects on domestic and wild animal populations, however, limited data exists on the exact scope of the problem. The Wild Center and Cornell Cooperative Extension, a dynamic education system connecting Cornell University’s research with regional and county-based educators and partners across New York, have partnered to develop a citizen science project leveraging research institutions and engaged citizen populations to increase collection of relevant data related to HPAI. The collaboration between local researchers and community citizen scientists will create a program and template for easy scalability and replicability beyond the Adirondack region. The project will increase awareness and scope of HPAI to community stakeholders; develop and strengthen community partnerships; and serve to understand the spread and impact of HPAI and other future diseases.”
We look forward to seeing the grantee teams carry these plans forward in an effort to make positive differences in their communities. For more information on future professional development tools, capacity-building awards, and networking opportunities, visit the Community Science Initiative website. To learn more about future funding opportunities, join our interest list.
We extend a special thanks to our partners at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for providing funding for this program.