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Naturally Bridging the Digital Divide

July 5, 2018

By Jordyn Vandeleur, CTEP Member at Neighborhood House

Google images of ‘farming’ and you’ll find images of red barns, neat rows of crops, overalls, and pitchforks. Looking at these images I can imagine my grandparents  reminiscing on the good ol’ days and simpler times before all these gadgets and computers. Conversely, google images of ‘technology’ and you’re greeted with shimmering blue photos of circuit boards, 1s and 0s, and glowing blueprints suspended in thin air. These images bring to mind thoughts of science fiction and all the possibilities of the future. The contrast is stark. It’s difficult to imagine a melding of farming and nature in general and digital technology. However, our CTEP civic engagement project,  Naturally Bridging the Digital Divide, aimed to do just this..

We started out with hundreds of possible ideas for a summer camp introducing urban youth to and, after speaking with a number of potential partners, we finally settled on a week-long day camp focusing on urban agriculture and digital storytelling. Working with partners at Spark-Y, an indoor organic hydroponics farm, the University of Minnesota organic farm Cornercopia, and the U of M Campus Club, we planned outings to introduce the youth to the technology in urban farming as well as expand their knowledge of where food sources in the Twin Cities. On each excursion youth took DSLR cameras, and video equipment to collectfootage for a digital project at the end of the week.

Ten youth, ranging in age from 12 to 20, were recruited from Brian Coyle and SPNN and possessed varying degrees  of video and photo editing skills. The week comprised of four field trips: A hike at Hidden Falls, a tour of Spark-Y and harvesting of micro-greens, a tour of Cornercopia, and a tour and lunch at the UMN Campus Club. After each field trip youth returned to SPNN to edit the digital content they had collected throughout the excursion.

The week ended with furious editing and a showcase of projects. The ten youth worked in groups or alone to create both video projects (informational b-roll, interviews, comical clips, and even a short film) as well as photo essays and curated Instagram feeds documenting the week. The students showcase their work to staff from SPNN, who joined us in celebrating everyone’s hard work with cookies, brownies, and the laptops donated by Minnesota Computers for Schools, which each youth received.

Our Urban-Agriculture/Digital-Storytelling camp showed us and the youth that the intersection of technology and agriculture is entirely natural. At the end of the week we were all amazed by who smoothly everything had gone, how much we had all learned, how exhausted we were, and just how fun it had been.


CTEP Civic Engagement Project: Naturally Bridging the Digital Divide
Project Members: Kelsey Thomas, Emily Perlman, James Harris, Jayd Hill, Jordyn Vandeleur
Project Interviewees: Spark-Y, Univeristy of Minnesota Cornercopia, and the U of M Campus Club

Each year our 35 CTEP AmeriCorps members choose community action projects that make a contribution to bridging the digital divide. The CTEP civic engagement projects are often cited by CTEP AmeriCorps members, staff, supervisors, and community supporters as one of the most unique and energizing parts of the program. This is one of the 2018 civic engagement projects.