Community Partnerships and Community Gardens

Hello Friends, DeeDee here to share today! I work at Community Partnership School (CPS) (communitypartnershipschool.org/), a Pre-K through 5th grade independent school in North Central Philadelphia. One of the things that drew me to CPS was their understanding of the many aspects that affect a child’s education and development. CPS knows that their school operates within a network of support that incorporates student, family, and community dynamics. CPS does intentional work to foster this as a positive and supportive partnership, allowing students to grow academically, socially, and emotionally.

My work is steeped in this mission. As the Haverford House Fellow, I work with multiple levels of the organization— from community engagement to fundraising initiatives to collaborating on strategic planning and qualitative research, I am getting a taste for multiple aspects of this organization and its relationship with the community. While I do spend some time in the classroom, my position is largely project based. My placement keeps me busy, but I am also given the freedom to work on health and wellness initiatives that interest me.

One of my first projects was a farm education program called Roots of Unity, which I developed in conjunction with the Haverford Farm Fellow Jazhara Heredia ‘16. For seven weeks, CPS first graders and interns from the Haverford Farm got together to learn about sustainable living and the world around them in a deeper sense.

Jahzara went above and beyond each week, making us a farm snack to help us try new foods. We not only visited Haverford Farm and the beautiful Nature Trail, but were also able to visit local community gardens such as the North Philadelphia Peace Park with the CPS 2nd grade and the Norris Square Neighborhood Project. The first graders learned a lot and enjoyed harvesting food for themselves and trying different vegetables each week.

 

With winter break just around the corner, I miss exploring the farm in the warm weather, but I am excited to see what is in store for 2018!

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Philadelphia Map-Making

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of hosting a zine-making workshop focused on Philadelphia maps. As a Haverford House Fellow and therefore, resident of West Philadelphia, I care a great deal about communicating to students the joys, difficulties, and nuances of Philadelphia as a city. I don’t claim to be an expert so much as an intermediary between students at suburban Haverford and the vibrant city of Philly. With this attitude, I invited students to join me in making zines about Philadelphia broadly and maps of Philadelphia more specifically.

Some zines we made!

Kaylynn made a zine about the graphic identity of Philadelphia; Sophia made a zine illustrating various modes of public transportation in something of an homage to SEPTA; and I made a zine comparing West Philadelphia to Manhattan’s Upper West Side, partially inspired by the incredible book Oreo by Fran Ross.

Laughing about maps

Working hard on our zines

Making zines about Philadelphia and its maps is a great way to gain a clearer understanding of how you yourself understand the city. I noted in an earlier workshop that when I directed students to draw a map of Philadelphia, most students drew maps of Center City. I am compelled to ask, what can Philadelphia’s identity be outside of Center City? Like any city or even in any place there is no such thing as one cohesive “Philadelphia identity,” of course. And yet, in examining and making maps of Philadelphia, we can work towards a more complex and nuanced understanding of a truly amazing city.

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A Peek into the FirstHand Lab

Hello out there! This is Charlie, making my triumphant return to the blog.  Last time I caught you up on life around the house, but I didn’t talk much about what I’ve been up to at my placement.  So here we go.

I’ve been working four days a week at FirstHand, an educational initiative under the wing of the University City Science Center. We’re a small team that runs STEAM (STEM + Art) programming for middle and high school students from under-resourced Philly schools.  What makes our program unique is that it’s set within the Science Center “ecosystem” (as they love to call it), where science startups rent lab space and can access resources that help them grow intelligently.  Our students get exposed to that environment not only by physically being in the space, but also through mentoring experiences with some of our scientist partners at various companies.

Right now we’re running eight 10-week programs, each which tie art and design to the natural sciences and give students plenty of time to build things and think creatively.  In our “Polymer Play” program, for example,  students get the chance to make their own biodegradable plastic after learning some of the chemistry behind plastics.  Later on in the course, they use their knowledge to design and build a product using bioplastic or re-purposed plastic bags.

Teaching the science of bioplastics!

I’ve found my work at FirstHand to be meaningful, dynamic, and playful.  On a given day, I might go from teaching in the lab to strategizing with mentors from Science Center start-ups (who work with the students) to hyping up FirstHand on Twitter to poring over primary literature about the tensile properties of mozzarella cheese while refining a lesson plan!

