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Sun-Kissed Acres: Growing Beauty, Stories of a Garden in a School Community

This project is based on the way urban gardens have made Millcreek a better community. We asked the people in the community their opinions about the beauty of nature in their neighborhoods and created a documentary. We need people who are willing to work and dedicate time to care for the garden to make it a more colorful and welcoming place. We hope to inspire more youth to better engage in their communities and become active agents of positive change.

Who: We are three students, one from Bryn Mawr College and two from Parkway West High School

What: Growing out of our experiences in an environmental studies course last spring, we worked together to envision and design an urban garden in the Mill Creek Community of West Philadelphia.  We met throughout the summer to weed, compost, and plant the garden.   throughout this process we were able to make meaningful connections with people in the community which we were then able to create a documentary that talked about what beauty means to different people in the area. 

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Beauty is...

A major part of this project was collecting oral histories of the past and visions of the future from residents of the Millcreek. Through this, not only were we able to use individuals' ideas of beauty, nature, and community to create a garden that fostered those visions, but we were also able to film a documentary that captured these stories for a larger audience. 

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Final Presentations

This was possibly the most insightful, honest, awesome way to wrap up the semester. I feel as though it really mirrored my experiences in this ESem and was really happy to have been a part of it. While each of us had the opportunity to work with our groups to convey in a short, 10-minute presentation what it is that we wanted to say about class and education, I think this series of final presentations went above and beyond that goal. I think rather than tying things up neatly at the end, we left it in the spirit of our ESem, in a continuing dialog, a continuing thought process, and a continuing relationship with all the students in this class. I am really grateful for having been a part of it all and I think we really got the chance to see many talents of our peers from slam poetry to rap music videos to creative games and presentations, while bringing more ideas of class to the foreground. I really wanted to say thanks to the class and to Jody and Anne for this awesome opportunity and I hope that we continue this dialog and awareness of class on campus.

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Invested in Conveying a Clearer Story and Claim

Despite my initial apprehension and borderline anxiety about the depth of this paper in combination with the new element of interviewing, I really enjoyed this project. I was incredibly surprised by the openness of my interviewees in the subject and was really excited to start working on my paper after I had completed them all. Especially because I had really gotten involved in each of my interviews and the stories they represented, I was positive that this had to be the best paper I've written thus far; however, I feel like because of this attachment to the topic and pressure of very high expectations, I was not very happy with the outcome of the paper. I really wanted to capture the essence of each of the interviews, so that I could strongly prove my point, and when I was talking about that point and about how I planned to prove it, I felt that it was clear. When I got to the writing aspect, however, I feel as though my argument was lost in including too much interview content and not enough explanation. I am definitely going to continue revising this paper because I really want to use the interviews as much as I can, while getting my claim across clearly. I think it's something I'd like to work on because I feel so invested in the topic and in conveying the students' stories as they pertain to my topic.

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Intellectual Space and Privacy

I chose the nook and specifically the window seat as my location to examine. It is important to me because it has come to be the space where I spend the most of my time and slowly has come to be known as not just a public space for any Pem West 2nd residents, but as "my corner." I felt that this unconcious claiming of space was interesting especially because when thinking about the idea that privacy, even at Bryn Mawr, was a classed thing that had much to do with the amount of money that each student paid. I felt that I was breaking this previous connection between privacy and money, considering I am not the "ideal" student that Bryn Mawr was initially labeled for. At this same time, this spot makes me wonder about this institution at large, and I see here that money does indeed allow for greater intellectual space, as there are certain students who may not be able to afford the price of Bryn Mawr, and are as such, attending other institutions. Because I am here, claiming the space of the window seat, within this same institution, I wonder whether it is okay for me to be doing so, as I am not the white, upper class, rich student that Bryn Mawr College, as a space, was created for. It was this tension that made me want to further examine a place that I feel to be more of a home than my own room.

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Intellectual Space and Privacy

I chose the nook and specifically the window seat as my location to examine. It is important to me because it has come to be the space where I spend the most of my time and slowly has come to be known as not just a public space for any Pem West 2nd residents, but as "my corner." I felt that this unconcious claiming of space was interesting especially because when thinking about the idea that privacy, even at Bryn Mawr, was a classed thing that had much to do with the amount of money that each student paid. I felt that I was breaking this previous connection between privacy and money, considering I am not the "ideal" student that Bryn Mawr was initially labeled for. At this same time, this spot makes me wonder about this institution at large, and I see here that money does indeed allow for greater intellectual space, as there are certain students who may not be able to afford the price of Bryn Mawr, and are as such, attending other institutions. Because I am here, claiming the space of the window seat, within this same institution, I wonder whether it is okay for me to be doing so, as I am not the white, upper class, rich student that Bryn Mawr College, as a space, was created for. It was this tension that made me want to further examine a place that I feel to be more of a home than my own room.

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A Place to Continuously Change and Grow

I feel as though this ESem has given me the chance to grow, not just as a writer, but also, and especially as a fellow student and participant in class discussions. The dialogic nature of our class has constantly made me feel more dynamic of a learner. With every comment made in class, I've felt as though I've not only gained a new perspective and another facet to my beliefs and my opinions on certain topics, but I've also been inspired- both to change from just sitting back and listening to the inspiring things that everyone around me is saying, to being one of those people inspiring my fellow classmates while always maintaining an open mind about other perspectives. This idea will help me continue to learn and grow and develop and apply this multifaceted perspective to a grander scale. I know that this ESem and the conversations that I've had the opportunity to engage in will continue to teach me to feel comfortable and contribute in any class, and to allow myself to remain open to changing my opinions-whether that means adding another dimension to them, modifying them, or completely changing the position of them. And I know that ESem gives me the resources and company with whom I can continue to grow as a learner.

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Visiting the High School

I am really excited, but at the same time, i am nervous about what it is that I really will be bringing to the table. Throughout everything we've discussed in class, through readings, and simply through the opinions shared in class, I've learned that this visit will be a two-way learning street. However, no matter how excited I am to be meeting with these students and interacting with them through dialogue (as Noguera says is the best way to learn and to teach) I feel as though the experiences that these students have had will be far more expansive than many of those that I have encountered. I wish that I can in some way engage in conversation regarding their thoughts of class and stereotypes placing a threshold on not only their education, but the education system in general. I feel that by visiting this high school, I will be inspired, shocked, awed, and amazed and all the while I will want to question what it is that makes the differences between more urban schools like this one and the well-to-do prep schools.

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