Monday, December 7, 2015

Process Reflection: A Call to Mapping

This is a re-post of a reflection about the role of GIS in River Journey from the Full Spring Flow blog. 

Is there a stream of water that exists before we name it “river?” Is the world what we have labeled it to be? Are we?

This is how the poem, "A Call to Mapping," begins. I read the first half of it as part of my lightning talk at the 2015 U-Spatial Forum, on November 20th at Rapson Hall, University of Minnesota.The forum is a mash up of people using GIS or spatial technology in ALL different ways (from artist, Rebecca Krinke's beautiful "Mapping of Joy and Pain" project to another professor's mapping the surface of Venus.) It is mind-blowing and enriching to see the variety of work presented that is united by spatial thinking.

GIS Story Maps as a Theatrical Prop
I presented "River Journey High School Story Maps; Using GIS Story Maps as Part of Place-based, Art-led, Environmental Education." River Journey took place at River's Edge Academy Charter Environmental High School, where I worked with a collaborative team, of teachers, staff, and students to take a year-long "Earth Systems Journey" of water through their school, tracing the flows from their kitchen sink to the Mississippi River--upstream and downstream. The primary aesthetic composition of River Journey is the designed experience itself. But art is also used for theatrical props throughout. Although the River Journey GIS Story Maps serve many purposes in the project, it is their part of the composition of student experience that I focused on for this talk.  I highlighted three of their roles as part of what I call the narrative-aesthetic experience that engages participants with story through aesthetic interaction.

GIS Story Maps Narrative-Aesthetic Roles

1. Marking and Naming
I was interested, particularly for High School age students, in connecting them to their agency and power as map makers, as expressed in "A Call to Mapping" which I wrote as a meditation for myself about the project. For example, there is great significance in the simple act of placing a map pin at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers and labeling it "B'Dote" after interviewing a Dakota band member about the supreme significance of this place to their creation beliefs. Marking and Naming a place on a map and telling its story is a ritual act of placing significance to a part of the landscape.

2. Virtual Aesthetic Understanding of the Land
It is important to the philosophy of River's Edge Academy and to the Earth Systems Journey approach to go outside and explore real places. Virtual exploration is not a substitute. However, an interactive GIS map offers perspectives that can't be seen from ground and these are not only knowledge-based in nature - they are also aesthetic. I remember working with a student as they paused from the tutorial on map creation to enjoy the pleasures of flying over and following the river in the satellite image. These are beautiful views that are a kind of primary aesthetic experience in themselves where one can wonder about the varying colors of the water, and the textures of the vegetation.

3. Vessel and Object of the Quest
As an Earth Systems Journey, River Journey is inspired by Joseph Campbell's concept of the Hero's Journey. This begins with a call to adventure, and is a quest for something. In fairy tales, the hero might seek a treasure and bring it home in a vessel. Knowing their final expression of their journey was to be an online set of story maps, made the GIS Story Maps into a key player in the journey; they were the vessel into which students would place their treasure to bring back to share with community: the story of their exploration of the value of the Mississippi River.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Exhibit Reception Date Set: October 6th

All are invited to a reception for the exhibit Tuesday, October 6th from 4-6 pm, with a short program at 5pm. (Details below) The exhibit closes Monday October 12th.

we watch the stream: Impressions from River Journey
Jonee Kulman Brigham with River’s Edge Academy

June 15, 2015 – October 12, 2015 - Commons Meeting and Art Space at Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota
Reception: Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, short program at 5:00 pm
R350 Learning & Environmental Sciences, 1954 Buford Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108
Open Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Parking is available behind the building in the Gortner Avenue Ramp.

How do we learn to see the deep interconnections we have with the world around us? It is challenging when our language and social-economic structures divide the world into so many parts. Common maps divide the land by property or political boundaries. Multiple organizations manage different parts of the continuous stream of water that passes through our buildings in hidden pipes and unlabeled channels. Visibility and value are intertwined — unseen elements can easily be neglected. Through River Journey, students found the pieces of their water story and stitched them back together.

