Week 3: Observations of the Community/Detroit – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 3: Observations of the Community/Detroit

I’ve been working with VEJ for 2.5 weeks now, and I’ve gotten to know their programs and structure a lot better during my time here. Because VEJ is so small, I’ve been given a lot of responsibilities off the bat that I’m not entirely sure I am qualified for, like making a youth ecology curriculum. I’ve never made a curriculum, and I’ve never taught children before in my life, but I guess in the world where you only have one part-time employee and one part-time contracted staff and one full-time intern, you just have to put trust in the other people in the organization to get their part of the work done. So I made do, and did a lot of research into other organizations and other youth ecology programs.

Hope House Garden, Voices for Earth Justice

This photo is of VEJ’s urban garden, which is located at Hope House in Brightmoor. I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent in the garden in maintenance/upkeep, harvesting, seeding, transplanting, etc. The majority of the garden’s structure and crop plan was developed by my supervisor. She had a lot of freedom in what she envisioned for the garden because of the size of the organization and the division of labor within it. It’s been cool to learn how she developed the space to have different “modes” of gardening to showcase that there isn’t just one right way to grow plants. For example, there are raised beds on the right, in-ground beds in the middle, and on the left (you can’t see in the picture) there’s a Hugelkultur bed.


The garden is right on the street corner and adjacent to a neighborhood park, so there’s a bit of foot traffic around us. When we’re working in the garden, random strangers will stop by and ask us what we’re doing, or tell us about their own garden, or just say hi. And the kids from up the block know our work schedule in the garden and will always come join us to help around. When I’m at EcoWorks gardening (because VEJ and EcoWorks exchange office space for gardening labor), more often than not the passerby’s on the street say hello or ask what I’m doing. This isn’t the most earth shattering observation, but I’ve just noticed that people here are much more open to having conversations or just greeting others. I’m just think about being in Ann Arbor where I could be doing the same thing, just gardening or hanging out outside, and nobody really goes out of their way to say hi and everyone’s so caught up in their own head. I don’t know, it’s been a significant enough difference for me to notice it so I thought I’d share this observation.

1 thought on “Week 3: Observations of the Community/Detroit”

  1. Josephine Kate Graham

    Go you, Lydia! That is awesome you are designing your own curriculum! Can’t wait to hear about how it turns out!

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