the Health Team (Month 1)
Students from an ongoing young parents class were invited to apply
to work four hours a week on a community education project. This was
above scheduled class time and the pay was $6.00 an hour. The classroom
teacher and a health educator (who were already working in partnership
on health workshops in class under this grant) interviewed all interested
many students interested but few were willing and able to reschedule
day care and make the commitment. Each had to sign a contract and sign
in and out just as the regular employees did. We came to a consensus
agreement to meet two times a week for two hours. Later some of these
hours became individual work hours.
A group of
five students and two educators was formed. The students named the team
the "Health Patrol."
We began by brainstorming ideas around what to learn, what to teach,
and what to make. This was recorded on a flip chart and often revisted.
of generating ideas and making decisions was used throughout:
- write-up on flip chart
- discussion facilitated
- consensus decision -
the group decided they wanted to learn more about violence as a community
process, the students agreed that interviewing older people could be
a good way to show respect and that both the interviewer and the person
being interviewed would learn a lot.
Research (Month 2)
The group researched and purchased tape recorders for all members. This
cost about $30 each for a good Sony portable. We bought each member
a camera ($3.00 each for 35mm basic plastic) to “document” violence
in Lowell and their lives. The students began taking pictures of anything
but found all were related to the project-kids wearing gang clothes,
places where gangs hung out, graffiti, arson, their own children. (Often
the children were motivation for doing the work.)
We tried free form interviews of one another, but this was too hard.
So the group brainstormed a list of questions that we used, listened
to the responses and revised. Questions were grouped in areas-your past,
now, your hopes. The students interviewed family members and friends.
Three of the students had lived in refugee camps and some their family
had survived through war, flight and resettlement. Some had been in
gangs or knew people who had been. We were all surprised how much violence
was described in all these interviews.
in the community
The team decided who in the community to interview. When we had a commitment
from them we brainstormed questions for that interview. As a group,
the students interviewed a streetworker working with gangs, and a Cambodian
police officer. All the students taped both interviews, listened to
them alone, highlighting (either by transcribing or making a note of
the counter number) what they considered important.
By this time a professional graphic designer was working with us, looking
at photographs, making suggestions, putting writing onto the computer.
She worked about one day a week for three months, but actually working
less the first month and more the last.
Book (Month 3)
on the computer
We came together at the computer and transcribed the parts we wanted.
Sometimes word for word, sometimes the student’s interpretation of what
was said. There were many times one of the educators (this included
the designer) was typing in what the learners said. We did not have
a classroom computer but used a communal office computer, causing tension
The photos taken by the students were scanned into computer. The designer
made sample page layouts for the learners to review. They chose paper
colors, type, photos and quotes to use. As a group, we wrote an introduction
deciding on themes and chosing the layout. We all spent one day in the
designer's “studio” (actually a room in a small apartment, on a hot
day with no A/C and children in tow) working on the final changes. The
computer-generated master was sent out to copy and bind.
The team described our work and showed the book at statewide conferences
and community events, including a Women and Families Health Fair at
the local Cambodian temple.
(The Last Week)
Thinking and writing All participants were asked to briefly reflect
on the work. The learners were given a few simple questions to respond
to in order to do this. We are all proud and amazed at the audience
response and how powerful and professional our book was.
the Spiral Model used in developing this student
action research project.
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