“Service Learning: A philosophy, pedagogy, and model for community development that is used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.”
As the Resident Service Learning Teaching Artist at Cleveland HS, it is my duty to bring Arts as a lens for Community Involvement, Service and Learning. Essentially “Why is it important to bring Arts as a Service to our communities?”
Students of the Seattle Public School System are required to achieve a certain amount of Service Learning Hours in order to graduate. As we are nearing the end of the school year seniors are needing to accomplish those last couple credits. As the service learning teaching artist, I was able to serve our seniors by creating an artful service opportunity. But how could I create this opportunity and not interfere with in-class learning and somehow compete with out of school obligations like sports, work, and family? How can I create a service opportunity that has arts elements and benefits Cleveland HS community simultaneously?
Thus was born a Half-Day Arts and Service Learning Field Trip to Seattle Tilth’s Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland.
Betcha didn’t even know this place existed! Which is reasonable considering that they are relatively new to the neighborhood and well hidden in the back woods of Rainier Beach. The Rainier Beach Urban Farm AND Wetland resides off Seward Park Avenue S, nestled between Pritchard Island Beach and Beer Sheva Park, close neighbors to Rainier Beach High School.
I highly encourage you to visit the Farm, (Go east on Cloverdale St past the round-about and take the first left!) If the gate is open, drive on in, they will welcome you with open and gracious arms! Weekly Drop-in Work Parties, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. You are invited to stop by and get your hands dirty and be part of an exciting process of growing a community farm!
Albiet with enthusiasm, I digress.
25 students accompanied with Linda Sinni a CHS teacher, Aaron Johnson the graffiti teaching artist and I, piled into a big yellow school bus after the dismissal bell rang early at 1pm at Cleveland HS, wednesday May 15th. We journeyed from South Beacon Hill down to Rainier Beach and poured out of the school bus onto the farm! Jess Armantrout, the program coodinator at the farm and several volunteers from the community and ArtsCorps greeted us! We circled up, introduced ourselves and reviewed the tasks set out for us. We divided up all the students and volunteers into four groups in which we rotated through tasks so each students was able to participate in a variety of activities.
We harvested salad greens that were ready to be donated to local food banks and cooking programs. We hauled fresh compost in wheelbarrows across the farm to one of the big grand green houses to help create new sturdy rows for new vegetables to flourish. We learned that fresh compost is donated to the farm from Cedar Grove and that Cedar Grove is a local facility that plays an important role in diverting organic waste from landfills. If you compost in this city you’re helping create the compost that helps grow vegetables for people who need them.
With the help of a community volunteer, Mary, we were able to install a giant mural on plywood that had been made the previous year by a farm volunteer! We were to attach it to and overgrown chain link fence at the end of the driveway. With heavy duty tools, thick gloves and determination our group pulled blackberries, horsetails, english ivy and much more. Our group did a great job clearing out the invasive plants that engulfed the fence! With teamwork and communication we installed the mural with zip ties! Now as you stroll down to the west side of the property, near the chicken coop you can enjoy a dynamic painting of chickens and vegetables!
Each student also had the opportunity to relax in the sun and create row markers for the green house rows! Now you’ll see the many rows in the green houses numbered with elaborate and creative signs!
Most importantly we designed, painted and installed a brand new mural for the farm! We worked together to create something long lasting and valuable for the farm as well as leaving a little Cleveland HS spirit. Each volunteer and student left their hand print on the mural. Aaron’s contribution to our field trip was a gift! Check out what we made, in record time!
Now as you drive down the quiet and unsuspecting Cloverdale St. to the farm and can’t seem to find the entrance… A grand mural will greet you. Ushering you in with bright welcoming colors, assuring you “Yes, you found the farm! Welcome! Please join us!”
When all our work was finished, Jess invited us to embark on a scavenger hunt. Which was essentially a free roaming exploration of the farm. All day the weather held up for us, of course until this activity. But this did not stop the students from exploring the expansiveness of the farm! They put on ponchos and some even sported the giant galoshes!
They adventured out into the wetlands and into the forest while the rain sprinkled on them. We watched tromp out to the bee hives and to the chicken coops, from inside the dry green house. After their adventure came to an end we circled up to discuss the things we learned, the things that sparked our interest and our appreciations. We talked about the services that the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland provide as well as more opportunities for youth! The students from Cleveland HS were engaged, articulate and eager! It was an honor to be associated with such a wonderful group of youth.
Why is it important to bring ARTS as a SERVICE to the our communities?
“Because in creating art together we learn how to work together.”
“Because it makes out communities beautiful and unique.”
“Because of my interest in the art I learned about farms and chickens and food.”
“Because art and food are sacred and everyone has a right to it.”
Linda Sinni. A Cleveland HS teacher, who at the last minute seized the opportunity to bring her wonderful students. She tumbled into the bus with all the rest, excited and eager to learn!
Aaron Johnson. Cleveland HS graffiti teaching artist, who so effortlessly jumped on the band wagon with supplies, support and talent! The youth adore you and your engaging art form.
Jess Armantrout. Seattle Tilth’s SE Seattle Program Coordinator who welcomed us with open arms. Eager to make our visit useful and fun for everyone!
Thank you to our volunteers; Kyla from Seattle Tilth, Lara from ArtsCorps, Derek, Mary and others from the seattle community that arrived. Thank you to Rita Altcantara from ArtsCorps for the wonderful photography of the trip! Thank you to Katie Pencke from Seattle Tilth, Lois Brewer from Learn and Serve Seattle and Kai Domingo and Chev Gary from the YMCA office at Cleveland HS for making it possible.