SPEA is well known for its involvement in the Bloomington community. One great example of this partnership is taking place this semester with Burney Fischer’s Urban Forest Management Course, for which I am a Teaching Assistant. The class is composed of both undergraduate and graduate students who are involved in Environmental Science, Management, and Policy. It is a special topics course for graduate students and a permanent course for undergrads.
This semester, Burney and I developed a pilot project in which students were placed in mixed groups and assigned a Bloomington Neighborhood that will be the focus of a case study designed to analyze the neighborhood’s urban forest. The purpose, couched in service learning, is two-fold: to allow students the invaluable experience of analyzing and interpreting data, and to offer Bloomington neighborhoods and the Bloomington City Forester recommendations for improving the city’s trees.
Student groups have approached the project with biological and social analysis. Burney and I were involved in biological data collection through the 2007 inventory of the city’s street trees, and this information was provided to students by neighborhoods. The data included information such as the species, relative age, and condition of street trees. In addition, students have gone beyond street tree data and considered the urban forest population that is composed of private trees on residential properties.
Social data is an important consideration for students, as well. Groups were encouraged to meet with neighborhood associations to begin to gather the data. Several groups surveyed residents of their neighborhood, requesting information on the citizens’ involvement with the care of their trees, and their desires for planning the future urban forest. Students quickly found that Bloomington Neighborhood Associations and citizens are highly involved in the care and maintenance of their urban trees.
So the case studies are being wrapped up here at the end of the semester and it turns out that we have gotten some press coverage over our work with the Neighborhoods! Last Friday, the Herald Times reported on one of our group’s organizational efforts to have Lee Huss, the City Forester, plant trees in Green Acres for Arbor Day and for the whole neighborhood to observe. The day was a big success and the story ran on the front page of the Down to Earth section in the Herald Times; check it out at: http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/stories/2008/04/25/earth.qp-2501124.sto