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Week Four

 

By noon on Tuesday, September 30th, please list and briefly describe several team-projects you’re getting especially interested in.  Are there particular skills you hope to learn and/or utilize within your team?  Do your ideas in these regards relate to any of Putnam’s insights in Better Together?

12 Responses to “9/30 Reading Reflections”

  1. Luke Eastman says:

    Here are some projects I would be very interested in:

    – Interviewing the elderly generation, getting their perspectives on the past Starksboro, and their feelings on the transition to the present state (I personally am not intimidated by the elderly, and find I can get along with them fairly well)

    – Interviewing older highschoolers, college kids, and young professionals on their feelings about their futures in relation to Starsksboro.

    Those two projects are the two I’m most excited about. Unfortunately, I don’t quite know how those culminate in a way that can be turned over to the town in a meaningful way. The only thing I can think of is a StoryCorps type of thing, where these stories are available to the public, and then can be continued through a computer at the library or something along those lines.

    These projects relate to Better Together in the emphasis on face-to-face interaction. First, we will engage in an intimate situation with the interviewees, then hopefully we can get Starksboro residents to dedicate themselves to the cause through one-on-one conversations with as many different groups as we can (a time-consuming activity). Admittedly, I have trouble seeing how the storytelling project would catch on to all of Starksboro and sustain itself.

  2. Chester Harvey says:

    I have two ideas for projects in Starksboro. One of the most striking geographical features of the town is the central forested region, much of which is conserved as part of the Lewis Creek Wildlife Management Area. This area seems to be a regular topic of conversation among Starksboro residents, and is highly pertinent to the town planning process. Starksboro needs to consider the role of conservation as a land management strategy in the coming years, and there are likely to be advocates for both expansion and relief of conservation practices. Although voices for conservation seem to be the loudest in public forums, Starksboro planners must also consider the land’s heritage as a natural and financial resource. I’m interesting in seeing what Starksboro residents, especially those who live adjacent to this ‘central region’ or own land within it, have to say about this land. What stories are being lost about its past use and settlement? This project could potentially be presented using interactive cartography to demonstrate the places around and within this area that people are speaking about.
    I am also interested in working with the second and third grade class at Starksboro’s Robinson elementary school. I think this class provides a unique opportunity to reach a diverse cross-section of the Starksboro population: newcomers, old timers, older siblings who go to high school in Bristol, and maybe even grandparents who knew Starksboro in a different time. Teaching these students how to interview their family and neighbors would allow them to teach themselves town history, and would certainly provide one of the most intimate perspectives on life in Starksboro we could hope to recover. However, this project would require significant time spent with kids at Robinson. Furthermore, it would present the logistical challenges of teaching interviewing skills to young children, loaning recording equipment to them, or having interviewees visit the school for a co-interview by elementary and Middlebury students together. However, the project would instill a fantastic sense of ownership in the project among residents, and would allow it to continue easily past this semester.

  3. Lindsay Patterson says:

    I am really excited about the possibility of working with the Robinson School. As we have talked about in class, the fact that they are inviting us into the classroom is unusual and a unique opportunity. I would love to connect with the youth in the community and also think that by connecting with the students, we may also have a chance to connect with their families. As Chester mentionned, if we can teach the children how to interview their families, they will benefit from acquiring a very useful skill, as well as learning more about their family’s history, and we will also benefit from the information they gather. I am interested in learning more about the Robinson School: it’s mission, presence in the town, and vision for the future. I think that the town takes pride in their school, and therefore feel like a project on the Robinson School would be well received and appreciated by the people of Starksboro.

  4. Max Kanter says:

    -After learning about the Mill House Inn, I became particularly interested in doing a piece about the spot. This would not only involve interviewing the owners, but also other townsfolk. It would be interesting to learn about famous guests, the evolution of the inn, whats for breakfast in the mornings, and why the Inn is a cherished place in Starksboro.
    -I am interested in interviewing the young generation of college-aged students. Learning about how they identify with Starksboro, why they want to return, why they wanted to leave, all are important in knowing the community thoroughly.

    Honestly, I am excited about most of the ideas we have discussed as a class. I hope to work on my photographic skills through the process. I am very interested in photography, and I think that the pictures we take could definitely enhance our final project. There are so many aspects of the town that could be captured through photography. Having photos of each person we interview, each place we go, and everything special about the Starksboro community would be greatly appreciated by the town, or so I hope.