I love the variety of work I get to do on a daily basis. I’m learning a ton about pedagogy, both in theory (from soaking up knowledge from books, guest speakers like Chris Emdin, and my terrific co-workers) and in practice.  I’d never taught in a classroom setting before and it challenges me (I respect my former teachers more and more by the day), but I’m enjoying it quite a bit.

It’s energizing for me to get kids excited about science and design while helping empower them through the knowledge, creativity, and agency that they often discover within themselves over the course of our programs.  Most of the students seem like they love coming to our lab, and I’m not surprised — I think we have something special going on.  I’m excited to see how FirstHand grows over the upcoming years as we do more to bridge the gulf between Philadelphia’s burgeoning innovation economy and many of the neighborhoods that the exist close to the Science Center.

 

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Summer on the Schuylkill

Hello, Haverford House fellow Chloe here! My work placement this year is in River Programs at Bartram’s Garden, a public garden on the Lower Schuylkill River in Southwest Philadelphia. My first months here have been filled with learning about this place, and marveling accordingly. Preserved since the 1700s, Bartram’s Garden has resisted the industrial development that crept up to the fence lines of its historic property. In recent years, the organization has prioritized serving as an accessible place of outdoor beauty in a neighborhood living with industrial legacies and ongoing pollution.

The Community Boathouse provides opportunities to get out on the Schuylkill River, which many locals may not realize is safe for recreation, since it was much more severely polluted in living memory. Our central program is Saturday Free Boating, which invites anyone to take a jaunt in one of our kayaks or rowboats. I work closely with Danielle Redden, the River Programs manager at the garden. My fellowship entails a wide variety of responsibilities that include helping to run programs and maintain our fleet, meeting with collaborating partners, and researching ways to improve and expand our programs.

Work at the Garden reflects the rhythms of seasonal change. The development of this frankly appalling tan has served as a visual record of the summer’s outdoor labor (and leisure), and now I’m beginning to don socks.

The time of teaching Parks & Rec summer campers to row has ended, and with the start of the academic year, the Schuylkill River and Urban Waters Research Seminar has begun meeting. Co-convened by Penn and Drexel faculty members and Bartram’s Garden River Programs, this transdisciplinary public seminar brings together information and perspectives on many aspects of the often-overlooked Lower Schuylkill and urban waters more generally. Public boating will wrap up at the end of October, and as the weather gets colder, we will take stock of the events of the 2017 season and move more fully into planning for next season and beyond. We are looking to integrate more environmental education into our public offerings in order to deepen the engagement with the river that we facilitate. This might include community fishing events themed around migrating fish, and citizen water quality monitoring to help us understand patterns of pollution on our section of the river. I am excited to see what we dream up in our office-bound hibernation.

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Summer House Update (We’re Still Here!)

Hello out there! The blog has been awfully quiet since orientation, but don’t be fooled–there’s been lots going on here at Haverford House!

We’ve all been busy settling into our placements while continuing to figure out how to live together effectively in the “real world” of West Philly.  It’s a big change transitioning from the habits and rhythms of college to working full-time and living in the city.  I’m grateful to be transitioning into West Philly life with Chloe, Katy, DeeDee, Lynnie, and Madison.  For me, the change been refreshing (farewell, Haverbubble!), though certainly a bit overwhelming at times.  Sometimes you just miss rolling into the Dining Center and choosing between a bounty of foods that have been prepared for you, you know? Enjoy it while it lasts, current Haverford students!

But despite occasional yearnings for the DC,  it’s been a great summer here, and the weeks are flying by.  I won’t go through all of our summer adventures, but here are a few snapshots of life around here:

The House has been abuzz with guests! Our potluck earlier this month (pictured above) brought lots of new faces into the house–Haverford people (alums & current students) as well as neighbors! And every weekend it seems as if someone new is hanging around the house. It’s great sharing the House with a variety of people, and I think our guests have enjoyed being in the house (though several unlucky folks have accidentally set off the house alarm–not a fun experience for them!)

On Mondays, the kitchen smells like freshly-baked sourdough! Chloe is our resident bread-baker, and she devotes part of her day off to her craft (she works Weds. – Sat. at Bartram’s Garden).  A wonderful thing to come home to for the rest of us.

