On making mistakes, and finding spaces for play

This morning I hopped on the 9:40 Blue Bus to make the trip over to Bryn Mawr; I had the unexpected pleasure of running into Conor Brennan-Burke ’16, one of the OMA student interns who was heading over to his economic development course, with his breakfast in hand (that is, in the cornstarch-based biodegradable take-out container)– a healthy combination of yogurt, honeydew melon, and seven pancakes.  He asked me why I was on the bus; I explained that I was going to talk with a number of Bryn Mawr colleagues who were planning to teach a cluster of courses centered on the theme of “play in the city,” which led Conor and me into a conversation that touched upon the cities known for practitioners of parkour, the ingenuity of Philly skateboarders, and “build it yourself” playgrounds where kids can create their own structures from the materials on hand –thus reminding me of the most fabulous Adventure Playground in Berkeley.

When I made it to the breakfast room at Wyndham Alumni House, Cities professor Carola Hein introduced me to Hanley Bodek who has been teaching a course called “Entrepreneurial Inner City Housing Markets” at the University of Pennsylvania for 28 years.  Students who take the course — ranging from future city planners to Wharton MBAs-to-be — are drawn by the opportunity to have a hands-on experience redeveloping an abandoned Philadelphia rowhouse in which learning opportunities range from figuring out how to secure a zoning permit in Philadelphia — surely the subject of a graduate level seminar in and of itself — to finding out what to do when you have followed your blueprint only to discover that you have left yourself about eight inches in which to build a closet.

In reflecting on his pedagogical practices, Hanley said that “what I became good at was watching students make mistakes and not getting upset.” As someone who is a bit of a control freak, this kind of wisdom is revelatory — the understanding that some of our most transformative moments are precisely those points at which things do not go according to plan. At those moments we have to rethink our assumptions, reconsider the information at hand, recalibrate our approaches, and reboot our imaginations…and sometimes we even have to ask for help, and thus can draw from someone else’s organizing intelligence and animating experience.

As a professor located in the Growth and Structures of Cities, Carola was spinning out ideas about the ways in which students could engage in projects that would have them working with three dimensional structures – maybe a garden, a treehouse, or a playground — that would have the potential to reconstruct the dynamics of the communities in which they would reside.  Carola is working in collaboration with Jody Cohen from the Bi-College Education program and Darlyne Bailey, the Dean of the School of Social Work who is also the Special Assistant to the President for Community Partnerships, and the conversation around the table ranged from possibilites of college students partnering with a fourth grade classroom to design a playhouse to the creation of a “city house” that would extend the reach of the Bi-Co community into Philadelphia, that could be used for courses open to the community or as a home base for students spending extended time at an internship or visiting galleries.

We also talked a lot about what play makes possible – how just messing around can lead to new insights, unexpected discoveries, and radically different ways of moving through the world, all of which can help us get closer to our animating passions. As a group of Haverford students, faculty, and staff gather this weekend at Pendle Hill to share our understandings of and experiences with community engagement, thanks to a “Bringing Theory to Practice” grant from the American Association of Colleges and Universities’ I’m going to be thinking a lot about the place for play in all this.

Calling all recent grads with Africana or Gen/Sex concentrations….

…the Yale School of Public Health is looking for a Research Assistant to start April 1  - they’re particularly interested in recent grads with “experience working in a research setting or with issues of women’s health, HIV/AIDS, STDs, pregnancy or parenting, reproductive health, sex education, sex and gender issues, behavioral health interventions or mental health….  Preferred: Bachelor’s degree in Women/Gender Studies, African American or Ethnic Studies, Public Health, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, or a related field.”

Details below – spread the word!

Position Description
Under the supervision of the Deputy Director, the Research Assistant will provide support for a research project that involves developing and testing a group model of prenatal care that addresses a wide range of health behaviors to diverse pregnant women in 3 communities in the US. The goal of this program is to help pregnant women and families reduce their risk for adverse maternal child health outcomes, including preterm birth, low birthweight, rapid repeat pregnancy, HIV/STDs, and diabetes.
Responsibilities:
Assistance with Research Related Tasks (50%):
• Assist in preparation of progress reports, newsletters, manuscripts for publication, and grant submissions (conduct review of library materials and synthesize for inclusion in sections of grant; obtain information from state agencies to reflect problem status; create graphs and charts to present findings; conduct simple data analyses to demonstrate preliminary findings)
• Human Investigations Committee protocol management (create HIC protocols, consent forms, medical release forms, amendments, renewals)
• Produce and contribute to PR materials (e.g., newsletters, website content)
• Coordinate meetings (e.g., meeting preparation, agendas, minutes)
• Attend regular research meetings
• Correspond with collaborators and colleagues
Data Entry, Coding, and Management (20%):
• Data cleaning; Quality control checks; Generating reports from data; Maintaining data files; Data entry into MS Access, Excel, and SPSS databases; Maintain Endnote databases for papers, grants; Maintain data dictionaries
Administrative Duties (20%):
• Order supplies, collaborate with vendors, complete administrative paperwork
• Process financial paperwork, budgeting assistance
• Miscellaneous administrative tasks, (i.e., Xeroxing, filing, faxing, mailing, courier)
Miscellaneous Duties (10%):
• Provide support with all other related duties

Qualifications:
Required: Experience working in a research setting OR with issues of women’s health, HIV/AIDS, STDs, pregnancy or parenting, reproductive health, sex education, sex and gender issues, behavioral health interventions or mental health. Excellent with Windows-based word processing, internet, and various computer programs. Able to work independently, as a team member, and under direct supervision. Excellent organizational skills. Able to work with confidential materials. Good writing skills. Detail oriented. Willing to travel occasionally.

Preferred: Bachelor’s degree in Women/Gender Studies, African American or Ethnic Studies, Public Health, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, or a related field. Familiarity with Endnote, MS Access, MS Excel, or SPSS AND with Medline, PsycInfo, or PubMed. Experience with web design or graphic design. Ability to interact comfortably with research and clinical staff. Good verbal skills.

Availability: POSITION TO START FULL TIME NO LATER THAN APRIL 1, 2013.

To Apply: Send resume to Jessica Lewis at Jessica.Lewis@Yale.edu.

Getting through “The Daily Grind” – Zanya Harriott’s Uncommon Knowledge Project

How do the material, cultural, intellectual, and social contributions of African Americans shape your day to day life?

This is a question that Zanya Harriott ’14 is asking members of the Haverford community to consider in her week-long project, “Uncommon Knowledge” in which students, faculty, and staff have been invited to make the attempt to live their day-to-day lives without crucial inventions by black people; you can follow the project by going to the OMA Facebook page, which you can get to from the button on www.haverford.edu/deans/oma

Zanya is offering nightly video updates on the challenges for the next day, along with histories of inventors such as Alice H. Parker, (whose patent # 1,325,905 is illustrated on the right) who in 1919 invented a heater with a mechanism that regulated the flow of heat to different rooms in a building (my household tried to do without this but when the interior hit 57 degrees, key constituencies staged a successful revolt).

For today, the theme is “The Daily Grind” — what are those common items that are ubiquitous and part of the fabric of our everyday lives?