Before Spring Break, Drake, Caitlin, Gabby, and I had the opportunity to get some hands-on experience in Grundy County. Dixon Myers, the head of the outreach program, was gracious enough to bring us along to visit some of his old friends in the county. Our first trip brought us to the home of a family for whom Dixon (with the help of students) had built a handicap-accessible bathroom. This family, who has a son with seemingly severe mental difficulties was in obvious need of this improvement and–quite frankly– I’m unsure of how they managed before Dixon took this initiative. It was amazing to see how Dixon was able to fit himself into the culture of Grundy, taking on the nuances of social interaction and societal norms that might as first seem trivial. It was soon apparent however, that he had a very unique gift– one which allows him to help the surrounding community without the sense of condescension or feeling of charity which so often accompanies even the best of efforts.
Seeing this family has had a meaningful impact on my own perspective; it was obvious that they struggled. The mother was in a wheelchair and the father was beginning to show signs of dementia. At the same time, while talking to the family, you truly got the feeling that they were not only content with their situation, but indeed felt blessed. While their son was not easy to take care of, the smiles and laughter that he gave them was worth so much more than I could even fully comprehend.
Next we visited the home of Grundy County’s unofficial historian– a man who has consistently kept records, documents, and artifacts of his home county. This was the original purpose of our trip; Dixon had found a piece of sled-rock while tearing down the Sewanee Inn and– much to his surprise noticed the writing signed by his friend. On this rock, the man had written the price of milk and the number of local people on “relief”– from 50 years ago! It was truly a remarkable discovery. This artifact also brought p an interesting fact about Grundy County; prior to the last election, Grundy has always voted Democratic in the presidential election. According to our host, this was a direct result of FDR and his social programs– an endeavor that the county never forgot.
After our chat, we got to see the astounding collection that this man had collected throughout the years– everything imaginable! Unfortunately, I only took pictures of the most shocking of items: a collection of KKK objects. I’m going to attach them, but I hope everyone keeps in mind that this man was not a member of the organization, dad no affiliation with it, and has items in his collection which far surpass these materials in importance and interest.
The teachers at Coalmont have not decided on the date for their fun run as of this afternoon. The date should be known soon. The students are excited about the possibility of having zombies chase after them during the run as an incentive to keep them moving toward the finish line. There is a possibility the zombies will spray the kids with colors (similar to a color run) when they get close enough to them.
Kristin and I had a great time getting to know all the students at Coalmont this week. We are slowly learning all of their names! haha So far, we only have about 20 to learn, which shouldn’t take too long.
On Wednesday, we rotated around the gym to introduce ourselves on a more personal level and get to know the students by joining in on the multiple games already started. Most of the kids were already active, so it didn’t seem necessary to initiate anything because we want to do activities they enjoy. I was super proud of Kristin for getting out of her comfort zone and playing volleyball! She also helped girls design a dance for a 4-H competition. I joined a dodgeball game and was quickly reminded that this was a serious battle: middle school boys can throw hard and don’t have much mercy! haha Needless to say, everyone worked up a sweat and got in a solid 60 minutes of exercise.
Today, we actually introduced ourselves to the entire group and gathered their ideas for getting ready for the run in a few weeks. They have lots of ideas for exercising and healthy snacks, which was exciting. One of the students recommended the “lana drill” as a group activity. This automatically caught my attention because I didn’t know how to do the lana drill. I wanted to try it, especially since Lana was there to show everyone how to do it. After watching Lana gather the kids, I am postive Kristin and I should invest in whistles! Anyway, the Lana drill is 25 minutes of suicides and sprinting up and down the ball court. I now think they were joking. haha Everyone warned us to change the warm-up plan, but the drill might become a regular event! All of the students still had enough energy to play basketball for the next hour! Watch out: The rebels will be ready for their run!
My goal for next week: make a lay-up. Kristin’s goal: a painless cart-wheel.
Our starting weeks at north have been an exciting foray into the Elementary school! The first week, we spent the entire hour playing one of the children’s favorite games– floor hockey! the kids were extremely exciting and enthusiastic about the game and everyone seemed to have a really great ( and tiring!) time…Including us!