During the 2014-2015 school year, high school students at River’s Edge Academy participated in an art-led, environmental education project called “River Journey: Exploring the Value of the Mississippi River,” led by Jonee Kulman Brigham, design researcher, artist, and developer of the educational model. Students traveled from their school’s kitchen sink, tracing the path of water along upstream and downstream infrastructure, to reveal how they and their school are interconnected with the Mississippi River. Along the way, they met with community members, and engaged with water, infrastructure, poetry, reflective writing, and photography to develop an appreciation for the river and the water it provides.

The exhibit includes artworks and documentation of the River Journey project including photographs, maps, reflective writing, and objects used for water interactions. The project and exhibit is made possible through a fellowship from Institute on the Environment, and the support of River’s Edge Academy, many community partners, and Full Spring Studio.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Institute on the Environment News Covers River Journey Exhibit
Thanks to Institute on the Environment News for covering the River Journey Exhibit which opened last week! Link HERE.

Monday, June 15, 2015

River Journey exhibit installed today

we watch the stream
Impressions from River Journey 
Jonee Kulman Brigham 
with River’s Edge Academy
Commons Meeting and Art Space  
at Institute on the Environment, 
University of Minnesota 
June 15, 2015 – October 12, 2015

 The exhibit includes artworks and documentation of the River Journey
project including photographs, maps, reflective writing,
and objects used for water interactions.
More information here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

River Journey Poem

The River Journey poem puts some of the essential questions and goals of the project into poetic form.
"How do we know the water's worth?"
"What is flowing in our sink?"
"Please speak a word for water's worth."

How to use this poem...
At the beginning of River Journey, on August 27, 2014, in opening circle, staff and the guest River Journey leader recited the opening poem, titled for the project. This launched the River Journey experience for the year. After the poem, a River's Edge teacher led an interactive water-values activity, passing around a pitcher of water from the school's kitchen sink and inviting the holder to say what they value about water.

In Fall: The poem was recited also at Kaposia Landing, after the students completed their journey from upstream to downstream - connecting their sink to the Mississippi River in both directions.

Recently: The poem was imprinted on the shelves of an artwork for the project, called Journey Bottles.

Today: The poem was recited in opening circle today, as part of a closing ceremony.

More about the poem
River Journey is designed based on the Earth Systems Journey (ESJ) model for art-led environmental education. The ESJ model builds from an aesthetic/artistic core concept, or a “poetic infrastructure.” The poem serves as the overarching “story” of what is going on, and is also a departure point, or preamble, to the student and staff creative/scholarly work that will further develop the project. It is like the creative/aesthetic/poetic “skeleton” that student creative/scholarly work “fleshes out.” The poetic skeleton is reflected in the project title, guiding words/text, and at least some of the art/interactive activities.

This poem was inspired by the path of water through the school, the planned journey, the chosen focal point of water flowing through the school (the kitchen sink),  and on the research question (quest) that the staff posed about value. The title of the poem uses the short version of the title the staff chose for their application of the Earth Systems Journey at River’s Edge Academy. The first four verses come from “The Downstream/Upstream Song,” also by Jonee for a similar project, and reflects the common water story shared with that Earth Systems Journey—and our larger collective shared water story.

This is a working poem; it's job is to remind project leaders and participants of the underlying story and the underlying questions of the experience.

Display case for "Journey Bottles" installed today

At the beginning of River Journey, during the travels upstream and downstream from their sink, students gathered bits of water from the locations we visited into a "Journey Bottle."  The Journey Bottles were regular water bottles until students removed the commercial label, drank the contents, and transformed them into a tool for reflection. At each stop, along with collecting water, students wrote words they felt represented the value of the water at that point. Later, students wrote a verse of poetry (in couplet form) to answer the call of the River Journey poem: "Please speak a word for water's worth." These were turned into paper labels for the bottles and combined with an image of each students' eyes, looking at the river.

The display case was designed to give these reflections - so unique to each student - a special place.

Closing Activity for River Journey Today: What are you grateful for about the Mississippi River?

Students answer the question as they pour water from the kitchen sink at River's Edge Academy into a common vessel.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sneak Preview of River Journey Story Map

SNEAK PREVIEW - Click HERE to view story map
Here's a sneak preview of a story map from the River Journey project. This is the first of a suite of story maps that was created throughout the year and will be unveiled at the celebration of learning on graduation day. This story map shows the students' reflections as they traveled the path of interconnection between their school's kitchen sink and the Mississippi River.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

River Journey to be featured in Presentation to Metro Watershed Partners

Project Leader, Jonee Kulman Brigham, will present River Journey, along with other projects using the Earth Systems Journey model, Wednesday, May 13th, at the Metro Watershed Partners meeting in a talk called, Art, Story, and Environmental Education: Exploring Water Systems with Earth Systems Journey.

