Semilla: A Community-University Partnership for Environmental Education
Semilla is a community-based participatory research project that began in 2017 with communities in The Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor [ASBC] in Costa Rica and York University graduate students, Olivia Caravaggio and Natalie Cummins. The project aims to investigate the impact of a community engagement initiative on community-university relations.
From February to May 2017, Caravaggio and Cummins led a community engagement initiative in the ASBC where community members and graduate students collaborated to develop an environmental education resource. In focus groups and interviews with school staff and community members, as well as creative collaboration sessions with students, 192 participants shared their thoughts about environmental education. A thematic analysis of the qualitative data contributed to the creation of Semilla: An Environmental Education Resource. The resource couples community voices about environmental education with activities and projects that can be used in existing environmental education efforts in schools, at community festivals, in libraries, and in homes. Environmental topics noted by participants as most important to the community included water, trees and plants, animals, waste, agriculture, and interconnectedness.
Caravaggio and Cummins also spoke with community members about community-university partnerships and their perspectives of York University. 49 school staff and community members participated in focus groups and interviews where they discussed ongoing relations between York University and the ASBC. Community members shared several suggestions and recommendations for York University. Suggestions included recommendations for improved communication, increased community involvement, increased knowledge exchange, collaborative community research and a continued focused on environmental conservation.
This research contributes to our understanding of how community engagement initiatives can support community-university relations in an international context.
Olivia Caravaggio and Natalie Cummins are both Early Childhood Educators with a passion for family environmental and arts education and community-based research. Cummins and Caravaggio graduated with a Master in Environmental Studies in 2018.