NOVEMBER 5, 2020 — A multidisciplinary team of UTSA researchers is collaborating on a project to transform San Antonio’s urban backyards and public spaces into living laboratories for community science education.
Their project aims to increase knowledge of the ecological effects of backyard feeding on birds, build capacity for community science in San Antonio and promote pathways to nature engagement in historically underserved, majority Latinx urban communities.
Jennifer Smith, a professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Ecology; Kenneth Walker and Annette Portillo, professors in the Department of English; and Amelia King-Kostelac, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, have been awarded a $265,000 grant through the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Education Grants Program hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to conduct their project.
The USDA-NIFA provides leadership and funding for programs that advance agriculture-related sciences. The HSI Education Grants Program is designed to strengthen HSI programs that attract outstanding students who, upon graduation, enhance America’s food and agricultural scientific and professional workforce.
The team’s project, “Seeding Success for Underrepresented Students: Informal STEM Learning through Community Science, Avian Ecology and Ethnic Studies,” is a collaborative community- and place-based effort in science, culture and education.
“Our model for ‘Seeding Success’ integrates avian ecology through backyard bird feeding and neighborhood-level community science, and culturally responsive schooling through engagement with Indigenous and Mexican American studies,” said Smith. “By emphasizing the importance of local cultural knowledge, we aim to address prevalent misconceptions about how science, Indigenous and Mexican American studies intersect through place-based practices of nature engagement and conservation.”
“This project,” Portillo said, “seeks to bridge cultural literacies by collaborating with and actively engaging with Indigenous and Mexican American communities in San Antonio. Similar to Tucson Unified School District’s highly successful MAS program in urban school districts, this project, that is grounded in culturally relevant educational programming, will also center the importance of ethnic studies as it relates to history, literature and environmentalism.”
The project will offer experiential workshops and neighborhood activities that encourage critical discussion about scientific and cultural practices within San Antonio and the surrounding region. It aims to develop leadership skills, promote scientific and cultural literacies and conservation behaviors, and build educational bridges for students from K–12 schools to HSIs, including UTSA.
As a project that foregrounds culturally relevant pedagogy to motivate learning, it seeks to cultivate in all participants the ability to contemplate, trouble, and provide critical feedback on the ways in which scientific practices, nature engagements and conservation behavior overlap or diverge from participants’ cultural contexts.
“By evaluating the effects of living laboratories for community science engagements in underserved neighborhoods in San Antonio, we anticipate we will see an increase in participant understanding of scientific research and placed-based knowledge and thus an appreciation for science and culture in urban neighborhood settings,” explained Walker.
“By increasing familiarity and comfort with scientific and cultural practices broadly, and with ornithological skills in particular, we anticipate an increased interest in pursuing ecological, educational and ethnic studies as an intersectional way to address contemporary social and environmental crises,” added King-Kostelac.
Come celebrate the doctoral students graduating this commencement season.H-E-B Student Union Ballrooms, UTSA Main Campus
Celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates of the College for Health, Community and Policy, College of Liberal and Fine Arts and College of Sciences.Alamodome, 100 Montana St, San Antonio, TX 78203
Celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates of the Carlos Alvarez College of Business, College of Education and Human Development, Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design and University College.Alamodome, 100 Montana St, San Antonio, TX 78203
First Friday Stargazing gives anyone free access to the night sky using university telescopes and teaching equipment. Weather permitting, experienced astronomers will provide a handful of telescopes of varying designs, give training on how each operates, and point to various astronomical objects that may appear in the sky for that given time of the year. If you have a telescope and do not know how to operate it, feel free to bring it and get instructions on its use.4th Floor of Flawn Science Building, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.