Monday, March 7, 2011

Downstream/Upstream Receives Institute on the Environment Mini Grant

February 28, 2011 - University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment Awarded a Mini Grant to gather an interdisciplinary team to develop a curriculum model based on the Downstream/Upstream demonstration project.

Excerpt from the Mini Grant proposal for
"Art, Story, and Infrastructure: A Model for Experiential Interconnection
in Environmental Education"

This Mini Grant Proposal will support a new interdisciplinary research project called “Art, Story, and Infrastructure: A Model for Experiential Interconnection in Environmental Education.” The focus on cultural sustainability in the 2010 edition of State of the World and the Institute on the Environment’s cross disciplinary efforts such as “River Life”, and “Dialogue Earth,” among many other trends, underscore the importance of integrating the tools of cultural development such as art and storytelling with scientific development toward effective sustainable outcomes and effective outreach of environmental information to broad audiences. The conveniences of infrastructure have allowed individual actions, such as water use choices, to be experientially disconnected from impacts to natural systems. However, by paying attention to infrastructure and integrating it into our concepts of the world, we can counter its invisibility and better appreciate its contributions while also better understanding the implications of its over-use. This proposal will gather an interdisciplinary team of University faculty and outside partners around the topic of how to use place-based interaction with infrastructure, interpreted through art, story, and science to create an experiential and informed sense of interconnection of our daily use of resources with the engineering and natural systems in which they interact. The Mini Grant scope lays the essential groundwork needed to develop a replicable curriculum model based on a concurrent research process and demonstration project. The work of the Mini Grant will be available for use and further development by the environmental education community, schools, and other researchers.

More Detail on Curriculum Model Grant

Early Planning

Planning for Downstream/Upstream began in Summer 2010. It became clear that in order to fulfill my graduate study goals to explore the expressive potential of infrastructure, I would need to complement the photography and artist's books that looked at its parts with an interactive journey that followed its flow.

Interested in foundational narratives, and inspired by my children's curiosity about what was underneath the sink, I approached their early learning center to explore the idea of a collaboration around a journey through the urban water cycle, starting at the sink in the Pre-K classroom. Children's Discovery Academy staff and teachers are always refreshing curriculum and looking for new best practices, and were excited to participate.

A project like this involves a wide network (see evolving team list.) The Project Plan document evolved throughout meetings and calls with community partners, and will continue to be a living document.

One of the issues I worked on in January was funding. I applied for an Institute on the Environment Mini Grant to support the development of a curriculum model based on the main Downstream/Upstream Demonstration project. It was wonderful to connect with even more potential advisory group members within and outside the University of Minnesota as part of the process.