Diverse Ground
ProjectHEAL - Hero+Shero Journey
January 2018

Diverse Ground - A Creative Science Project

A collaboration with IDEAS xLab and Chris Rasheed, a 6th grade language arts teacher at Meyzeek Middle School in Louisville, Kentucky. 

The 10-day workshop covered the history of the Smoketown Neighborhood, soil science and comparative experiment, environmental justice discussion, and poetry writing exercise to turn their newfound knowledge into art. 

After learning about the importance of their school neighborhood as historically black and formerly filled with brick factories, the students dug up soil samples in the school yard and in a community garden across the street. In groups, the students dilluted each soil sample with water to discover the constituent parts and make conclusions and connections about the environment, social justice, and more. 

Then the students were guided through a poetry writing workshop that helped them turn their knowledge into metaphors and similes to construct short poems. These poems were then performed on the final day in a Poetry Slam.

Project HEAL - Hero+Shero Journey is a four-part artist residency. Diverse Ground is the soil component of the air, water and soil environmental justice initiative. The fourth and final portion of the project was a comic book/policy initiative created by the 150 6th grade students at Meyzeek. 

The soil science part of the project was advised by Kurt Mason, Lead District Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service of Kentucky, who helped with the scope and intent of the project.

Background of Project Concept

(from the Project HEAL Health Impact Assessment)

“Hero+Shero Journeys (JOURNEYS) will explore the potential for combining the
power of community with art, data science, mythology and storytelling to engage 6-
8th graders, at Smoketown's Meyzeek Middle School, in co-creating projects with
neighborhood leaders that can positively impact environmental health and social
determinants. The project will be led by spoken-word artist Chris Rasheed, a
teacher at Meyzeek Middle School. Ultimately, the project should demonstrate the
potential for turning middle schools across the US into cultural hubs for civic
innovation in health policy and give youth an increasing role in policy making
through the arts. The projects will focus on the 1,100 6th-8th graders who attend
Smoketown's Meyzeek Middle School, and their families.
JOURNEYS will create an in class / out of class artist residency program that
engages artists and their artistic practices to raise awareness around
environmental health justice, and to teach science, technology, engineering and
math (STEM) subjects. Students will create their own Hero+Shero journey.
Through this project, they will better understand how the quality of air, water and
soil impact their health and wellbeing. Furthermore, JOURNEYS will engage
students to think critically about how their collective voice could be focused to
advocate for policy change.”