Yesterday, the teachers at north brought the kids up to do some walking at Sewanee! All of the students were thoroughly impressed and in awe of Sewanee’s beauty–some even thought it was modeled after Harry Potter! After some walking, we ate dinner with them in Mcclurg. You can see how excited they were to try our dining hall (the girl in the middle somehow snuck 5 ice cream cones… she’ll be sitting front-row at our diabetes program…)
Today, we thought we’d continue with the Harry Potter theme and try something a little less conventional with the kids. Bringing out gowns with us, we devised a magical game of Quidditch. After giving the kids some hockey sticks (their brooms). we set some basic rules and let them go at it! While some of the kids had a bit of difficulty staying on their brooms, it seemed like a resounding success in the end and the kids really put in a good amount of energy!
After Quidditch, We tried our hand at dodge-ball– a classical favorite. Unfortunately the set up of the room made for a less than active game as the kids struggled to recapture their lost balls. With this is mind, we concocted a new game: Goose Hunter (patent pending). We quickly found out that the general concept of the game (one “hunter” with the balls, and the rest of the students as “geese” running back and forth from wall-to-wall) was based off the pool-favorite “sharks and minnows”. While this might pose problems in our trademarking of the game, the kids really enjoyed it! Within the first few rounds, most of the kids were huffing and puffing– there’s ganna be some happy parents tonight!
At the end of the period, we rewarded the kids who had completed their “at-home” calenders. Since all of the children were great, we gave them all sugar-free candy ( the ones who had remembered their calendars got some extra). We hope the calendars will encourage the kids to stay active during their Spring Break next week!
–Chane and Hadlea
Today we met with Brian and Amble from UGA and talked about doing interviews to augment their video projects. They are creating two videos: one will showcase the collaboration between the two universities and the other will display the wetlands project that is currently in the planning stages on campus. Brian gave us the game plan for doing some interviews around campus about people’s feelings towards this plan. The interviews will ask for main questions:
1. Have you heard about wetlands being used to treat waste water and have you heard about Sewanee’s plan? 2. Ideally, what would you want out of a treatment system?
3. We ask them to rank what is most important out of a group of ideas: financial cost, drought protection, habitat, recreational areas, job creation, and water cleanliness.
4. How do you feel about using recylced water in our drinking water supply? And what would it take for you to be comfortable with this plan?
The goal of this survey is twofold. On the one hand we will be filming the interviews to provide video for the UGA team to use in their film. On the other hand we will be collecting valuable data for the planners of the wetlands project to use.
This past week marked the first full week that we all went to our respective schools! We have 2 volunteers per school, and are going to have those volunteers in these schools 2 days a week. Spring Break is coming up, but this week we will all be in the schools one day, and we are going to give the kids goals to keep the momentum going over the break!
Mary and I are volunteering in Tracy City Elementary. Last week, we were able to meet with Mrs. Garner (who I cannot say enough good things about…. this woman gets things done and maintains such a strong positive energy. She really is the reason we are as successful as we have been.) We also met the woman in charge of the physical component of LEAPS, an existing after school program, the PE teacher and another teacher who is going to help us establish ourselves in this new school. It is so encouraging to have people who are really on our side, and to feel so welcomed into these schools. The kids and the teachers are so enthusiastic, it really is contagious.
Our goals for Tracy City specifically are to set a date for the 1 mile Fun Run and Education Evening, to get our presentations for this evening solidified, and to make sure that we leave this kids eager for us to come back after our spring breaks. It has been a little discouraging that we have to go on our breaks so soon after really getting into the schools, but this project has taken a lot of organization, and time has really just flown by. Hopefully the students next semester will be able to build on the framework that we have established. It is imperative that we continue to put volunteers in these schools to actually work with the kids, and hopefully expand into grant writing. Without Sewanee volunteers, the kids activity level will stay exactly where it is. These teachers are doing an incredible job already, but I think fresh faces and a lower student:instructor ratio will make this program even more effective.
