Inclusive Community Programs: From listening to leading

We can do better. Our natural and cultural history education programs, citizen science projects, and stewardship activities must be designed with community culture in mind. In order to meet the needs of our communities and partners, think beyond the way things have always been done, and welcome all to join us either as a trained Master Naturalist or participant in one of our public programs, we need to be mindful of the human history in our places. This history results in diminished trust and diversity in our programs. We seek to change that.

Please read the Arizona Master Naturalist Association’s Statement on Inclusion in Natural History Programming.

RESEARCH PROJECT: The Arizona Master Naturalist Association (AZMNA), the USA National Phenology Network, and the Arizona NAAEE Affiliate (AAEE), are working on an action research project designed to: 

  • Identify underrepresented audiences in existing natural history environmental education programs in Tucson
  • Identify barriers to participation in such programming
  • Teach educators how to develop inclusive public environmental engagement programs and activities appropriate for diverse members of our community and 
  • Create inclusive content for recruiting diverse participants to these programs in the future.   

To broaden our scope and ensure educators are providing content relevant to our community this research project will:

  1. Gather information about what people like to do or learn about related to the environment
  2. Learn about the many exciting ways all cultures engage with nature
  3. Use that information to inform how we can create more inclusive programs for all of our community members here in Tucson (as a pilot)
  4. Provide professional development opportunities to all environmental educators in the state about how to create inclusive programming for all. 

The intent is to move from complacency to action, call attention to who is missing, and do a better job of using language and providing programming accessible to everyone.

To begin we will be conducting interviews in May 2020 with environmental program leaders in Tucson who are doing Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion work internally and externally so that we can share what those organizations have learned about being inclusive. 


We will provide professional development opportunities in 2021 to educators on how and where to gather information about broadening the scope of what “natural history,” “the environment,” and “engagement in the outdoors” means to everyone.  This project utilizes the community engagement model, outlined in the NAAEE Guidelines Series, as well as best practices for designing inclusive programs for all. Professional development opportunities will include invited speakers from organizations doing stellar work, online sharing sessions during 2020, regional events in 2021, culminating in the ARizona Association for Environmental Educations Statewide Conference in September 2021 at Prescott College. For more information contact director@arizonaee.org.

Our chapter gathers on the original homelands of Indigenous peoples of the Tohono O’odham, Hohokam, and Pascua Yaqui Nations. We recognize they have stewarded this land in Tucson since time immemorial.  We remember their connection to this region and give thanks for the opportunity to live, work, learn and gather on their traditional homeland. 

The Tohono O’odham people’s origins are linked to the Sonoran Desert. For thousands of years they have lived and still live, along the Salt, Gila, and Santa Cruz Rivers. They have lived in tune with the desert and built sophisticated canal systems to grow food and are scientists of their environment. They use meteorological principles to establish planting, harvesting, and ceremony and have migrated with the seasons from valley to mountain peak.

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