Atlanta Alliance

Felicia Davis
Building Green Initiative, Clark Atlanta University

Darryl Haddock
West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA)

Pathway Goals

The goal of the Atlanta Alliance is to make pathways into geoscience careers visible to Atlanta's youth. We do this through connecting students and community members with other stakeholders to engage in lingering community issues such as health inequities, soil and water contamination, air pollution, and lack of interaction with natural surroundings. We bring together and foster relationships between education and environmental organizations. Incorporating geosciences into critical local issues such as energy, water, mineral resources, and stewardship of the environment helps students and the local community address long standing environmental justice issues.

The focus of our Alliance is to integrate culturally responsive environmental education resources across all educational levels with a particular focus on the middle-school through undergraduate levels grades 6-16, as well as to engage citizens through formal and informal education venues. Water is a major issue on the west side of Atlanta and the community experiences it from a history of contaminated overflow to escalating utility bills. The community is aware that water needs to be part of integrated solutions and the community is fighting to be included in crafting solutions. Availability of affordable quality water and restoration of contaminated waterways are high priorities.

Approaches to accomplish goals

  1. Create broad stakeholder engagement that focuses on collective impact
  2. Identify and develop geoscience career pathways for youth into high-quality and sustainable pathways, with a focus on vulnerable and undeserved communities
  3. Identify interested students from Metro Atlanta schools, with an emphasis on West Atlanta schools
  4. Partner with existing national and regional geoscience based organizations
  5. Work with local representatives to plan geo-inspired activities, teacher certification and development, high quality classroom curriculum, and associated materials

Atlanta Pathway

Leadership

  • Felicia Davis, CAU
  • Darryl Haddock, WAWA
  • Myron Williams, CAU
  • Yvonne Shade' Jones, Vine City
  • Cynthia Hewitt, Morehouse
  • State Representative Mabel Thomas
  • Eriqah Vincent, NWF
  • Tony Torrance, Urban Ecology Center

Atlanta Alliance Member Workspace

Atlanta Alliance Leader Workspace


Successes

Community engagement

The Atlanta Alliance identified and brought together stakeholders through a series of community and stakeholder meetings. Alliance leaders have engaged educators from regional institutions, national programs, and community partners together in planning. This is fundamentally shifting the understanding of Earth science and its relevance, as well as the opportunities for Earth learning by citizens of all ages. For example, in Atlanta, geosciences in now being incorporated into community events resulting in an increased awareness by the local community of the activities surrounding water resource management in the West Atlanta Watershed. Educators engaged in the program are asking for professional development so that they are better prepared to teach about these issues while Clark Atlanta University has moved from desire for community engagement to a first successful activity with plans for
ongoing actions.

Anchor leadership

The West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA) has taken on leadership of the Alliance in collaboration with Clark Atlanta University allowing us to couple university partners with the community. WAWA manages the Outdoor Activity Center in Atlanta, a 26-acre public environmental education, nature preserve, and outdoor activity facility. With WAWA is the lead organization, the Alliance was a physical location for activities and important community based programming expertise.

Pathway Elements

The Atlanta Regional Alliance pathway map identifies how organizations, programs, institutions and individuals connect to provide pathways to geoscience carers addressing community led solutions to local challenges. The Atlanta pathway map also shows how Regional Alliance activities and local stakeholders can influence programming and connections to enhance geoscience pathways. Important components of the pathway identified by the Alliance include connecting with STEM schools, local HBCUs and state universities, and non-profit groups. The map highlights a number of different ways that the Alliance can bolster pathways from K-12 to community-related geoscience careers.

