Last weekend, my family took a trip to historic Hannibal, Missouri. This little town on the Mississippi River is home to Samuel Clemens, who was one of America’s greatest thinkers. Many people know him better by his pen name – Mark Twain.
In Hannibal, I heard a quote that Twain once said: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
This got me thinking more about service learning. The opportunity for service learning is one that is under-appreciated in education today. Instead of sitting in a classroom, service learning allows students to have an opportunity to get hands on with a project in order to truly appreciate its significance. This experience, which is what I believe Twain was referring to, is sometimes more valuable to students than classroom learning.
The Institute for Urban Research has organized a variety of service learning opportunities for its students at SIUE. These events got college students away from their studying and paper writing for a morning on several Saturdays and into the community of East St. Louis. Last year, the IUR took trips to the Katherine Dunham Museum, where we cleaned up the historic home of Katherine Dunham, as well as to the Joseph Center, where we collected oral histories of local veterans. Pictures from these events are posted below.
This led me to believe that service learning should be utilized more in public schools, especially in urban areas. This type of learning not only gives students an opportunity to learn, but also builds team work, communication, and leadership skills. Perhaps more importantly, this type of learning gives students a pride in their community, which is desperately needed in our cities. Students’ ownership of their community and their willingness to stay and help make it better is the first step towards reviving our urban core. Unfortunately with today’s budget cuts, these types of trips are becoming less and less common in public education. What do you think? Should service learning be incorporated into your public school curriculum?
People deserve the right to enjoy a living space that is clean and maintained making it easy to agree that the cleanup of urban areas is essential to building a lasting community. The way an area looks has an impact on who moves there, how long they stay, and ultimately decides the future of that neighborhood. Picking up trash, maintaining the landscape, and the demolition of abandoned buildings could inspire residents to work together to rebuild their community.
For neighborhoods that have lost their appeal as destinations of choice, a community clean up may be what is needed in order to revitalize the area. Urban beautification starts by identifying the cosmetic changes that can be made in a specific neighborhood then working with the residents to make community improvements. Organizing specific days for residents to pick up trash or to engage in some sort of area refurbishment is crucial to creating a better place to live.
Furthermore, public officials share part of this responsibility as well, and should make policy initiatives to improve the regions they represent. By putting in place programs to repair streets, sidewalks, and demolish abandoned buildings, policy makers can contribute to rebuilding a community. In order to make sure an area that has been rehabbed remains in the best condition, lawmakers also have a duty to enforce ordinances that will ensure the maintenance and cleanliness of a neighborhood.
In addition to gaining a nicer living space, beautification may cause residents to have an increased sense of pride in where they live. While there is no quick fix to the many problems that are present in urban areas, a person who lives in a clean environment may be more optimistic about the future. Living in a place that is constantly improving might just inspire individuals to do the same within themselves.
Article written by: Dr. Howard Rambsy
Cross-posted from: www.culturalfront.org
http://www.culturalfront.org/2013/08/east-st-louis-and-humanities.htmlSaint Paul’s Episcopal Church, N 9th Street & Summit, East St. Louis
How might we utilize the arts, humanities, and technology to enhance views and engagements with East St. Louis?
That question has been driving my imagination, research, and planning activities for the last few months. Between August 2007 and May 2013, my public programming energies were primarily devoted to directing the Black Studies Program at SIUE. We did projects beyond the university, including exhibits in East St. Louis, but for the most part, our projects were often based on campus.
Moving forward, my work with the East St. Louis Action Project will provide me opportunities to engage the city in more active ways. Given my experiences with literary, humanities, and digital humanities projects, we’ll seek out ways to apply those fields to our work on and in East St. Louis. We’re working with a group of residents, writers, graphic designers, photographers, artists, students, and teachers to think about and produce compositions featuring East St. Louis.
In the meantime, I’m starting to write about the city on a more regular basis. My writings will appear here and over on Andrew Theising’s site. I’ve been consistently thinking and talking with people about the ongoing histories of East St. Louis for about a decade now. I’m excited to finally start sharing observations and reporting on projects.
The city of East St. Louis, Illinois turns 152 years old today! To honor the city’s birthday, The Institute for Urban Research at SIUE has officially launched the Virtual East St. Louis Historical Society, a web portal that provides digital access to a variety of first and second-hand historical sources about the city of East St. Louis.
The site gives users an interactive way to explore the rich history of East St. Louis through a variety of photos, videos, articles, newspapers, and facts about the city.
Click here to visit the Virtual East St. Louis Historical Society.
Come join the Institute for Urban Research on February 23, 2013, in collecting video histories of East St. Louis Veterans at the Joseph Center.
We will meet on campus at 8:30 a.m. in Lot A for a carpool to the Joseph Center. The carpool will leave campus no later than 9 a.m., and will return to campus no later than 2 p.m.
Participating in this event will give you an opportunity to communicate with our former military service members and learn about what life has been like for them.
If you are interested in helping with this project, please contact Patience Ferry in the Institute for Urban Research at 650-5262 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow, Wednesday January 30, 2013, Institute for Urban Research Director Dr. Andy Theising will be featured on the “St. Louis on the Air” show on St. Louis Public Radio.
Dr. Theising will be discussing the latest book in the East St. Louis Sesquicentennial Series, “An East St. Louis Anthology: The Origins of a River City”. Edited by Dr. Charles Lumpkins of Pennsylvania State University, the book reveals the history of the city through essays and historical documents.
“St. Louis on the Air” airs live at 11:00 a.m. on St. Louis public radio, KWMU- 90.7 FM, and streaming online at http://www.news.stlpublicradio.org/programs/st-louis-air.
If you miss the original broadcast, the show will be repeated at 10:00 p.m. both on the radio and online.
The book is available for purchase at amazon.com.
“An East St. Louis Anthology: The Origins of a River City”
Please join the STLMRE for the next brown bag lunch event, featuring Joanna Ganning, Ph.D., and “Spread and Backwash Effects for Non-metropolitan Communities in the U.S.”
Thursday, November 15
Harris-Stowe State University
University Library: Seminar Room
Please see the attached flyer for more details.