We partnered with Nature for All Stewards Sam Tayag, Paloma Avila, and Jordan Salcido to complete the first phase of their Cultivating Community project in July 2022 at the Audubon Center at Debs Park. We checked in with Sam about their future plans for the project and the benefits of being connected to nature.

What inspired your project?
The Community Science Office at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLA) is dedicated to centering community in natural science research and access to nature. This is a shift in the field of community science that is gaining attention and momentum. On my first day as a community science coordinator at NHMLA, I was encouraged to apply for the ASTC Dialogue & Deliberation Fellowship. The Association of Science and Technology Centers’ Dialogue and Deliberation Fellowship is a pilot program of 10 community science practitioners from different science and technology institutions. The fellowship’s goal is to educate and empower community science practitioners to build equitable relationships and engage in meaningful conversations to inform how our research projects and collaborations can truly serve community needs and priorities. In partnership with Nature for All and Nature for All Stewards Paloma Avila and Jordan Salcido, we completed the first step of the project on July 30 at the Audubon Center at Debs Park. We gathered a community of artists, environmental justice advocates, community organizers, conversation facilitators, community members, and natural science researchers to create art and dialogue around topics tied to equitable green space access in Los Angeles. We are currently going through the notes from the event to create an interactive pop-up gallery featuring the art and conversation from the July 30 event. This interactive pop-up gallery will start at the Natural History Museum on September 25 with additional art and other activities open to the public and go on to be installed in various community spaces through L.A. County. We hope to create space to include more voices on the topic of equitable green space. In addition, we plan on creating a learning-sharing document and are seeking funding to host additional conversation events. In September, ASTC has invited the team to their annual conference to give a pre-conference presentation and panel about our experience and project.

What’s your favorite park, trail, or natural space in the greater Los Angeles area?
My favorite favorite natural space is the San Gabriel Mountains/Bridge to Nowhere Trail. My favorite park/garden is the National History Museum Los Angeles’s Nature Garden.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy nature?
Camping or backpacking with my 5-year-old, making naturalist observations, talking about the Land, eating, sleeping, making art and practicing martial arts.

Can you share why we need greater access to the outdoors and nature for our communities? What motivates you to support Nature for All’s mission?
The health, survival and nurturing of all community (human, wildlife, land). To share and include others in the grassroots community power that makes change happen.

What or who inspires you in your field of work?
My Grandma and family. My family has agricultural roots in the Philippines and my Grandma was a soil chemist for the department of agriculture. Her field work included our traditional ecological knowledge, mutual aid, and the knowledge of community members in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s — long before I knew any of these practices had terms. That’s just how she worked.

Whats your favorite environment-themed movie, book or TV series?
“Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

What gives you hope for the future?
The resilience and beauty of the land and my community.

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