Active and planned pathway elements and activities include:


Pathway Development Criteria

Embedded in the local community

The Atlanta Regional Alliance seeks to integrate opportunities to learn about water, watersheds, and water management while addressing water contamination and flooding in west Atlanta. Meetings bringing together local non-profit organizations, university partners, and community members helped the alliance identify a focus and begin the process of identifying and refining activities and elements in support of creating geoscience pathways. The first community meeting was held in the Vine City community and brought together 15 representatives from West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA), Clark Atlanta University and Atlanta University Center faculty, community leadership including, informal leaders, municipal and State elected officials. The focus of the meeting was to explore interest in geoscience pathway development for west Atlanta youth and develop an action plan. A second meeting focused on identifying local assets and specific opportunities in the West Atlanta area. The meeting participants produced an initial aspirational pathway map, and selected two initial activities to test pathway elements: an Earth science focused block party in a community park and a GIS workshop for high school students.

The Atlanta Alliance is totally embedded in the community. Universities have been added to the mix and EarthConnections is viewed as a link to national resources. On the ground, the leadership (WAWA) continues to advance programs at the Outdoor Activity Center, relationships with schools, and special projects.

Use geoscience to address a local need or problem

Water/watershed and green space are to salient issues within the targeted West Atlanta community along with pressures from development and negative perceptions and impacts from gentrification. The Atlanta Regional Alliance is working to integrate opportunities to learn about water, watersheds, and water management while addressing water contamination and flooding in west Atlanta. The alliance is actively planning events that bring together students, schools, community members, colleges, universities, and local organizations. The goal is that events are accessible enrichment opportunities for students and parents that build gateways to the geosciences and STEM careers. Water is a major issue on the west side of Atlanta and the community experiences it from overflow and utility bills. The community is aware that water needs to be part of integrated solutions and the community is fighting to be included in considering solutions. Flooding, water quantity, and contaminated waterways are all problems.

Multiple learning opportunities connected and sequenced

The alliance is actively planning events that bring together students, schools, community members, colleges, universities, and local organizations. The goal is that events are accessible enrichment opportunities for students and parents that build gateways to the geosciences and STEM careers. All of these activities are connected to and in support of the proposed Atlanta Urban Ecology Center in the English Avenue neighborhood of northwest Atlanta. Example opportunities the Alliance facilitated:

  • The STEM in Our Park block party connected (80) Kipp Ways Academy 8th Graders to geoscience content from our academic partners: Greening Youth Foundation, Georgia Institute of Technology Georgia State University and the Georgia Geography Alliance. The event was held at n Lindsey Street Park. Students learned about the EarthConnections Atlanta Regional Alliance, community water issues and how hopeful we are to develop solutions to environmental problems, as a resilient community. Each partner provided hands-on interactive learning activities that engaged students and introduced concepts including: watersheds, water contamination, geology, geography and more.
  • The alliance worked with Clark Atlanta University (CAU) to develop a GIS workshop for local high school students, allowing them the opportunity to learn about the CAU GIS Lab and participate in neighborhood mapping projects.

Mentoring and signposting that supports students

The Atlanta alliance is mentoring and identifying important connections, relationships, and stations as it continues working to define viable pathways. The alliance plans to have college students mentor area public school students and to have them assist in identifying signposting/opportunities or needs. As a community partner we've engaged students with Water and Green Infrastructure projects. Other support in development includes facilitating course projects, student internships, and research partnerships, co-hosting speakers and symposia.

Insights for other Regional Alliances

Embed the Alliance within existing community activities.

Coming together to host events is worthwhile but it doesn't establish an Alliance. We have brought together community-based organization representatives with limited resources that are asked to attend numerous meetings to help improve their neighborhood. The goal is to help organizations increase their impact, not to add one more meeting or activity to the list. Many community organizations have very limited capacity or infrastructure to contribute to reaching community goals. Identifying leadership anchored in the community is important. It is also critical to keep the goals of the community in the forefront, rather than to brand affiliation with another entity.

Publications and Presentations

See all EarthConnections
publications and presentations »

Davis, F. and Haddock, D. 2018. EarthConnections Atlanta Alliance. Earth Educators' Rendezvous (Lawrence, KS). Abstract

Haddock, D. 2018. Developing Culturally Responsive Pathways to Local Geoscience Jobs and Careers. Earth Educators' Rendezvous (Lawrence, KS). Abstract