The Homestretch

As we race towards the finish line of our project with Riley Park, we aim to finish strong in these last few weeks, with the hope of attaining a graceful dismount upon completion.

In this week’s group work, we reflected on the progress so far on our project and what we have left to do. In identifying moments of significant change individually, and then by comparing as a group, we discovered commonalities in the highs and lows of our attitudes and feelings of certainty (or, in many cases, uncertainty) at different times through the semester so far. As we are past the halfway point now, we also laid out plans for wrapping up the project with a graceful dismount.

Moments of Significant Change workshop

During our tutorial session last week, each person was asked to answer the question individually, and silently “What are my Moments of Significant Change?”. After some time had passed to reflect and write our individual moments, we were then asked, to reflect on the change in the following over the course of the semester and the project:

  1. Facts, Knowledge or Skills,
  2. Emotions, Values, Attitudes and Beliefs

 Upon evaluating these variables, we were individually asked to chart a graph over the shared x-value of Time, the variables outlined above as functions of y. 

After this time of silent reflection and answering, we were asked to regroup with our teammates, share and discuss each of our Moments of Significant Change. Following that, we worked together in a group activity, to superimpose our individual graphs onto a group graph, and compare the trajectories.

 

Graph 1. Group chart for Time vs. “Facts, Knowledge or Skills”.

 

Graph 2. Group chart for Time vs. “Emotions, Values, Attitudes and Beliefs”.

In the process of identifying significant moments, our group realized that we had similar feelings over the course of our project. In general, our group fell into a cohesive rhythm upon getting together at our first LFS 350 group meeting; we foresaw that our group would work well together based on identified individual strengths and weaknesses, and thus confidence in ability grew in our team.

After our first  Community Partner (CP) meeting, however,  we collectively experienced feelings of uncertainty and confusion as we realized the project proposal provided on the LFS 350 website was significantly different than that which Joanne provided us. Deciding to roll with the punches, we clarified the best we could the deliverables that the community partners wanted to gain from this project, and set out as a group to draft our proposal with this new information.

Meeting as a group to discuss the draft proposal increased feelings of understanding of the project and solidarity amongst group members, leading to a growth in positive feelings. Increasing feelings of confidence and assuredness of plan continued as we discussed our proposal and project development with Carrie, our TA, as we felt supported in our ideas for the project that would suit our needs and requirements for the course. This feeling was validated upon receiving a decent grade (32/40) and feedback for our submitted proposal. 

Feelings of positivity took a slight dip after our second CP meeting, whereby we once again felt confused at the changing priorities of the community partners, a phenomenon we now know to be ‘scope change’. Attempting to intake new information and goals from the community partners in the moment, and attempting to individually process  how these new goals could fit into the developing project proved challenging, as we could not discuss this information as a team, and thus, faced moments where a team member said something such as,”yes, this is something we could possibly incorporate into the project”, only to be followed by a rebuttal by a fellow teammate that said “well given x,y, and z, I’m not sure it is feasible to incorporate this aspect into the project”. Such moments proved difficult to work out as a team in front of the community partners, whom we were trying to accommodate as much as possible. At this meeting, we were also confronted with different communication styles between our LFS 350 team, the International House of Scholars students, and the community partners, where much adaptation and clarification was needed to fully understand new proposals.

 

This exercise in graphing the change in our feelings and knowledge and skill base helped unify our group and provide each other with confidence that difficult moments were not faced alone. We also discovered that we have similar expectations for the outcome of our project, making success seem more attainable and giving us a chance to discuss what we thought success would look like.

Weekly Objectives

Week 7, February 26 – March 4:

    • Submit Blog post #2 on Feb. 26.
    • Discuss Moments of Significant Change in tutorial, as a group.
    • Revise Blog post #2, based on feedback from TA, Carrie.
      • Achievement: We improved group communication and noticed similarities in our attitudes toward the project so far. Identifying moments of significance helped us in understanding the project’s direction and struggles we had faced. Reflecting on these moments of shared triumph and tribulation, we felt ready to participate in our next meeting with Joanne with a sense of direction and to build off of previous achievements we had accomplished over the semester thus far.

