HESAL Director, Dr. Don Lafreniere and Dr. Richelle Winker (MTU Sociologist) were recognized this week by the Dean Hemmer of the College of Sciences and Arts and for their creative, out-of-the-box approach to providing students with an experiential/service-learning opportunity.
In Fall 2019, students in two classes, Dr. Winkler's ‘SS4700 Communities and Research’ and Dr. Lafreniere's ‘SS4050/5050 Advanced GIS’, worked together on a project to conduct research to inform decision-making related to applying the 'Safe Routes to School' program to Houghton. This is a national program that promotes walking and biking to school in conjunction with safety education, infrastructure improvements, traffic enforcement, and incentives.
In the project, students analyzed current practices associated with students getting to and from Houghton schools, assessed the level of community interest in the goals of the Safe Routes program, determined potential issues associated with pursuing those goals. The goal was to provide community members with a solid base of data to inform decisions related to the Safe Routes program. Neither class could have conducted the research independently as well as they did through collaboration. Students in ‘Communities and Research’ could and did collect data through surveys, interviews, public meetings, and meetings with school and city officials (as that class focused on methodologies for accomplishing such tasks) but they could not perform the spatial analysis at a level needed to be useful. On the other hand, students in ‘Advanced GIS’ could perform the desired spatial analysis but they were not in a position to engage stakeholders at the level required to get this project going.
Winkler and Lafreniere came up with the idea of collaboration well before the semester started. They proactively scheduled their classes in overlapping time slots, which allowed students in the two classes to meet together for 50 minutes each week. The small class sizes--seven students were enrolled in one class and eight in the other—meant the group was small enough to keep everyone fully engaged.
All data and the final report are available on the Houghton Safe Routes to School website. The project also resulted in the establishment of a group to address the actions in the report called the Houghton Safe Routes to School Core Planning team.
Dean Hemmer praised their work as “an innovative way to integrate the work from two different courses into an exciting community research project.” He continued, “It is wonderful when Michigan Tech can give back to the community while simultaneously giving our students interesting and relevant research opportunities.”
Students saw extraordinary benefits; in addition to the typical course work, they learned from each other. Students in “Communities and Research” learned a good deal about spatial analysis using GIS and the “Advanced GIS” students learned a lot about how to conduct community-engaged research. Because of this synergy, both see the potential for implementing these kinds of collaborations in a variety of disciplines.
This week Geospatial Research Scientist Daniel J. Lizzadro-McPherson presented a paper at the Underwater Cultural Resources Public Access and Research Conference. Daniel's presentation examined how climate change, rising lake levels, and severe storm events are significantly impacting shores on Michigan's Great Lakes. Watch the video above from MLive to see the impacts of shoreline erosion on lakeside communities. The HESAL lab is assisting researchers, the public, and local agencies to plan and develop sustainably by using historical aerial imagery in a GIS to study historical shoreline change and identify areas that are at high risk of erosion. You can explore our work on this project in this interactive web-mapping application.
Students working on the Michigan Miners at Home and Work: Digitizing, Mapping, and Sharing Employee Records project recently visited the Michigan Tech Archives to take a tour and get acquainted with the employee records they will be scanning and transcribing.
These employee records are vast! They currently take up many shelves of storage in the archives. In addition to making these records available online for researchers, students, community members, and anyone interested, this project will also allow the archivists to move the physical records into deeper storage and free up the more readily accessible shelf space for other highly requested materials that are not online yet. This also provides a safer way to access these documents as it restricts over-handling of the materials.
Students also got a chance to take an in-depth look at the actual employee cards with archivists and project directors. These Calumet and Hecla Mining Company employee records have a host of work and personal information and will be a valuable resource to researchers and students. Students are currently training with the document scanner and are eager to start! Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter pages for more updates as this project grows.