  5. Nathan Zucker says:

    After receiving a fascinating tour of the Town Forest today, I feel inspired to design a project that explores conservation within Starksboro. The town clearly has many different ecosystems to protect, from lowland spruce and tamarack swamps to the maple and birch forests that mark the transition into the Green Mountains. Although this area is clearly of ecological value, practical considerations must also be made about the need for logging, especially in an era of high energy prices and increased emphasis on local sourcing. I would like to explore the tension that this issue creates; after witnessing the beauty of Vermont’s uplands during early fall, I cannot help but be fascinated by their fate.

    Furthermore, I would like to delve into the human history of the area. As Robert explained, Vermont was only 20% forested in the late 19th century, compared to over 80% today. Much of the town’s core nature reserve was studded with farms, houses, and sugaring shacks. Old wells and foundations are found throughout the second-growth forest today, and these transported me back to a different era in time. The incredible transition that New England’s land has undergone has always interested me, and it raises several important questions. Is relying on a tourist economy, rather than local manufacturing and farming, actually sustainable? Is environmental damage being curtailed by returning the North to its natural state, or is it simply being moved to other parts of the world? Finally, what are the economic advantages and disadvantages of allowing the land to regenerate as forest? How does this affect local residents?

  6. Lindsay Patterson says:

    On our drive back from Starksboro, a few of us had an interesting conversation about maybe a new way of approaching our projects in Starksboro. Because we got a taste of the rich stories that the people have and are willing to share with us, we thought a possibility for a project could be to do something similar to what Story Corps has done. It might be a neat project to gather as many stories as we can from people in the town, identify common themes, and then create a book with all of their stories with supplemental images. We could also compile all of the interviews onto a cd and put it at the end of the book for people to listen to if they were interested. We could organize the book thematically, and introduce each section with more historical information surrounding the particular topic. Obviously, this is just an idea, but a few of us were talking and thought it may be a way for us to creatively tie together all of the stories we are going to hear. Another positive aspect to this sort of model is that we would have something to present and give to the people of Starksboro when at the end of our semester. Just a thought…

  7. Alena Giesche says:

    After my trip to the Town Forest, I realized the importance of land to the town of Starksboro. It matters in different ways for the dairy farms with open pasture than it does for the sugar-makers who look to the forest; older generations with memory of the land being used one way and younger generations or newer residents with only the image of the land being used the way it is now; for people who need firewood and people who don’t and would rather see forests; people who want Starksboro to stay the sleepy town it has always been and people who want to develop the land. It is seen differently by someone who lives right in town, on a class-4 road, or in a mobile home park. I would love to do a project related to this theme. I think it could go many ways, but here’s some examples of a few that I envisions.
    It would be interesting, for example, to get the generational perspective on land. The land of Starksboro used to be divided into smaller school districts. There are some older residents who walked to one-room school houses in these districts. These stories (answering questions such as: what was the walk like to school? how many people were in your class? what did you study? what kind of projects did you do? what were school lunches like? what did you do afterschool? what kinds of outdoor activities did you do with friends?) compared with the stories of the Robinson school children today would be a fascinating picture of cultural transition affected by a geographic shift that changed educational methods and land-use. Another idea would be to delve into the history of sugarmaking in Starksboro. We could compare old sites with new sites, old techniques and new techniques, stories about a particularly successful or unsuccessful year told by several people. I could envision many still photographs for the presentation of this project, as well as the audio interviews to narrate along.
    A project examining land use and transitions of land use would be interesting as well. The town forest, for example, used to be open farmland in the 40s. The ecological transition of this area along with human remnants of the past still present amidst the new growth is so intriguing. I’m sure many of these kinds of sites exist around Starksboro. I would love to get the stories about how the places were settled in the first place, how they were used, and why they were finally abandoned. This project would be invaluable to a town that is currently planning how it wants to develop its community and preserve its character at the same time. Having these stories in the forefront would provide a real historical perspective on change in Starksboro.
    Well, these are just a few elaborations on many ideas that I have. I feel like just about anything would be an interesting project…

  8. Jeremy Cline says:

    I would be excited about working on any of several projects:
    -The school and the perspective of children in the town really interests me. I find children so fascenating and creative anyway, but it would be great to see how they relate to the place where they live. I find Vermont children so healthy and happy whenever I see them and interact with them, and I want to know their secret . . . .
    -Doing something to compare the perspective of the young and old, or change over generations would be very interesting as well.
    -I also like the balance Starksboro seems to have, or experiment with, between its small-town life nestled in the hills, and the larger world.