Week 8, March 5 – March 11:

    • Monday March 6th: attend third meeting with Joanne and community partners to discuss project progression.
    • Friday morning, March 10th: submit to Joanne an information poster for the Education Plan, to be displayed at LMNH farmer’s market.  
    • Friday morning, March 10th: submit to Joanne the final revisions of information sheet and application form for potential workshop hosts.
    • Friday evening, March 10th: submit Blog post #3.
    • Saturday March 11th, 9:30 am – 2 pm: plan for three of our group members to participate in LMNH farmer’s market, at Riley Park, to aid in donation station and to survey community members about interest in leading a workshop.
    • Continue to add to contact list of community members whom could potentially host workshops.
      • Achievement: Upon reflecting on the critiques given by our TA, Carrie, for Blog post #2, we were able to come together as a group through our private Facebook group page and brainstorm ideas for the revision of Blog post #2. In doing so, we were able to vastly improve our grade for Blog post #2, from an 8/16 to a 14.5/16.
        • In facing this failing grade, we connected particularly to the example of the Chinese firm’s internal “stock market”, where the infrastructure of this stock market allowed the firm to learn the true opinions and trajectories of the launch of their new store, where overwhelmingly project leads of the firm believed that the store would not open on time. This internal infrastructure is analogous to the chance for our LFS 350 group to revise our blogs for the final grade–allowing us to “fail” (e.g.receive an 8/16 score) without actually failing.  
        • Another idea from this podcast that rang true for our group in the face of this poor grade was the quote by Gary Klein, “the standard line is that you fail often to get smarter, and you fail in productive ways, as a way to build mental models” (Cohn, 2015). In much the same way as the internal infrastructure of the Chinese firm, we believe this quote captures the meaning behind the revision process of LFS 350 blogs, whereby we are allowed to “fail” in such a way that will enable us to grow.
      • Achievement: Five of our six group members attended our third meeting with Joanne and two community members that are involved in the Riley Park Project. After the meeting, our group discussed the success of conversations we had just had and we all agreed that it was our best meeting yet. We were able to discuss all items on our agenda without getting sidetracked, and clear communication was a trend throughout.
        • In reflecting back on previous meetings, we realized that although we may have struggled with communication at the beginning, the different perspectives of members at meetings gave rise to more meaningful conversation and connections. K. W. Phillips discusses this phenomenon in Scientific American (2014), recognizing that although diverse groups may be more challenging to work with at the start of a project, frequently displaying a slow up-start, these diverse groups lead to more productive discussion later on. The various perspectives offered at community meetings allowed us to find solutions to problems that we would not have found by ourselves. Problems with communication that we had faced at the beginning had smoothed themselves out with practice, and the resulting conversation was fluid, opening up the possibility for learning from each other in new ways with greater group cohesion.

Week 9, March 12 – March 18:

  • Monday March 13: complete the contact list shared in the LMNH folder of community members whom could potentially host workshops.
  • Draft an outreach email to be sent to potential workshop hosts, and send it to Joanne for approval.
  • Those group members that did not participate in farmers market will carry out outreach to community contacts for workshop host’s first via email, and then by phone for those community contacts that do not respond.
  • Revise Blog post #3, based on feedback from TA, Carrie.

Week 10, March 19 – 25:

  • Conduct final outreach; follow up with email contacts.
  • Familiarize group with instructions for Final Project Report.

Week 11, March 26 – April 1:

  • Begin drafting Final Project Report.
  • Begin drafting Blog post #4.
  • Create Final Project Presentation.
  • Create Infographic.

Week 12, April 2 – April 8:

  • April 2: submit Blog post #4.
  • April 3: Final Project Presentation.
  • April 3: Infographic due.
  • Continue drafting Final Project Report.

Week 13, April 10 – April 16:

  • April 10: submit Final Project Report as a group.

Planning for a Successful Dismount

Our weekly objectives our now outlined to the end of the semester, giving us a clear vision of where we are headed and what we would like to achieve. While we continue to check things off our list, we will be sure to wrap up our project neatly and, hopefully, successfully. As previously mentioned, we have discovered that our communication skills and styles have improved and adapted while working both within our group and with our community partner.

These newly improved skills will help us to finish strong in April. In particular, we hope to debrief our project with our community partners and clarify any remaining project points that Joanne might like us to improve upon. Additionally, we may also create a sheet listing the foreseeable “next steps” for LMNHS Riley Park projects as a resource for future LFS 350 groups to launch from. Continuing regular group meetings in person and discussion through our Facebook group will aid us in ensuring all aspects of our project are polished and done as thoroughly as possible.

Collectively, we have all agreed that success will come with a sense of accomplishment for all group members. We hope to feel as if we have helped further the Riley Park Community Garden and Fieldhouse initiative, and complete all deliverables. We want to finish this project with no loose ends and be on the same page with Joanne.

With these final steps in mind, we eagerly look forward to crossing the finish line of our project with Riley Park, and handing off our baton to the next wave of LFS 350 students. Don’t miss next week, which is our final and closing blog post. We’ll discuss our Moment of Significance for the LFS 350 course, and reflect on the overall lessons we have gained from this opportunity to engage in community-based approach to experiential learning References

          Cohn, G. (Producer). 2015, May 20. Failure is your friend: A Freakonomics radio rebroadcast [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from, http://freakonomics.com/podcast/failure-is-your-friend- a-freakonomics-radio-rebroadcast/.

          Phillips, K. W. (2014). How Diversity Makes Us Smarter. Scientific American. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/.

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