Here’s a glamour shot of our compost bin. We’ve been subscribing to a composting service that picks up our food waste every week and delivers it to urban growers! That’s cinnamon “moat” around the bucket, which keeps ants away. We’ve got tricks for keeping mice away, too…hit us up if you want details.

That’s just a taste of the summer’s House happenings. Keep an eye on the blog for more updates–next time, we won’t keep you hanging for so long!

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A New Year Begins

This past week Tamar and I had the pleasure of leading Orientation Week for the fellows of Haverford House 2017-2018. As we pass the torch on to this awesome next group of fellows, I want to give a quick recap of some of this past week’s highlights.

We started off on Monday with Program Director extraordinaire Janice Lion, who introduced the program and walked the new fellows through all the necessary nitty-gritty details of individual projects, stipends, and cool benefits like the professional development money that each fellow gets. After lunch, the afternoon was spent on a fun Baltimore Ave/Cedar Park scavenger hunt, which included things like samosas (try Mood Café or the Indian Grocery on Walnut), a statue of Little Nell (Clark Park) and handmade greeting cards (for sale at Vix Emporium!). The day was finished off with dinner at Manakeesh, an absolute favorite of our year.

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The requisite first day picture. I think they managed to avoid looking super awkward… success! (see the previous post from Anthony)

As Tamar and I planned the week out over the past few months, there were a few things from our orientation week that we knew should definitely be repeated. We were very happy that Parker Snowe, former CPGC Executive Director, agreed to return for a bike ride tour of West Philly. Tuesday morning was warm and sunny, and the tour was fun and skillfully led! Stops included the Cobbs Creek trail, the West Philly Tool Library, Bartram’s Garden (Chloe’s placement this year!), and the local Free Library branch. Below, the group studies the route with Parker before heading off. Right, relaxing at our stop at the lovely Bartram’s.

 

To celebrate the Fourth of July, the new fellows invited friends over for a backyard barbecue. It was a success by all accounts, and everyone left with hearts full and the house warmed!

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One highlight of Wednesday’s busy schedule (which included an in-depth facilitated workshop by Susannah Gilbertson’98 about community living and house norms) was the evening spent at Spruce Street Harbor Park with past fellowship alumni. Big thanks to Ian, Bridgette, Hannah, Corey and Anthony for hanging out with us!

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On Thursday afternoon Tamar arranged for us to visit the Paul Robeson House. The musician and activist is an incredibly interesting historical figure, and the house museum is just a few blocks away from Haverford House! After the tour, we had dinner at the delicious EAT Café. Past fellow Callie Perrone (HC’15) spent her fellowship year working with Drexel’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities to get this amazing pay-what-you-can community restaurant up and running, and it is a wonderful accomplishment!

So, those are just a few highlights from the past week. Tamar and I hope that the fellows enjoyed our time together as much as we did and that they ended it feeling a bit more settled into the house, this city, and this program. We are so excited to see where this year takes them!

To Charlie, Chloe, Deedee, Lynnie, Katy and Madison: have fun, explore the city, work hard, and learn from each other. I wish you all the best in the wonderful year and experience that is Haverford House.

<3 Katie

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Then and Now

Then:

Observe these six naive-yet-hopeful fellows from the summer of 2016, just finishing up their orientation. They confidently pretend to understand what exactly their jobs will consist of. They sort of kind of know how to navigate the city. They are connected by the unbreakable bonds of their four years of “well, I guess I know of them”-style relationships at Haverford.

Last summer.

Now:

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Now look at these half-dozen seasoned professionals, returned from brunch on their final weekend together. They each have a full year of hands-on work experience at a non-profit. They complain about the trolley with the ardor of true Philadelphians. Their significantly less awkward smiles testify to the fact that they are actually close friends now. Through their CPGC-supported independent projects, they have run discussion groups, facilitated workshops, and facilitated connections between Haverford students and local people and organizations  confronting issues like housing insecurity, immigration, trauma-informed care, and restorative justice. Their professional development funds have allowed them to read widely about these issues and others (turns out when you don’t have homework, you actually have time to do this), study new languages, visit museums, and take academic courses. Over the course of the year, they have also gone to concerts, done political canvassing,  learned new cooking skills, enjoyed fine art, and consumed a volume of black tea equal to roughly seven duck ponds. And honestly, they have overcome a lot of challenges: mental, social, medical, intellectual.

