Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion — 2022 Update

June 7, 2023
Our new Birding for All outings offer opportunities for people of all abilities and levels of birding experience to enjoy wild birds (photo: Meade Cadot)

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

The Harris Center is committed to ensuring that our trails, conserved lands, educational programs, and conservation research projects are welcoming spaces for all, regardless of racial or religious background, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic means, or range of physical ability. We are listening, learning, and taking action toward this goal.

Teaching and Learning

A Deep Presence

Book cover for "A Deep Presence," depicting a Paleoindian encampment, stone tools, and a portrait of a modern-day Abenaki womanIn the fall of 2021, with support from the Historical Society of Cheshire County (HSCC) and the Harris Center’s 50th Anniversary Fund, archaeologist Dr. Robert Goodby published his first book, A Deep Presence: 13,000 Years of Native American History. This important book tells the story of Native Americans in the Monadnock Region, from the remains of the oldest known dwellings in New England to the 4,000-year-old Swanzey Fish Dam still visible in the Ashuelot River.

A fundraising effort led by volunteers Harriet and Stephen DiCicco allowed the Harris Center to purchase 41 copies of the book for distribution to local schools, and paid for local teachers to attend an HSCC professional development workshop on incorporating A Deep Presence into their teaching. Our own teaching staff also spent the year studying the book, with chapter-by-chapter discussions at each staff meeting.

School & Afterschool Programs

This year, our teaching staff improved our plans for accommodating students with special needs, both when visiting schools and during class visits to the Harris Center.

Our celebrated LAB GIRLS afterschool program, which helps middle school girls stay connected to science, is now LAB GIRLS+ – open to any student who identifies as female, regardless of gender assigned at birth.

LAB Girls + view a Great Horned Owl in their classroom (photo: Ben Conant)

Our LAB GIRLS+ afterschool program helps middle school girls from many different backgrounds stay connected to STEAM through nature. (photo © Ben Conant)

Community Programs

We strive to highlight the knowledge, research, and voices of naturalists, scientists, and outdoorspeople of diverse backgrounds in our rich calendar of events. This past year, we featured Sherry Gould of the Abenaki Trails Project, squirrel scientist and accessibility advocate Charlotte Devitz, and Freya McGregor of Birdability — a new non-profit organization working to ensure that the birding community is welcoming, inclusive, and safe for people with disabilities. We also partnered with the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire to offer several guided hikes exploring the Black history of Jack’s Pond.

In addition, our educational programs at area assisted living communities and through the Keene and Dublin Recreation Departments offer opportunities for people of all ages, abilities, and economic backgrounds to explore nearby nature.

Building & Grounds

Last fall, thanks to a grant from our 50th Anniversary Fund, automatic door openers were installed in the Harris Center entranceway and wheelchair-accessible bathroom, making it possible for people who use wheelchairs or walkers to enter these spaces unassisted. Two brand-new wheelchairs were also donated to the Harris Center for public use.

Land & Trails

Our trail kiosks now include a statement affirming our lands and trails as welcoming spaces for all, and the West Side Trails kiosk features a story by writer Eric Aldrich on the Black history of Jack’s Pond, which is visible from our Thumb’s Down Trail.

In addition, while none of our trails can be considered fully accessible (yet), a new trail inventory effort by Harris Center staff, interns, and volunteers aims to provide detailed information on trail conditions, as a first step toward accessibility improvements. A related effort is underway to build trailside benches, offering people of all ages and abilities places to rest and enjoy the great outdoors.

Building Community

Our new LGBTQ+ community outings —led by, and for, members of the queer community – provide a welcoming space for connecting with the natural world, and with one another.

Horizontal Birdability logoInspired by Birdability, we also launched a new Birding for All outing series for people of all abilities, including those who experience accessibility challenges as a result of a disability or other health concern.

Our internal Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group, comprised of board, community, and staff members from each of the Harris Center’s program areas, meets monthly to move these and other initiatives forward. This will be lifelong work for our organization, but we are committed to seeing it through.

Contact Us

For more information, please contact Science Director Brett Amy Thelen at (603) 525-3394 or by email.