On this blog, we want to celebrate the work done by educators throughout the state of Maryland who promote geographic literacy in any of its forms. Our first educator is Nia Edwards, who shared her experience promoting environmental literacy as the Latino Community Outreach Liaison at Masonville Cove. Masonville Cove was an industrial area left abandoned after decades of industrialization. Now, the Cove has been cleaned up and the former industrial area has been replaced by a wetlands, nature trails, and a protected bird sanctuary. This serene area has created an opportunity for the local residents and schoolchildren (from Brooklyn, Curtis Bay, and Cherry Hill) to connect with their natural environment and participate in meaningful stewardship projects at Masonville Cove.
As a Latino Community Outreach Liaison at Masonville Cove, Nia has learned to wear various hats. One morning she might have on a teacher hat with a room full of kindergartners and the next she’ll be taking water samples while wearing her “scientist” hat. Still another hat is working toward restoring monarch butterfly habitats. At the recent BioBlitz, Nia informed visitors about the declining monarch butterfly population and passed out bags of milkweed seeds to plant in gardens. She found that describing the journey of the monarch from the east coast back to Mexico was a good way to relate to the Latino Community.
Nia, whose family is from Latin America, studied Spanish, Latin American Studies, and International Studies at Towson University. She also interned for the Environmental Protection Agency for two summers. She also studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she was able to develop her skills as a native Spanish speaker and become part of a new culture of Latin America. These experiences contributed to her current job because she was able to see how much Spanish communities connect their lifestyles to the land and agriculture. It also made her realize that there aren’t many environmental resources that Spanish communities have access to.
Nia states that the land is something very important in Latin American culture because it is their livelihood; therefore it is important that we bring awareness to those communities even in urban spaces. In addition to providing them with environmental education, it is also important that we take into account their basic needs as citizens (food, security, education, shelter) when trying to provide them with resources.
Environmental literacy is important to underserved communities because every human has the right to be able to have access to a clean open environment. Latino communities are often overlooked or criticized because of their lack of involvement in environmental efforts. However, through her work as a community outreach liaison, Nia has found that this “lack of involvement” is actually perpetuated because few take the time to invest in these communities to build relationships and foster awareness. Because of her passion and commitment to building environmental awareness among Latino communities, the Maryland Geographic Alliance congratulates Nia Edwards.
Check out the full interview with Nia here.
For more information about Masonville Cove, visit http://masonvillecove.org/