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Jefferson Community Center vermiculture teach-in

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Background[edit]

The Westside Community Improvement Association is a grass-roots organization in Eureka, California working to revitalize the local urban neighborhood by restoring the Jefferson School site. Last April, they won the bid to purchase the site which they are working towards turning into a community center and charter school. One of their first tasks was to reopen the playground for local children who had nowhere else to play. For this project, community members will collaborate to facilitate a sustainability teach-in where low-to-no cost technologies can be shared and implemented within a diverse community.

Problem statement[edit]

The objective of this project is to integrate what the community wants to learn about appropriate technology into a cohesive workshop, and then to advertise and facilitate said workshop.

Literature Review[edit]

This is a review of the available literature pertinent to the Jefferson Community Center Teach-in. We reviewed information regarding community outreach in general, and specific projects that we could teach at the Jefferson Community Center. We believe, as E.F. Schumacher wrote, that "education is the most vital of all resources" (79). [1]

Community Outreach basics[edit]

Not only are we teaching about appropriate technology, we are part of an organization that is working toward community building on the Westside, so our project must reflect that. As Brazilian educator Paulo Freire insists, "It is not our role to speak to the people about our own view of the world, nor to attempt to impose that view on them, but rather to dialogue with the people about their veiw and ours" (96). [2] Community involvement and cultural sensitivity are two topics that must be considered throughout our project. We are interested in building a relationship with the community members, and viewing the teach-in as something done with the community, not for the community.

Community Building: What Makes It Work attempts to synthesize the research literature on community building to examine what makes a community successful. How do initiatives and organizations capitalize on the community's strengths? How does the community itself increase social capacity? What does it take to unify a community? The authors describe community not just as a "geographically defined area" but also people who have "social and psychological ties with each other and the place where they live" (Mattessich 6). The various characteristics of the community, the process, and the community organizers are outlined. Chapter Three describes the "Factors Related to Success," including community awareness of an issue and motivation within the community. It is clear that a clear system of communication is necessary for any community building to be successful. [3]

The Westside in Eureka is a ethnically diverse area. This is an element that we will treat with respect and forethought in planning our teach-in. The chapter in Building Community- Social Science in Action addressed community building in a diverse setting. Being culturally sensitive is very important. People of different backgrounds and languages may present a challenge but the case study presented showed that success is possible. [4]

The most useful tools in Building Communities from the Inside Out are the various "webs" that outline how to strengthen partnerships in the community. The book focuses on the power that the relationships between people, organizational groups (including churches, colleges, schools, and neighborhood groups like Westside Community Improvement Organization), the private sector and city governments. The graphics show these webs as a means to link the community together at every level. [5]

Specific projects- Food Security[edit]

In the book The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, topics of cultural survival and food security are hand-in-hand. Seed saving is marketed as a political act as the current food model in the United States is put under the microscope. The book even includes a recipe for soaking and sprouting seeds on page 71. Author Sandor Ellix Katz highlights the importance of the community level as the first step in restoring their relationship with food. He mentions people organizing around themes of food justice and food security. [6]

Vermicomposting Basics[edit]

Evaluation Criteria[edit]

Following are five initial criteria which we have chosen to judge the success of our project.

Criteria constraints Our weight (0-10)
Affordibility Must cost little to no money to make and maintain 9
Safety Must not be a safety hazard to users or households 9
Teachability The design must be simple, repeatable, and easy to explain 7
Practibility Must appropriately fit the needs and desires of the community: size, weight, necessity 10
Inclusion Workshops must be well advertised in order for ample community involvement and inclusion 9

Proposed Timeline[edit]

Task Description Proposed Date Actual Date
Literature Review Review relevant literature 2-13-12 2-13-12
Workshop Selected Choose which of the topics we are going to teach 2-20- 12 2-14-12
Initial Community connections made Follow through with the community contacts given to us 2-26-12 2-23-12, 3-18-12
Community Outreach Talking to neighbors and community members Ongoing Ongoing, 3-18-12
Curriculum finished Planning of Teach-in complete 3-20-12 4-16-12
Flyers dispersed Information given to community 3-25-12 4-05-12
Workshop held Teach-in held 4-19-12 4-19-12
Thank you letters Completed, Signed and Mailed 4-27-12 4-30-12
Project Analysis Complete analysis of success/failures of project 4-30-12

Project Selection[edit]

Because much of our project depended upon responding to the needs of the community, we spent time canvassing the neighborhood around the Jefferson School. To determine which workshop we would teach, we narrowed the choices down to small-scale composting, vermicomposting, seed starting, and window boxes. We surveyed the neighborhood, walking door to door and conducting an informal survey to gauge the neighborhood's interest. We had been introduced to a bilingual HSU graduate, Alexandra McGee, who joined us canvassing as a collaborating volunteer. Her linguistic skills and cheery attitude were invaluable in communicating with Spanish speakers in the neighborhood and jump-starting the project's momentum.

Results[edit]

Combined, small-scale composting and vermicomposting received 12 votes. Seed starting received 3. Window boxes received 3. Our decision to choose vermicomposting was based in the fact that small-scale composting could be easily integrated in the workshop while appealing to those who would also like to work with worms.

