The Erasing Boundaries Project hosted a national symposium in April 2011 in New York City called “Educating at the Boundaries: Community Matters.” The project is a collaboration among landscape architecture, architecture and planning faculties, students and community partners. This was the second symposium; the first was held in 2008. The goals include examining the pedagogy of service-learning and supporting each other to make interactions as effective and as powerful as possible. The group has already assembled an edited volume due out in August 2011, Service-Learning in Design and Planning, edited by Tom Angotti, Cheryl Doble and Paula Horrigan (New Village Press). They also have three projects for which they are recruiting participants: the Case Study Framework, which aims to be a tool for developing and structuring service-learning courses; the Evaluation Project, which would provide a better understanding of impacts; and the Awards Program to raise visibility of excellent approaches.
With funding from the Youth Community Informatics grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, I was able to attend Erasing Boundaries as part of a Community Informatics Initiative (CII) team to present a poster with Deven Gibbs, School of Architecture, and Debarah McFarland, Program Coordinator of the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club in Champaign. Martin Wolske, CII Senior Research Scientist, also contributed to the poster, “Spaces of Connection: Designing a High-Tech Active Learning Space for Youth.” A very brief summary of Deven’s design for the Club, in consultation with Ms. McFarland, is that she used research conducted during an independent study with me, and then in Martin’s Community Informatics Studio last summer to create a space at the Club for connectedness online and in person. Deven made a YouTube video to promote the idea. Martin’s class was able to realize one redesign in East St. Louis. The next steps for Champaign include working with Club youth to build several FlexiDesks that enable collaborative or individual work on computers, because the desks can be configured in a variety of ways. We need to find a contractor who can help with electrical and carpentry tasks; we may work with Parkland on some of the construction, and Martin’s class in Fall 2011 will probably work with the Club to identify tech needs. Ms. McFarland and Deven were fantastic presenters in New York, making a strong case for “community matters.” If the Club can become a hub for “everything high tech” in its neighborhood—it is near downtown Champaign–as Ms. McFarland said, it will draw in not only youth, but also adults and become an area center for community development. This would be a huge contribution because the area needs a “center.”