By Drew Lindsey, AmeriCorps VISTA
Over the summer the Lahontan Audubon Society (LAS) has launched an ambitious project that aims to increase public outreach to minority communities in the Reno-Sparks area. Specifically LAS is looking at expanding school visits and field trips to Title 1 schools. Title 1 schools are institutions with high numbers of students who receive financial assistance. These schools typically serve disadvantaged and minority communities, groups whom LAS has struggled to reach out to in the past.
The first part of this project involved composing a master list of Title 1 schools and their demographic statistics. It was important to use state government data to compile demographic data for each Title 1 school in order for LAS to prioritize which schools to plan visits for. LAS is looking to increase outreach to Asian American, Hispanic American, Native American, and African American communities so it was vital to find data concerning what the minority enrollment was for each Title 1 school. Schools which have greater than 50% minority enrollment were prioritized for this project as these schools would allow LAS to reach the greatest number of underserved students.
The second part of the project entailed making a map of all Title 1 elementary schools and parks near each school LAS could potentially lead field trips to. A large part of LAS outreach is leading birding field trips so it was important to map out local parks accessible to Title 1 students and their families. Parks included in the map had to meet two major requirements; they needed to be within walking distance of the Title 1 schools and they had to be birding hotspots. Parks under 2 miles from each Title 1 school were prioritized as this would allow students to take their families birding after going on LAS led birding field trips. eBird was used to determine suitable parks for school field trips. eBird statistics that factored into park suitability included total yearly bird counts and monthly bird counts.
The Title 1 school project will allow LAS to take its outreach efforts into a more inclusive direction. LAS is hopeful that reaching out to underserved students can serve as a stepping stone towards broader outreach to underserved communities. Overall, LAS is excited at the prospect of expanding outreach to students in underserved communities in the Reno-Sparks area.