May 6, 2008

Volunteering Experience

Starting down the volunteering road this semester was a bit rocky, but it all ended up working out and I am blessed and glad to have had this experience. I had applied to and attended meetings to work with ACES as a volunteer but after some struggling with schedules, classes, bus routes, etc. – the time slot and location did not work out. I was encouraged to contact Laurel Hirt who had a couple of new options for me – one of which was Volunteers of America. I was able to contact VOA, however not able to attend an orientation session until March 4th, setting me back a little later than expected ( in the mean time, I also had to attend the sessions provided by the University of Minnesota pertaining to volunteer orientation in general because I did not have that when I took 1281). I believe it was fate that set me up with the wonderful organization of VOA!

One of Volunteers of America’s principals and values is Volunteerism:
“We believe in the value of volunteerism, and seek to pursue our mission with the active involvement of volunteers. We believe that all persons are assets for their community, and seek to extend to all persons, including our program participants, the opportunity to contribute as a volunteer.?

This statement truly sums up what my experience at VOA has been – it made me feel as though I could make a change, that I was an asset to my community, that I could really make a difference. So, being a little nervous, but of course excited and ready to go – I attended my first session as a tutor Monday, March 10th. I was originally placed with an intermediate English/reading class but was then switched to a beginning level classroom, where I worked individually with students on certain aspects and areas of English, reading, and writing.

Of course, it was an entirely new experience for me (aside from the couple of times I was in a similar situation for Arch 1281) where I felt a bit out of place and looked a little strange to everyone else. However, that quickly changed. Kelly, the teacher for the class, was incredibly welcoming and the students warmed up to me as well in short time. The teacher would have students copy 5 sentences down from the white board into a note book and circle the verbs or nouns or adverbs, etc. This was done every week to give the students practice in their writing and grammar skills. After writing, the class then read the sentences and worked on some grammar lessons. The class then did a reading and reading comprehension exercise (this is when I got to branch off and work one-on-one with a student having trouble in a certain area).

Most of the time the students I worked with had trouble pronouncing letters or words, writing down words, naming items from pictures, or just simply reading. I would practice each week with something different – whether it was flashcards, reading materials, just listening to students read and reading to them, writing short words, or pronouncing short words. Even educational structures like fill in the blanks, flashcards, or writing exercise are confusing or foreign to these students because they do not know how they work (something that seems so easy and is inherent to students here) so that was a challenge in itself to teach these systems while also dealing with the language barrier.

However, no matter how frustrated or complicated the issue at hand was, the students always gave it a try and were always eager to get it right. The students in the class varied greatly in ages and were at very minimal English/writing levels; however, they were some of the most determined people I have ever seen. They were determined to get help – most of the time not embarrassed to ask for it (an extremely brave sign), unwavering in their need to annunciate something until it sounded right, diligent in their want to copy sentences down and form letters like the teacher. It was a huge sign of promise and of strength to me – something I am proud to have helped develop and advance, no matter how small, in my experience with Volunteers of America.

I cannot say how much I have learned through this experience, the people I have met, and the tasks I have been challenged with. It is a great feeling knowing that this is something I can and will continue to do in the future, and that is with thanks to the people who made it such a good experience for me!

Honors Presentations

In last Thursday’s lecture, the class was able to see the work of the honors students in their final presentations for the United Nations Development Goals. This project obviously involved a lot of research for everyone, and it was very interesting to see what each group accomplished with their found investigations. I will discuss two groups – I believe they were indeed the very first two presentations: Goal 8 to develop a global partnership for development (Somalia) and Goal 7 to ensure environmental sustainability (Riverside Plaza). I must say, however, that all of the groups did a great job and it was evident that they had worked exceptionally hard on this project – as I hope all groups in the class did!

