Publication Date

Fall 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Rachel O'Malley

Subject Areas

Environmental studies


Environmental racism plagues low-income communities of color through exposure to environmental hazards, and the youth are most vulnerable. Environmental science, technology, engineering, and math (E-STEM) curriculums promoted as tools for corrective justice. Using a West Oakland, California Boys and Girls Club as a case study, I first describe the environmental awareness, attitudes, and actions of a group of six- to 13-year-old, predominantly African - American, children from this low-income community. I then examine the possible impacts of an E-STEM curriculum on participants, and I identify staff- and researcher-identified challenges to its implementation. During the study, the cohort experienced a heightened need for resilience in the face of external trauma, including but not limited to, a global pandemic. I found that these youths’ environmental awareness fell into three major themes: plants and animals, ecosystem services and earth and the outdoors. Their attitudes were shaped by their feelings toward the outdoors: positive feelings toward exploration versus negativity toward discomfort, and their environmental actions were tied to their intrinsic confidence and sense of agency or to the opportunity to join with a group. Program challenges included poor technology access and parent involvement, inadequate cultural relevance of the curriculum, and insufficient mentorship relationships. To succeed as a tool for corrective justice, I find that Club staff should be involved in E-STEM curriculum development, and the program should include funding for equipment and staff time.