  9. Ian Sanders-Fleming says:

    There are so many fantastic ideas coming out of this discussion, I thought I’d throw some suggestions to ideas already out there: Chester, Nathan, Alena, and whoever else, I love the talks about conservation, and planning land use. One aspect of conservation that hasn’t been breached is the conservation of farmland in the town. In the interview with Chris Runcie, we discussed a conflict of interest surrounding the town farmland. The way we heard it, many older families were interested developing the strip of farmland west of the Town, in order to keep town growth centralized and inviting. Many others, including Chris (and Janus) are heavily invested in keeping that land in farming for farm use, providing local food, and maintaining at least a small reminder of the farming characteristic of the town. Discussing the struggle to maintain (or abolish) farmland should be considered with the conservation of the farm- we could effectively paint a portrait of the geography that Starksboro is trying to achieve, or at least the direction in which the town is headed.
    Generational differences of town perspective are a great way to map changes in the town. Why don’t we also get the middle ground people, who are out of school, have been here their whole life, or have come into town? These are people who have had to figure out how to live here. We could ask them what compromises/sacrifices were necessary to live there. For people who have to work outside of town, do they feel part of the town? For those who work there, how did they pull that off? I keep hearing a subtle but consistent comment from folks that those who commute aren’t (able to be) active and meaningful members of the community.

  10. Deborah Wakefield says:

    I’d really like to work on a project about things that might be forgotten like town traditions and school houses. Perhaps even a history of the church in town. When we interviewed Bill and Celine, Bill mentioned that he attended church in town as a young, single man because that was what was expected of him. I’d really like to explore more about the church.
    I also love hearing the stories of the elderly. They just have so many stories to tell. Plus they give a great insight to how the town has changed.
    Another idea of mine is doing something focusing on farmers. I’ve recently discovered how amazing farmers are, and I would love to explore this topic more.
    Or perhaps exploring the idea of raising children to leave, and how we can use our project to get the younger generation more interested in becoming the future of Starksboro.

  11. Hillary Gerardi says:

    In Starksboro’s Art and Soul Application, they mentioned the huge importance that farms have played and continue to play in their community. Like so many of my peers, I have a huge amount of interest in collecting the stories of the older generations and hearing their interpretations of how the town has changed over the years. I could be very flexible in where my focus will be this semester (as Aylie points out, almost everything seems to interest us), however I do have a lot of interest in learning about the role of farming in town, and how the landscape has changed (for example from farmland into the town forest).
    Taking the stories of the elderly, about the changes the town has undergone, I think it is especially pertinent given the current planning process to start a discussion about where Starksboro residents see the future of their town. Especially in light of the changes older residents have seen occur, it would be interesting to see where they think the town is headed, and especially if they see farming in the future of the town.
    As Deborah reminds us, the Coons noted that they felt like they were raising their kids to leave; I think it would be interesting to talk to several generations about the town’s future, farming and especially a question for the young folks: do they plan to stay? (and farm?)

  12. Tucker Levy says:

    Because of my position as a resident of the town of Middlebury, the son of a staff member of and a student at the Middlebury College, I have developed a strong bond with the Champlain Valley. Whilst my situation resembles that of a college-aged Starksboro resident who has left the town to continue their education, the two are clearly unique given the stark differences between them, which include the larger population presence of the college in Middlebury and the small population of Starksboro. With that said, my hometown of Weybridge is quite similar to Starksboro in size, proximity to a hub town where a union high school is located, quality of elementary school and composition (there are many farmers, although there are far fewer sugarmakers, and the demographics seem quite similar although I haven’t checked any of the data). Because of these similarities, my main interest in Starksboro is to investigate the relationship between the town and people who have moved from the town to pursue their interests (whether they be financial, scholarly, etc.). In order for this project to be properly realized, high school students who are (or are not) thinking about going away, people who have gone away and not yet come back, and people who have gone away and come back must all be interviewed. I would personally like to see this project culminate in a radio broadcast. I think that this issue is crucial to the future of this small town and it seems that it has not yet been thought about deeply.
    In their Art and Soul application, it’s mentioned that the town wishes to build a stronger community. At the moment, it seems like Starksboro, and small towns like it are stuck in a negative feedback loop in which the children of the community are continually forced out, primarily for financial reasons, more and more as time passes. I believe that the sense of community can flourish by turning this into a more positive feedback loop in which the children of both new and multigenerational families feel they can remain in or come back to Starksboro at any point in their lives.

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