The first group not only had a very pleasing presentation aesthetically, but they also were completely prepared and well-spoken in the oral part of the presentation. It was very easy for me to just sit back, listen, and enjoy. I did not feel nervous for them or feel the urge to fall asleep either. They were very serious in the amount and depth of their research – even contacting someone to get one of the technologies they had discussed – the green mini computer! This group had a well-paced presentation and both contributed equally without fighting or drowning out the other. The amount of information on the slides was also just right, although a bit more text would not have harmed the presentation. In any case, it was at the right level because I did not feel like I had to speed read every slide or that they were reading large amounts of text right off the slides. However, after all that said, it is hard for me to remember what exactly their solution was besides these computers or “Hole in the Wall? schools. This could also be a problem of my memory, but it maybe could have been presented in a fashion where the solutions or proposals were accentuated more.

The second group’s proposals, on the flip side, are incredibly easy for me to remember. Their slides had an aesthetic look as well, keeping a uniform design that changed as the presentation went on. Additionally, they were very articulate and prepared for their presentation, making me feel comfortable and curious about their topic. They discussed at length the problems of Riverside Plaza today and addressed issues and presented proposals that would not only make it a better place to live in general – but also environmentally sustainable. The group had obviously put a large amount of time into considering the main and most prevalent changes that needed to be made, keeping in mind the sustainable things that could be done to ‘kill two birds with one stone.’ I felt a large amount of research was done for this project because they not only had to research Riverside Plaza now, but also what could be changed, and of those changes, how could they make them sustainable. They demonstrated a genuine interest in the problem at hand AND in the well-being of the residents of Riverside Plaza. Well done.

April 2, 2008

UPDATES!!!

NEW BOOKS ADDED TO READING LIST!

VOLUNTEER POSTS TO COME SOON!

Cover Pages

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March 11, 2008

Let's Design!

Some selected graphic design work of students at VCUarts:

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Also interesting was this program I found called iPaper. It would be very educational to check that out and see if it would make a feasible and respectable way to present our project.

In my search I came across Step Into Design Online and it featured “Best of? Designs, a few of which I have linked below in Personal Portfolios and Information categories.

Personal Portfolios

Information

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The bottom line: there is an incredible amount of information regarding design and presenting projects in a creative way. I spent hours on the internet just browsing and searching through all of these great sources. I have high hopes that even if our group decides to do a .pdf file, that we do it in a graphically pleasing, simple, yet effective manner. As much as this project is about research and compilation, it is also about presentation and being successful in our assemblage of information.

Here is one last great graphic design website definitely worth checking out. Grain Edit

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March 5, 2008

Built Environment

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M Y R O O M
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M Y L I V I N G R O O M
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M Y H O U S E
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D I N K Y T O W N
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U N I V E R S I T Y O F M I N N E S O T A
minneapolis.jpg
M I N N E A P O L I S
minnesota.jpg
M I N N E S O T A
united_states_wall_2002_us.jpg
T H E U N I T E D S T A T E S


Unfortunately, I have only experienced the built environment firsthand in the United States and nowhere else. Don’t get me wrong, the effect that just my surrounding environment alone has had on me is astounding. I try to think about even something like my hometown. If I grew up in a built environment populated with houses, businesses, malls, high schools – would I still have chosen to attend the University of Minnesota? Or is it because I grew up in a smaller built environment that I felt the need to branch out and experience something different?

Additionally, I feel that to some extent, everyday, everywhere I go, my environment affects me in some way. It is hard to see why it wouldn’t – I spend about 95% of my days indoors or on a sidewalk or walking across a bridge.

I still am very fuzzy as to how the whole idea of frameworks, clockworks, and phenomena are important to incorporate with the built environment. I know that the above mentioned are just a set of terms used to describe the way in which things work and are classified and arranged. It would be nice to know them even better so I could realize what I am coming in contact with on a day to day basis. I feel as if these terms are hindering and just words to me – I really am interested in taking the time to determine that my bed is not only a framework physically, but also in the matter that there are specific requirements and standards that are present for a bed to be called a bed. Why is this important to the built environment? Where would we be without frameworks? Clockworks? Phenomena?

February 26, 2008

Reading List

To be updated throughout the semester.

