Scientists and science centers generally begin PPSR projects with goals that motivate their own participation, such as facilitating advances in science, providing STEM education to local communities, or addressing environmental concerns. For many communities, the opportunity to make a contribution to science or to help the environment is not, by itself, enough to make the PPSR project a community priority. The goals and aspirations that motivate communities to act in other realms are as diverse as the communities involved. One reason to invest time in building relationships between PPSR practitioners and community members is to understand the goals of each community so that participation in PPSR projects can be aligned with those goals.
Rocking the Boat (RTB) is a community development organization in the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx that empowers young people challenged by severe economic, educational, and social conditions. Students work together to build wooden boats, learn to row and sail, and work on restoration projects in their local urban waterways. RTB aims to expose young people to future academic, professional, and personal opportunities, as well as to introduce South Bronx community members of all ages to their Photo courtesy of Rocking the Boatlocal natural environment so that they may contribute to its restoration and preservation.
Since 2010, 10 students from a “second chance” high school have been conducting a Wading Bird and Shorebird Foraging Survey, a project designed by NYC Audubon and NJ Audubon. Students document observations of wading birds and shorebirds, upload data, document results, deliver data to project partners, and educate the general public at community events. Among the challenges to student participation are family pressures to work during the summer, which is the ideal field season. RTB has offered a stipend to students to enable them to continue their field work past the end of the school year. RTB also hires former participants as Program Assistants. Not only is it empowering for students to see people that look like them in positions of authority, this shows students that there are jobs that they can do if they excel in this type of activity.
Read about more promising practices in case studies from other organizations.