Since 2007, fourth and fifth graders (hereafter, researchers) from a local elementary school have been collaborating with CPRAT, using participatory action research to create positive changes in their school. Through artistic expression and discussions around community, education and diversity, researchers created the “We Are Powerful” mural during the summer of 2009. Additional mural support was provided by art4change, housed at Gavilan College. The mural is an example of the changes these researchers are making in their school and community. Change 4 Good researchers then assessed the “We Are Powerful” mural to see if it addressed their original problem definition. They determined that other students did not feel connected to the mural so they conducted focus groups to incorporate student, school staff, and community stories about making a change in the community. They designed a mural based on these stories and in the summer of 2012, they painted the mural “Maplewood Stories.” The researchers then surveyed the school and community about that mural and learned that teachers felt least connected to the image representing “struggle.” This was so important to the researchers that they decided to conduct more focus groups asking about a more unifying theme: people’s hopes and dreams for the school and the community. Over the summer of 2015, the researchers painted the mural “Hopes and Dreams of the Maplewood Community,” which was based on responses from a third set of focus groups. In 2016 the researchers surveyed the school and community to learn if the mural represented the community’s hopes and dreams. Researchers continue to meet once a week to identify issues in their school and community as they determine what to research and act upon.
Graduate student coordinator: Jesica Fernández
The collaboration was a "photovoice project" that included residents taking pictures of their neighborhoods, writing narratives about their pictures, having conversations, and developing themes that describe their neighborhood. Based on their pictures, they determined their themes to be: historical and ecological preservation, community pride, and social justice. This 7-week examination turned into a year-long project, as residents decided to continue meeting so that they could plan actions to take within their community, based on the themes of their pictures. Some actions were the creation of a calendar that included historical information about their community, and community exhibitions of their photographs and narratives at the library, farmer's market, and the county building. The goals were to increase the sense of community for residents and the facilitation of a stronger place identity, which our participants viewed as important to effectively engage in other forms of community-based action.