POSTED ON BEHALF OF MARIA SCHNEIDER
Saturday September 29th of this year, several AU students and a GW student volunteered to work with 70 DC kids on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland for the day. The day was divided into different workshops: canoeing/kayaking, forestry, marine life, and art with nature. This day-long retreat was the kick-of event for the What’s Good in My Hood? Initiative that will take place at several community centers across the city, those being: Lafayette, Keilworth-Parkside, Harrison, Macomb, Trinidad, Benning Stoddert, Bald Eagle, Ferebee-Hope Recreation Centers, Palisades Community Center and Chevy Chase Playground. Click here for more information!
I was first introduced to the What’s Good in My Hood? program at the beginning of September when I was put in contact with Sean Miller, an American University adjunct faculty who teaches a course titles DC Healthy Schools in the School of Teaching and Health. Sean along with several staff at the Department of Parks and Recreation staff in DC have started this program in the District of Columbia through various recreation centers across the city to increase environmental awareness, love of the outdoors, and to empower elementary and middle school youth to be active within their own communities.
This DC program is similar to the New York Restoration Project’s What’s Good in My Hood? program that DC native Akiima Price talks about in this short introductory video.
The What’s Good… program is one that can be implemented with students of various ages ranging from young elementary school through high school. Though the current program is aimed at kids ages 9-13, it could be altered easily to accommodate older or younger youth with slightly different projects, and/or more complex themes and discussions. The New York Restoration Project’s What’s Good in My Hood? Workbook can be found here and downloaded for free to bring the innovative program to any urban community through a Peace Education initiative, school program, or community organized one as well!
Through the program students would gain valuable knowledge about the unique aspects of their own communities, natural and not-so-natural resources, living versus non-living parts of where they live, where they get their food and water, and most importantly how to stay involved, voice concerns, and take action for change within their own neighborhoods through community advocacy and writing to local, state, and national legislators.
The What’s Good in My Hood? program most fully supports the Community Building and the Exploring Approaches to Peace pillars of Peace Education. Community Building is key, because not only are program participants getting to know one another throughout the process, but they are exploring their own community spaces, and working together to create more accountable and responsible community members. Students explore approaches to peace in the way that they take action collectively through advocacy and various student-led initiatives towards the end of the program process in step five that Akiima Price describes in the video—Don’t Shout, Speak Out.
Daniel Knoll – What I like most about the What’s Good in My Hood Program is that it encourages young people to pay attention to things that they may have never thought about. These students walk through their neighborhoods every day, but may have never taken the time to think about some of the things Akiima talks about, like where is there water in your neighborhood. Its a lot of Julian Treasure’s mixology and 3 minutes of silence. He encourages you to be aware of your surroundings because they effect you, just like the nature in your neighborhood effects you. As I was listening I found myself looking around the Tavern and trying to figure out all the places water might be. I’d love to be involved in an activity such as this that focused on conservation within my community.
I think this is a really great program! I would definitely be interested to see if there is a way to adapt it to make it useful for rural communities. I know that many rural communities face difficulties in community building, understanding shared space, etc. Thanks so much for sharing!
I really like this program. I feel like a program like this could blend nicely with a documentary film class. Once the students identify what’s going on in their neighborhood and what they’d like to change, they could create a PSA or short informational piece to call attention to the problem and maybe change attitudes.
I absolutely love this program. I think its particularly effective in empowering people to see both the good and the bad, but in a way that encourages activism. Because students end with who controls this, it encourages civic engagement in a way that is grassroots community development. This is awesome!
What an awesome program! I particularly admire how the curriculum of this program is designed to get students out in their communities, exploring their surroundings, evaluating their resources, and creating an informed perspective. The 5 units establish a foundational understanding of environmental issues and allow students to work towards creating a plan of action. I feel like so often curriculum on environmental issues informs students of the challenges in the field, but leaves out the opportunity to execute change in their community. I was excited to see how Ms. Price encourages students to develop an informed perspective, empowers them to take ownership over their community, and connects them to the world at-large.
This program seems great! I’d love to see this implemented in Prince Georges County, where we still don’t recycle paper. Our health teacher is very passionate about our Healthy Schools program, and I would love to see elements of this incorporated into a health class – there are so many different types of activities that students would be able to engage in as part of the school curriculum.
Marg–If you’re interested in getting in contact with directors of the program please let me know, and I’d be happy to get you in touch with the AU professor involved!
This is such a great program, and such a simple concept with the potential for very profound community change! I can see how it could be tailored for young children, but I also think it would be worthwhile for teens and even university-aged students and groups. Had I been more engaged in my community through high school, perhaps I wouldn’t have resented it so much. I think that taking ownership for the place you’re from and actively seeking out the good aspects of your space might be beneficial for the social and emotional education of young people. This program could add much needed context to the requirement lots of high schools have for community service; rather than sporadic and unfocused service, learners in a program like What’s Good in my Hood would see a more holistic picture of their neighborhoods and serve at the same time.
Thanks very much of sharing this information. I have resided in the Washington D.C area and never knew such a program existed. I was taken by the enthusiasm which Akima brought to the video. It was infectious, practical and creative. I detected her use of terms associated with Peace Learning and of course, building communities and empowering people. Great program and a highly informative blog.
I always love the idea of getting people think about things in their own neighborhoods and communities and understanding how things get there. Often people, especially those living in urban areas, take for granted all that is involved in getting those resources that are so easily accessible to them. It brings up a lot of environmental issues as well such as the transport involved and how far things travel. I also love all of the connections and links that come up by simply thinking about these things. This would be excellent to do with even younger children to get them to start thinking about these things from a very young age and raise awareness about the environment!
I took a class this summer that focused on landscapes and historical memory – or how we choose to remember sites of historical significance. We used the city of Washington as our landscape and focused on how the Civil War changed the city. From this I developed a lesson plan that revolved around creation of a cultural identity “East of the River,” where students focused on how the physical geography of DC has shaped our cultural geography.
One of my shortcomings, however, was I did not have an effective way to engage students in the landscape that shapes them today. A program such as this is exactly what I need for a more well-rounded study that might help students see their own role in shaping the landscape and shaping history.
This program seems amazing. People are so innovative, I’m often thunderstruck by the positive choices they make with their time and ultimately, their lives. I think the hands-on approach for any curriculum is ultimately the best. Students getting involved, seeing their environment in a different way, and making connections between their actions and the impact they have on the world around them is what catalyzes permanent change in them. Thanks for sharing. I’m inspired.