I’m getting tired of third person, so I’ll close this post by saying that I am very grateful to have participated in Haverford House and learned from such a caring, driven, and all-around amazing group of fellow fellows.

Climbin' every mountain. Well, one mountain.

Climbin’ every mountain. Well, one mountain.

The new group of fellows for 2017-2018 just moved into the house yesterday, and Katie and Tamar are leading them in orientation this week along with Janice. The incoming fellows are an enviably cool bunch with some truly awesome work placements lined up, and I know they are in for a fantastic and productive year…which you will be able to follow right here on this blog. Farewell to the old, welcome to the new.

-Anthony

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Goodbye Haverford House!

Our year is almost done! It’s hard to believe it’s been so many months since last July when we were all arriving, freshly graduated and 100% unsure of what living full-time in the world outside of college would feel like. My last weekend in the house was a shining one — our first streak of HOT philly summer weather, spent with lots of time in Clark Park with housemates, farewell pizza/pasta with Janice, a farewell to Dock St (local pizza/bar and personal strong favorite), and a farewell house brunch complete with very fancy oj. Which in sum meant lots of beautiful food (esp. pizza), sunshine, and people! In addition to loving all those things throughout this year, some other personal highlights from in and around the house in gratitude/love letter form are:

— Bindlestiff Books (the bookstore I volunteer in on weekends) thank you for being such a cozy buzzing hub of book-loving community! 

— Women’s Medical Fund (the org I volunteer with) thank you for the incredible critical work you do for reproductive justice, and for the deep and wide set of advocacy skills you nurtured in me this year

— Milk and Honey Cafe — thank you for your low-cost coffee and reliably available-before-11AM window seats and for being my #1 site for Friday project brainstorming/work/general productivity 

— the house roof — thank you for being stable enough to support our bodies and also plates/bowls for our most glorious *sunset* house meals   

—the orange neighborhood cat who is really not my favorite — thank you for only sneaking into the house once

— Cedar Park — thank you for your lush trees and bright skies and energy and for becoming my home!

And the hugest gratitude highlights I have are for the CPGC and its constant support and care throughout this year, and for my fellow housemates for being 5 shining stars literally every day who together made this home happen! 

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Mini Party

Here at Haverford House, we don’t have a lot of fun.

…we have a little fun!

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Mini drink in mini mason jar.

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Home-made mini pizzas.

mini doughnuts

Mini doughnuts.

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(Made of Cheerios.)

We also had mini quiches, mini mixed drinks, and mini pastries. Because if less is more, more of less is double more.

I think.

-Anthony

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A Call to End Harm

I’ve had some great experiences recently with my Haverford House project, which is facilitating relationships between Haverford and Let’s Circle Up, a restorative justice group at Graterford Prison.

The week before last, Mike Riccio ’13 and I facilitated an intensive 2-day restorative justice workshop at Haverford. The workshop was designed by Let’s Circle Up leadership, and the weekend brought together current and former students from Haverford and Bryn Mawr to explore issues of harm, healing, and accountability.

Mike contemplates justice in the MCC.

Mike contemplates justice in the MCC.

The next week, I headed to Graterford itself for A Call to End Harm, an annual collaboration between Let’s Circle Up and the Office of the Victim Advocate that engages nearly seventy incarcerated restorative justice alumni, victim advocates, and students from Haverford and elsewhere in a day of activities around topics such as victimization, story-telling, and resilience.

This year Haverford was represented by me, Tamar, Janice of CPGC fame, and Amanda Grolig ’19, who recently began volunteering with Let’s Circle Up after taking last year’s on-campus workshop.

A highlight of the day for everyone was when, in small groups, we tapped into our artistic sides to answer the question: what does it look like to do justice together?

I was able to bring home the fruits of our labor, so those of us who attended the event used a few spare moments at the CPGC retreat to pose with the group’s creations:

Photo credit to Eric.

Photo credit to Eric.

I am extraordinarily grateful for the work I have been able to do with Let’s Circle Up, and this year’s A Call to End Harm was an amazing experience that all of us who participated hope to build on.

(Though we could probably use some art classes first.)

-Anthony

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