Mary and I will be going back to Tracy City tomorrow. I’m planning on making a paper chain with an activity written on each link, so that they can remove a link each day, do that activity, and have a visual reminder that we will be back!! We are also going to have a jump rope competition and encourage them to keep jumping rope over the break so that they can improve while we are gone. We are still working on the logistics of this, but we would like to offer a little prize to everyone who improves on their jump rope stamina over the break. We are also planning on including the Beyonce “Move Your Body” choreography because Beyonce makes everything better.
In this week’s edition of Household Energy Audits, we visited a charming residence and were able to provide helpful improvements to another local homeowner. Cindy’s home had comfortable rooms for her grandchildren, pleasant furnishings and a spacious back yard. In contrast to most homeowners, Cindy had already implemented energy-saving measures such as thermostat control, timed showers, and line-dry laundry. However, she still complained of drafts coming from door frames and window areas, and energy bills that went through the roof. Using our Blower-Door tester, we were able to pinpoint many of the leaks and seal them with either caulk or expanding foam. In addition, the larger frame-door gaps in the front and back doors were remedied by installing rubber weather strips. While the stuffed animals lining the doors were cute, an even cuter presence will be the added warmth her whole family will get from the new door seal! Cindy mentioned that she consistantly had to cut her hot water with cold, an issue we were able to meet by simple turning her central water heater down by about 10 degrees. On the issue of water usage, Cindy was already quite adept. However, we were able to augment her thriftiness by installing low-flow shower heads and sink nozzles. These provide adequate pressure for functionality and comfort, while noticeably reducing overall water use.
Since Cindy’s grandchildren are not always there, we suggested that she close heating vents in unused rooms. This is a simple step that can be done at home, usually even by those physically impaired. We were able to replace many of the home’s lightbulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL), which provide solid light coverage at a fraction of the energy cost.
For the long-term improvement of Cindy’s home, we suggested the installation of blow-in foam insulation in the attic space. While there was a large amount of family items stored in the attic, Cindy expressed a longstanding desire to have these items removed or placed elsewhere. Blow-in insulation is perfect for attic space that is already difficult to access (therefore only presenting heat inefficiency), and can drastically reduce monthly energy bills. By the time we had finished, Cindy was in high spirits, eager to implement more energy-saving tips for her own home, and to spread the good news to her friends in the community. Another home improved, providing comfort and education to our valued local citizens!
The above picture is of the EYES building which was previously used as a county storage unit.
Week Two: We are making progress! In our second week of EYES, we began to understand the dynamics of the program: how it works, what is expected of the kids while they are there, the goals of the program, and our roles as a part of it. Everyone at EYES is warming up to us and beginning to accept us as a part of the program. As long as we stay true to the goal of ensuring the kids have a better future then they are happy to have us.
Problems: Some of the kids, as we expected, are attention starved. From the moment we arrive for the afternoon, they attach to us and demand our attention. Most of the children are outgoing and have huge personalities, but their academic understanding, in some cases, is not where it should be. Nutrition is also an issue. Though the program does what it can to provide snacks for the children, from what we’ve seen the snacks are, for the most part, salty crackers and sugary drinks. Lastly, we fear that the kids can’t see beyond S. Pittsburg and the fact that the reality that they are growing up in does not have to be their own. So, we want to show them the world outside of S. Pittsburg and inspire them to aim high in their goals. Most of these problems are fixable, and over time we hope to address some of them.
The Future: In the future we hope to show the kids some of what is outside S. Pittsburg. We are planning field trips to the Mountain for sporting events, Perpetual Motion, and hiking. We also hope to finish out the school year with one big field trip to Chattanooga. We also are planning fundraisers to cover the expenses of the field trips and to help lighten the load placed of the people who keep EYES running. Our last goal is our largest and most challenging because we want to begin the process of attaining a grant for EYES. This will involve countless hours of research and writing but we feel that a grant is the only way to ensure that EYES will have the funds necessary to provide for these kids.
We are all super excited for the upcoming weeks and hope to start planning field trips!
– Clarissa Medley