A Community Event at Hiatt Middle School

On December 15th, PIIR team members - Linda Shenk, Caroline Krejci, Jacklin Stonewall, and Kate Fjelstad participated in the neighborhood Holiday Party at Hiatt Middle School in Des Moines, IA. At this fun event with robust community attendance, team members met neighborhood residents, conducted data collection through a brief questionnaire, and shared some of the team’s research through a weatherization-oriented mini-action project.

In keeping with our research objectives to integrate data collection with action projects where stakeholders experience tangible, positive change, the team prepared activities that integrated fun, data collection, and feasible, positive action. Residents who filled out a questionnaire about their weatherization-related behaviors were given a small package of rope caulk--a simple-to-use item that helps seal their windows in ways that require no tools or expertise. As can be seen in the image to the left, Prof. Linda Shenk demonstrated how to use the rope caulk for weatherizing. She uses rope caulk herself in her older home and enjoyed sharing her story as residents often shared their needs and interests.

The rope caulk proved to be a perfect incentive for the questionnaire because it empowers residents to take immediate and manageable action while the questionnaire gave preliminary data for the team useful for enhancing our  Game app, Agent-based modelling, and energy models. Further processing of the data would give us insights on what type of weatherization methods are most likely to be adopted by residents.

The residents also often expressed that they appreciated learning about and receiving the rope caulk, appreciating having something they knew they could do themselves. A few folks expressed that they hope to see the team again at future community events! And it is no wonder--not only did we have the mini action project (which kept Linda and Jacklin busy) but we had a great game for the kids. We had kids in line all night, wanting to see what fun questions Prof. Caroline Krejci and Kate Fjelstad could dream up as the kids played a bean-bag toss energy game!

As part of encouraging levels of positive action, our team emphasized the importance of community-university partnership. We sometimes directed residents to information on our table about Habitat for Humanity’s Tool Lending Library (to those interested in deeper DIY weatherization projects), and on our poster we drew attention to the City and community groups working in partnership. The whole evening, in fact, represented such collaboration. Community Housing Initiatives and Viva East Bank! organized and hosted the whole event with participation by another one of the team’s partners--an outreach-minded youth group, East High Cares/East TOP. It was a great night!