"How to Watch TV News" by Neil Postman and Steve Powers

"Evolution's End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence" by Joseph C. Pearce

"Blessed Unrest" by Paul Hawken

"A Pattern Language" by Christopher Alexander

"On Writing" by Stephen King

"Lisey’s Story" by Stephen King

"Cosmos" by Carl Sagan

"Leonardo: The Artist and the Man" by Serge Bramly

"Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & The Economic World" by Kevin Kelly

"The Devil In the White City" by Erik Larson

Set Free

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Some of my flickr photos.

I have recently taken up an interest in photography and find it something that is incredibly addicting. I learn something new every day, find something interesting to photograph every day, see the world in a new light every day. Even though my ‘beginner’ shots are of simple subject matter, I find myself enjoying the challenge to make it beautiful – beauty being a relative term, as every thing from garden hoses to sidewalks can be beautiful to me. What would I do if I were “released from the constraints?? I would travel the world and photograph as many places as I could. I have barely traveled the United States and would desperately love to see the world – to see the beautiful and the potential in even the most desolate of places. One extraordinary photographer is Yann Arthus-Bertrand, whom I discovered through his “The Earth From Above? (a series of breathtaking aerial photographs). Now he is contributing his efforts to a non-profit organization called goodplanet.org. Check it out here.

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An image from his Alive Exhibition: an exhibition about Human and biodiversity.

What’s more, I find myself opening and then closing the so-called ‘starts’ to certain books I have started to write, hoping that one day it will all start to flow, that it will all start to make sense. I love the fact that not only do I love expressing myself through photographs, but also through words. What would I write about? Who would it affect? Perhaps I would write about and publish photographs from my travels around the world. That would be amazing.

But most importantly, I would like to think that no matter what – I would still be designing, creating, doing SOMETHING in which I was using my mind, my hands, my heart, my spirit, my being. Something with a cause and a beauty and meaning behind it. Helping someone, making someone happy, changing someone’s life though what I can create and design. And having my family and friends with me along the way (what I hope would be important to anyone)!

This place is now. It is real. It’s the world – and it holds so many opportunities for me: I do not have to imagine this place.

February 20, 2008

Sights, Sounds, & Sayings

ACHIEVE UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION.
---A SET OF IMAGES I COMPILED FROM FLICKR. SHEER AMOUNT SHOCKED ME. MOVED ME. SHOWS CROWDED CLASSROOMS, DIRTY CLASSROOMS, PRIVILEGED CLASSROOMS, ENRICHED CLASSROOMS.---


1. 42-16156119, 2. Be Counted..., 3. Classroom_India2, 4. Classroom_malawi, 5. Classrooms, 6. First day of School, 7. Untitled, 8. Girl in school-Guatemala, 9. Harfo School, 10. In the Classrooms, 11. In this classroom..., 12. Local Education Photos, 13. OLPC classroom in Skopje, 14. Ouch.. that wall is cold..., 15. overcrowding, 16. Primary school classroom in Siem Reap

The main hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth.
Erasmus

Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token to save it from that ruin, which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. An education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their choice of undertaking something new, something unforseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.
Hannah Arendt, Teaching as Leading

How can we help students to understand that the tragedy of life is not death; the tragedy is to die with commitments undefined and convictions undeclared and service unfulfilled?
Vachel Lindsay

The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.
Herbert Spencer

Waiting On The World To Change lyrics

me and all my friends
we're all misunderstood
they say we stand for nothing and
there's no way we ever could
now we see everything that's going wrong
with the world and those who lead it
we just feel like we don't have the means
to rise above and beat it

so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

it's hard to beat the system
when we're standing at a distance
so we keep waiting
waiting on the world to change
now if we had the power
to bring our neighbors home from war
they would have never missed a Christmas
no more ribbons on their door
and when you trust your television
what you get is what you got
cause when they own the information, oh
they can bend it all they want

that's why we're waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

it's not that we don't care,
we just know that the fight ain't fair
so we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

and we're still waiting
waiting on the world to change
we keep on waiting waiting on the world to change
one day our generation
is gonna rule the population
so we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

we keep on waiting
waiting on the world to change

-----------------------------------------------

We Can Change The World

From The Jacksons' Victory album
Written by Tito Jackson & Wayne Arnold All for one and one for all
Is what we all should be
But instead, we go and fight each other
Now that wasn't meant to be
You know the sun is there to light up the day
The night is lit by the moon
If we don't come together, my brother
It all could end very soon