From the announcement:
Where does our water come from? Where does it go? And what does the Mississippi River have to do with the every day lives of most people in the Twin Cities area? These questions guide the design of Earth Systems Journey, a model for art-led environmental education, now in its third pilot project. In one way, it is an approach for basic water infrastructure literacy, but more importantly, Earth Systems Journey is designed to create personal experiences of interconnection with the river and the technologies that connect it to the built environment of every day life by using the power of story and the insights of systems thinking.

Friday, April 24, 2015

River Journey Experience To Be Shared in Teacher Training

The River Journey team will share their experiences using GIS Story Maps in the River Journey project with other teachers this summer in a training workshop called "Mapping the Journey with GIS: Place-based, Experiential, Environmental Education Workshop."

The workshop will introduce participants to the ways GIS can support their environmental education goals, and guide them through the process of creating a story map based on an experience like what River's Edge Academy students had this year. Teachers will create a plan to apply GIS in their own teaching work, and receive support as they develop and implement it after the workshop. Registration is open as of this post, at this link: Mapping the Journey with GIS

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

River's Edge Academy registers River Journey Project for National EE Week!

River's Edge Academy registered for National EE Week today! The form asks for an event day in 2015... In this year-long project it is hard to choose one day, so we selected June 4th, the Celebration of Learning and graduation day that caps off the whole year of learning and exploration.

EE Week Event
"River Journey: Exploring the Value of the Mississippi River," a year long place-based, experiential, environmental education project at River's Edge Academy in St. Paul, will culminate June 4th, 2015 at the charter high school's Celebration of Learning and senior graduation event on the Minnesota Showboat, at the edge of the Mississippi River.

Student Entry in a GIS Story Map from River Journey
Students will present GIS Story Maps they made throughout the year about their river experiences and learning as part of the Greening STEM aspects of the project. One map documents students' journey upstream and downstream to discover how their drinking water and sewage are connected to the Mississippi River. Other maps show how students incorporated river and water themes into their coursework in English, Science, Math, and Humanities. The Celebration of Learning will be the public premier of the online suite of maps created by the students to share their learning and inform the public about the vital role of the Mississippi River.

Guest Speaker, Nenette Luarca-Shoaf

Researcher, Nenette Luarca-Shoaf
and High School Humanities Teacher, Sky Davey
at River's Edge Academy
As part of River Journey this spring, teachers at River's Edge Academy are incorporating river and water themes into core content classes. In the Civil War unit, humanities teacher, Sky Davey will be engaging his students in map study and map making to explore the role of the Mississippi River in the Civil War, with particular attention to the Battle of Vicksburg.

To support that exploration, Nenette Luarca-Shoaf, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Minnesota, visited the class on Monday, April 20th, to share her research as an art historian, on the role and perception of maps of the Mississippi River in the 1800's.  She showed a variety of map examples to highlight questions such as:

Detail of ribbon map from 1800's
showing the city of Vicksburg
What does the map show and not show and why?
Who is the map maker and who is the audience?
How was the map displayed?
In what context was the map used?
What was its purpose?
What was the access to the map, and by whom?
What was the influence of the map?

Nenette will be presenting this Thursday, April 23rd at the University of Minnesota in a related talk, titled, "Image as Levee: the Mississippi River before Mark Twain" speaking about maps as well as other images of the Mississippi River.

Thanks, Nenette for your time and insights!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

River Journey at Institute on the Environment's Frontiers Series

Project Leader, Jonee Kulman Brigham, will present River Journey, along with other projects using the Earth Systems Journey model, Wednesday, February 18th, at the University of Minnesota, Institute on the Environment, The talk is part of the Institute's Frontiers lecture series, which is  organized around Big Questions, and Brigham will share work that asks:

"How can art and story heal the disconnect between modern humans and the environment?"

Go to the Frontiers page for directions, parking, and information about other talks in the series. 

Update: VIDEO: Institute on the Environment has published a video of the talk here.