On an April evening at the East Boston branch of the Boston Public Library, a special conversation took place. Locals gathered over dinner to talk about their vision for their neighborhood in the face of climate change.
Convened by the New England Aquarium in collaboration with our partners Harborkeepers, Eastie Farm, Zumix, and Piers Park Sailing Center, the event invited East Boston residents to imagine a climate resilient future, in which the threats from a changing ocean would not impede on their livelihood. Community members took turns speaking, sharing their ideas and expressing their concerns. The Aquarium and our partners listened.
This event was part of the Aquarium’s community climate resilience work in East Boston through Communities Advancing Science Literacy (CASL). Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, CASL, which is jointly led by the New England Aquarium and the Aquarium of the Pacific, aims to facilitate conversations among local residents about the future of their community, equip them with learning tools for advancing their understanding of the natural world, orient them on the issue of climate change, and inspire them to engage in solutions to meet the challenges presented by it.
In 2018, the Aquarium and its partners used the CASL grant to learn about East Boston community members, hear their concerns, and evaluate their readiness to take action. Beyond providing spaces for residents and partners to converse on issues related to their community, CASL also offered them the chance to take advantage of the Aquarium’s resources.
Alongside Harborkeepers, the Aquarium led families through a training in April that highlighted marine habitats and animals local to East Boston. Leah Gregory, a teacher at East Boston Harborside Community School, said, “Our parents not only can enjoy and learn from this workshop, but they also can share the information with their children in order to better foster the two-generational learning experience.”
In November, Harborkeepers, Eastie Farm, and Piers Park Sailing Center found a platform through the Aquarium’s lecture series to present about community climate resilience. Young staff from Zumix recorded the audience’s favorite ways to experience Boston Harbor, footage that reached thousands of East Boston residents within hours of being posted on social media.
“The event gave the Aquarium a chance to amplify the authentic voice and synergistic wealth of collective perspectives that East Boston community leaders thought were most important and relevant to climate change,” said Latifa Ziyad, the Aquarium’s Community Education Resilience Coordinator for CASL.
CASL is part of a range of Aquarium education outreach designed to build climate resilience in our local communities. From implementing school-based programming through our Community Partners for Resilience (CPR) initiative, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to empowering young civic leaders through our Capacity-Building for Youth Civic Leadership for Issues in Science and Society (CYCLIST) program, supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, our objective is to show youth, students, local citizens, and volunteers how they can become the voice of the climate resiliency movement within their communities. These initiatives are possible because of our extended network.
We are excited to connect with our neighbors through this work. Natalie Perez, Community Engagement Supervisor at the Aquarium, explained, “CASL has provided opportunities to respond to community needs with a more collaborative approach. Working alongside leaders who have first-hand knowledge of their communities has been an invaluable learning experience for me.”
Boston and the surrounding coastal areas sit on the edge of a changing ocean. Now more than ever, our endeavors to confront this change have significance. Resources provided to our education program from supporters like you enable initiatives like CASL, CPR, and CYCLIST to expand our impact and ensure a brighter future for us all.