(It's your world now
The future is plain to see)
Sing it, yeah
Sing it, yeah yeah yeah
(Love right now, we need the harmony)

Some of us have a heart of stone
And feelings cold as ice
Love can make a change in you
Take the wrong and make things right
If you only knew how it was planned
For life to really be
You would join in
You won't hesitate
You would help bring the harmony

God made this world for all souls
Why, tell me why, so many obstacles

He's the one
He's the only one that knows
Judges the heart before he saves the soul

We can change
We can change the world
Love is there to make
Come, let's make everything all right
We can change this world
Help this world

Everybody needs love
Turning it lose won't stop this love
Ya know it's time for waking up
God made this world for all souls
Why, tell me why, so many obstacles

He's the one
He's the only one that knows
Judges the heart before he saves the soul

(It's your world now
The future is plain to see)
Sing it, yeah
Sing it, yeah yeah yeah
(Love right now, we need the harmony)

Stop funkin'
Let's get walkin'
We need all to follow
We can change this world
Help this world

To make the wrong things right
It just don't happen overnight
God has come to make
He can make everything
Everything all right

We can change it
Help Him change it
We can change
We can change the world
We can change it
Help Him change it
We can change
We can change the world

---------------------------------------------

What Will It Take
From the Free Willy 2
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Written by Taryll Jackson

Just another song
Of trying to heal our world
At times I think that's all
That this would be
But its words remain strong
Gotta do all I can do
'Cause I know My God
Hasn't given up for me
And the children
(Born so innocent and free)
It's the gift of life
Still the greatest gift of all
And the Homeless
(With no clothes or food to eat)
We've got to do much better
'Cause we're all in this together

What will it take to make
The world a better place
You and I know that we
Have got to take
What will it take
For us to make that change
What will it take to make
The world a better place
You and I know that we
Have got to take
What will it take for you
To make that change

Just surrender to our love
And care for our own world
I think that's just about all that we'll need
We gotta stay strong
Gotta give all we can give
And a better place we'll leave
In guarantee
Sing...

What will it take
We've gotta change
Let's make that change

For the children
(Born so innocent and free)
'Cause the gift of life
Is the greatest gift of all
And the Homeless
(With no clothes or food to eat)
If we all just pull together
Then we'll leave in peace forever

What will it take to make
The world a better place
You and I know that we
Have got to take
What will it take
For us to make that change
What will it take to make
The world a better place
You and I know that we
Have got to take
What will it take for you
To make that change

February 12, 2008

Minneapolis Transit

As a student and a current resident of Minneapolis that does not own a vehicle, I rely on other methods of transportation to get from point A to B. The social-design issue that I have always been interested in – public transit in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area – is now facing deadlines for the proposed new light rail line (the central corridor plan).

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A seemingly complicated issue of CEI (Cost-Effectiveness Index) has been playing a key role in whether or not the addition will actually happen. From Pioneer Press: “…adding stations along University Avenue at Western Avenue, Victoria Street and Hamline Avenue - something neighbors want - would add riders from those neighborhoods, lowering the CEI. But, the computers said, slowing the train down to make those stops would dissuade an equal number of other riders, making it a wash. Meanwhile, the added costs would raise the CEI.?

Considering I find it very hard to get from to and from different destinations utilizing the buses (limited stops, too many transfers, etc.) and additional link from here – the Universty of Minnesota – to St. Paul would be extremely beneficial. Also aiding in the conservation of our environment is the emission-free advantage the light rail has to offer: “The newest member of the Metro Transit family is also the cleanest. The Hiawatha light-rail line runs on electricity, with no emissions from the train. In 2006, more than 155,000 of the miles logged by light-rail trains were powered by renewable wind, hydropower, and biomass energy?(Save more than the price of gas).

