35. Centering DEIJ in Native Plant Education

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Centering DEIJ in Native Plant Education

Saturday, October 22 at 8:00-9:40 am, Cedar Room

Session Description: Native plants are foundational to everyone’s well-being and are deeply rooted in the most pressing social issues of our time, from settler colonialism to environmental racism, outdoor access to food sovereignty. For thousands of generations, Indigenous communities have tended reciprocal and restorative relationships with native plants that center on the intrinsic connections between plants, place and people. Session speakers will discuss ways to illuminate the intersectionalities of native plants and center DEIJ* in education to transform and empower communities toward a shared love of place.

*Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

Session Chair: Jen Aguilar (California Native Plant Society, Panorama City, CA, USA)

35.1    Decentralizing Gardens to Unify Community

Brenda Kyle (Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley, CA, USA)

The 710 corridor has extreme pollution, contaminated soil and lack of greenspace. The area is also a food desert. The soil has gone through remediation and can now grow plants! Theodore Payne Foundation (TPF) in partnership with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and their Cosecha Colectiva program developed a plant list for community members to be able to harvest and share. The purpose of the work was to create decentralized gardens where community members could grow, harvest and share already existing food crops (elote, calabaza, chayotes, etc.) and incorporate natives. TPF was able to facilitate workshops on cooking with acorns and mesquite, medicinal plants, and plants to attract pollinators.

35.2    Milkweed; connecting flowers to the root, root to people

Ashley Borrego (Conservation Legacy Community Volunteer Ambassador, AmeriCorps Member, Former Mission Monarch Lead, Santa Monica Mountains, CA, USA), Julia Samaniego (Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, Formerly with Community Nature Connection, San Fernando Valley, CA, USA

Youth-led initiatives aim to encourage community-based projects that pull on collaborative approaches, raise knowledge and capacity of youth, and allow for youth to build authentic relationships with their communities. In this presentation, we will draw upon our experience supporting a monarch habitat recovery project, Mission Monarch. We will dive deeper into the role youth filled, from expanding the project through building a community science component to raising awareness about the cultural relativity of California native milkweed. As youth continue to engage in work with California native plants, it is important to acknowledge and uplift both the ecological and cultural connections that are present. 

35.3    Language of Restoration

Amy Chong, Brian Teng, Jessica Lie, Marion Anthonisen, Robin Binaoro (Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, San Francisco, CA, USA)

Since the beginning of the modern Western conservation movement, much has changed in the science of and understanding around restoration work as well as in our culture and politics. Yet today there are still many ways that the language we use around restoration and native plants continues to reflect outdated and often harmful perspectives. In this presentation, we will frame the importance of how the words we use impact our work and our communities. We’ll share two interactive exercises that educators can use to inspire curiosity and reflection around language use. Attendees will also receive a list of additional resources and hear lessons learned from these exercises.

35.4    Creating Inclusive Framework for Educational Programs

Maya K. Morales (she/hers) (Community Nature Connection, Environmental Professionals of Color LA, Los Angeles, CA, USA) 

Science communication and natural science interpretation is highly valued for its ability to impact and engage audiences with complex topics. These skills are practiced by environmental educators, scientists and researchers alike- asking the question: How do you get someone to care about the research that you are presenting if they have no relevant connection to it? This presentation will seek to bring relevancy and inclusivity of research to the forefront of our conversations. How we reach out as scientists and educators greatly impacts the way that participants engage with our content. This presentation will discuss the need for environmental education to be as inclusive as possible while utilizing a Justice, Equity, Diversity, Accessibility and Inclusivity lenses. I will draw upon examples set by Community Nature Connection, a non profit organization based in Los Angeles, to provide context to the techniques that I will share with the audience. These techniques will include both formal and informal interpretation outline suggestions, and hiring practices that administrators can use when thinking about this topic in their own organizations.

35.5    Joyful Stewardship: Earth-centered Education in K-12

Anjali Berger (Theodore Payne Foundation, Sun Valley, CA, USA)

Authentic stewardship of Earth and community is cultivated through joyful relationship with self and environment. In this presentation, participants will learn how to center stewardship in their educational spaces through the following: creating an inclusive framework that generates inquiry based learning, thinking about “Earth as text” through joyful, embodied awareness, and reorienting “doom and gloom” so that students may meet the current state of the environment with an empowered sense of purpose and meaning. By actively engaging in a spiral curriculum approach, educators will understand how stewardship can be cultivated across age levels and disciplines. Both students and educators can move from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset through embodied learning and earth-centered education.

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Please join us in thanking our major sponsors for making this year’s event possible! Become a sponsor today.

Giant Sequoia


Valley Oak


Moulton Niguel Water District

White Sage

H.T. Harvey & Associates Ecological Consultants
East Bay Municipal Utility District

Melo Gardens

California Poppy

Westervelt Ecological Services

Carol Witham

Jepson Herbarium
Helix Environmental Planning