Development of Staff Cultural Capacity in an Intensive Environmental Stewardship Program for Urban Youth

Rupanwita Gupta, John Fraser, Shelley J. Rank


Cultural competence training for environmental educators has typically focused on formal professional development activities. The current research examined how educators can develop cultural competence through interaction with youth in environmental stewardship programs. An online survey was conducted with staff working closely with youth in The Nature Conservancy’s Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future program, to study their learning experiences. Responses were available from 34 staff (completion rate = 51%). Open-ended responses revealed they had learned about cultural differences in urban and youth groups’ engagement with the environment compared to that of adults in rural areas. In contrast, their understanding of different racial and ethnic groups was already high, and had not been impacted meaningfully. Quantitative items indicated that cultural competence about multiple conservation viewpoints (M = 4.30, SD = .33) was higher than that about racial and ethnic groups (M = 4.07, SD = .37), t(33) = 4.30, p < .001. Across questions staff reiterated that contact with interns had helped them develop greater appreciation for conservation work than before for its relevance to a wider segment of society. Rethinking conservation priorities was emotionally taxing for some staff and suggested that structured strategies for reflections on their cultural understandings are imperative for a diverse environmental workforce for the present and future. 

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Copyright (c) 2014 Rupanwita Gupta, John Fraser, Shelley J. Rank

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Environmental Management and Sustainable Development  ISSN 2164-7682

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