Design[edit]

The design of our project is two-fold: First, it includes the curriculum that will be presented at the teach-in. Second, the design includes how we will advertise the event and what means we will take to include as many neighborhood members as possible.
Worm flyer eng.png
Worm flyer span.png
  1. Information to neighborhood: We will canvas the neighborhood, knock on doors, and talk to citizens face-to-face about the Jefferson Community Center and the teach-in. We will hand out fliers and post them around the neighborhood. We intend to start early with the canvassing so that word of the event has time to spread on its own. We will work with Humboldt County to ensure that translating services are present during the teach-in. We distributed both English and Spanish flyers.
  2. Curriculum: The curriculum for the teach-in will revolve around indoor gardening, from seeds to soils. We will have containers on hand for the participants to use and bring home with them. Additionally, the teach-in will address maintenance concerns, and prepare participants for harvesting their food when the time is right. Local history may also be shared to foster an appreciation for the neighborhood. Here is a basic outline of the curriculum.

Composting: The curriculum for the teach-in will revolve around composting with worms (Vermiculture). We will have containers on hand for the participants to use and bring home with them. Additionally, the teach-in will address maintenance concerns and what to do with the soil that is produced. New Design:

After surveying the neighborhood and assessing community interest, we planned to teach a three-bin vermicompost system. We have created a page to teach users how to Build your own 5-gallon vermicomposting system.

Testing Results[edit]

Our prototype designs, a two-bucket and a three-bucket system, are still thriving after a month-and-a-half. They are fed three times a week and consume most of the scraps placed in the bins. As of yet, they have shown no signs of reproduction. We chose the three-bin system per request of our client, and were enabled to provide it by the generosity of our donors. One thing we realized is that landscape fabric is difficult to affix to the top of the system in the absence of a lid. We initially used a rubber band, but this made accessing the system on a regular basis difficult. Luckily, we had enough actual lids to fit on every system provided at the workshop.

Budget[edit]

Quantity Material Source Cost ($) Total ($)
36+ 5 gallon bucket Tofu Shop, HSU Housing & Dining, Stars Hamburgers 0.00 0.00
1 Drill w/ 1/4in. bits owned 0.00 0.00
12 pounds shredded cardboard donation/scavenging 0.00 0.00
5 boxes (300) red worms Mad River Gardens 0.00 0.00
270 Sheets Literature Kinko's Copy Center 0.08 to 0.12 10.00
100 Sheets Advertisements Kinko's Copy Center 0.08 20.00
1 Roll (3ft.x24ft.) Landscape Fabric Mad River Gardens 18.99 18.99
ample Refreshments Co-op 30.00 30.00
Total Cost $78.99

The above budget provided materials for 12 families (potentially) to take home a three-tier vermicompost system.

The Workshop[edit]

The workshop was held on April 19th, 2012 as planned. The attendance was approximately 20 people and we distributed 8 systems.

The flow of the workshop was as follows:

  1. Introduction- Who we are and why we are here. Provide a brochure. We had spanish (File:Brochure lombricultura .pdf) as well as english (File:Brochure.pdf) brochures.
  2. Explanation of vermicomposting- Why is this important or helpful? How will it benefit the participant?
  3. Describe the components of the system- What materials are needed and where participants could get them in the future.
  4. Break into small groups: Half of workshop to the bedding station, half of workshop to the 5-gallon bucket and drill station. Switch stations after a given amount of time.
  5. Distribute worms: As you put the worms in the buckets, explain proper conditions for them and maintenance tips.
  6. Distribute the YES/NO poster (File:YES-NO.pdf): This poster is a visual representation of what type of food scraps can be added to the system and what food scraps should stay out of the bins.
  7. More questions?
  8. Final thanks to participants for their attendance.

We encouraged the participants to ask questions at every step of the workshop. This was an effective method because of the size of the workshop- if there had been substantially more participants, this question method would not have been so smooth. We were trying to create an open, comfortable learning space where asking questions was easy.

Lessons Learned[edit]

  1. Put the day of week on all flyers and brochures. Instead of only stating the date of month, the day of week will allow potential participants to more easily remember the event.
  2. Communicate needs more directly with donation request letters.
  3. Rehearse workshop more: It would have likely gone smoother if we'd practiced more. In the end it worked out, albeit a little chaotically. There was some overlap between the two stations but our participants were inquisitive and helped shape the flow by asking really great questions and if the structure would have been more rigid there might have been less opportunity for this. There seems to be a balance between the two that we could have been closer to, however.
  4. Our least successful criteria, that of teaching a workshop that was inclusive, afforded many lessons in retrospect. Perhaps the one thing that could have assured a more successful meeting of this criteria would have been to have canvassed with a multilingual community member. Having a participant who was already engaged in the community itself (in the Spanish or Hmong communities as well) would have likely made our efforts to be inclusive successful. In addition using media, especially Spanish speaking newspapers, for advertisement could have helped inclusiveness.

See Also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Schumacher, E.F. Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. New York, NY: Perennial Library, 1975.
  2. Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum, 2000.
  3. Mattessich, Paul W., Barbara R. Monsey, and Corinna Roy. Community building: what makes it work : a review of factors influencing successful community building. Saint Paul, Minn.: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 1997.
  4. Nyden, Philip W., Anne Figert, Mark Shibley, and Darryl Burrows. "Creating and Sustaining Racially and Ethnically Diverse Communities." In Building community: social science in action. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press, 1997. 32-41.
  5. Kretzmann, John P., and John McKnight. Building communities from the inside out: a path toward finding and mobilizing a community's assets. Evanston, Ill.: The Asset-Based Community Development Institute, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University ;, 1993.
  6. Katz, Sandor Ellix. The revolution will not be microwaved: inside America's underground food movements. White River Junction, Vt.: Chelsea Green Pub., 2006.