The issue of traveling with ease about the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and doing it without a huge impact environmentally (or without a car) is something of huge importance to not only those living here, but to those who commute. Additionally, the Metropolitan Council has a transportation plan for 2030 that is “…intended to double transit ridership by 2030, slow the growth in traffic congestion and improve mobility for everyone?(Regional Transportation).

Additionally important is the role and the joining of the proposed central corridor with the University of Minnesota:
Transportation at the U of M
• Twin Cities campus attracts 80,000 people on a typical day
• 68 percent of students, staff, and faculty use transportation alternatives to get to campus each day
• 20,300 University students and 2,000 faculty and staff use discounted bus passes
• The free inter-campus bus service generates 3.8 million trips annually.
• The U is the largest user of E85 (ethanol) in the United States.
• Outpatient health clinics located on campus generate over 500,000 visits each year
Taken from http://www.lightrail.umn.edu/.

February 6, 2008

A Few Words About Flow...

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After hearing the College of Design dean Tom Fisher speak today in lecture, I could not help but relate the topics of plans/layouts and architecture schools to that of the flow and energy discussed in the Andy Goldsworthy video. Fisher pointed out four different 'types' in architecture schools and talked shortly concerning how and whether or not each type worked in their respective environments. Specifically, I recall Fisher’s examples of a ‘drunk’ plan – in which the flow was completely interrupted by confusing and disorienting corridors, as well as a courtyard plan, yet one unsuccessful at bringing students and faculty together due to the disruption and misplacement of those specific areas – resulting in a no flow between groups.

Now there are the discussions of: nature’s flow – yes, indeed touched by Goldsworthy’s hands, but somehow in certain ways it is unlike this designed flow and energies of the cities and of buildings’ designs. One can visually decipher the differences among the sun melting ice and students walking throughout a building – the question now becomes whether or not Goldsworthy’s works are designed to end up the way they do. He says that it is nature that takes his ideas and turns them into something more than he expected…is that the same with students, teachers, interactions in and amongst architecture schools? Are they something only of flow, of energy, of transformation when nature takes hold?


February 4, 2008

New York City

As an add-on to yesterday's entry, I wanted to say a bit about engery, flow, and transformation in this city...it's EVERYWHERE! After a recent (early Jan.) trip to NYC, I had some additional comments regarding the issue brought up by Andy Goldsworthy. Finally emerging from the subway station in Times Square, I was absolutely blown away by everything about it (maybe due to the fact that I was a mere country girl visiting the 'big city'). I could not overcome the gobs of people walking in every which direction - continuously consuming energy, creating energy, and transferring energy. What an experience. It was nothing traquil, nothing of silence or grace - but in a way its own Andy Goldworthy type work in which certain elements (people, taxis, buildings, vendors, lights) interacted with each other in creating and demonstrating something more than I could have ever imagined. You can check out some of my little videos from NYC here and some of my flickr photos here.

February 3, 2008

Energy's In The Air

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Andy Goldsworthy discusses ideas of energy, transformation, and flow in his work. From rocks and leaves to icicles and twigs, he brings us on a journey of tranquility - of pure awe in his work and his philosophies. After viewing Rivers and Tides, I began to think about my contributions to the constant change and energies in and of this world, and also the contributions of others. Additionally, how in this city can one view change, see the energy, feel the transformation?

From seas of hurried people to lanes of speeding cars, the city experiences energy - just one that differs from the natural energy in Goldsworthy's documentary. While we watched the train of leaves flow gently down the river, bending and folding, picking up speed and slowing down, the energy oozes and compels the snake-like figure farther and farther down the river. Unflinchingly and with agitation we honk at passing cars, speed from one stoplight to the next, ride sickeningly upward in the circular parking ramp, warp though space in elevators – all with the energy of the chain of leaves – but with the same purpose?

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Does this ebb and flow of people in the city become something as good and something as powerful as what Andy Goldsworthy has discovered in nature? Do we give something in our everyday lives that can be transformed into something more than we ever thought it would? Are we ever transformed by the city?