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Upper School Neighborhood Class Present Trimester Projects

Seattle Academy's Upper School Neighborhood Class Elective
Article was written by Tom Hajduk

One could say that a secret to success is to combine opportunities. The recent shift to the eight block schedule allowed for the creation of a number of new courses. Given my significant neighborhood experiences and relationships formed over my years as Seattle Academy's Community Business Liaison, I was able to design a new class this year based entirely on “curriculum” generated by the neighborhood around our campus.

The class was a resounding success in large part to the skills students acquire over the course of their Seattle Academy education. After spending several weeks touring the neighborhood and learning about the history, transformations, and complex community fabric, students had the freedom to form teams to create a project related to something in the immediate neighborhood. Because Seattle Academy students are so used to building relationships with adults, the projects quickly became experiences similar to what any urban planner or community leader would experience. Students met and worked with representatives from the Seattle Parks Department, local business owners, transportation planners, and local community representatives. It was thrilling to watch a group of seniors guided by the values and principles of Seattle Academy; they fanned out into the neighborhood with poise and a keen sense of observation.

The results were diverse and impressive. Students presented their projects in a kiosk-style event held in the STREAM lower learning commons.

Below are a few examples of the final projects:

Bryn McConnell '19 and Tess Barton '19 met with Chip Nevins of the Seattle Parks Department. Chip gave the students a very challenging task: find a viable location for a new park in the region just south of Seattle Academy’s campus—the Squire Park neighborhood. Bryn and Tess quickly learned the main difficulty in a neighborhood which is transforming so rapidly—each time they found a good site for a park, they would discover the site was in the process of being privately developed. They studied five different options all which proved impossible to use. However, their steadfast and positive approach kept them working until the final weeks of the class. Their proposal, including architecture-grade drawings, pictures, and analysis of environmental impact, was an addition of a bioswale to McGilvra Park as well as a proposal for new lighting in the area.

Josh Teicher '19, a self-described lover of all things related to public transportation, began work on imagining and designing a new (and badly needed) bus line on 12th Avenue. Local neighborhood groups have been asking for this option for many years. Josh was in communication with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) and attended his local transportation fair to generate more contacts. The result was a fully planned route, including a map with all the proposed stops and turn-around patterns for each end of the route. Josh covered the entire length of the proposed route, noting where the bus would have to deviate from 12th in order to have enough room to turn or to provide safer stops for passengers. In the final week of his project, Josh was contacted by Brand Koster of King County Metro and invited to meet to discuss the details of his bus line proposal.

Mackie Williams '19, Gage Raftery '19, Kameryn Batingan '19, and Robert Herbolich '19 had a very creative idea to bring more attention to the remarkable diversity and number of restaurants in and around Capitol Hill. They contacted over 30 eating establishments to ask what each restaurant’s most popular dish is. The result was a comprehensive menu and marketing plan titled “Eat the Hill.” The group also met with Donna Moodie, owner of Majorie Restaurant, who is also part of the Seattle Small Business Advisory Council. In addition to creating an attractive menu the group also proposed a phone app which would reward the user with points for visiting each restaurant and ordering the favorite dish.

Oscar Zorn '19, Brady Doran '19, Leo Faury '19, JW Thomas '19, and Anders Gibbons '19 discovered the newest “Tiny Village” in the neighborhood, the True Hope Village at Yesler and 17th Avenue. Tiny villages are a project from the Low Income Housing Institute designed to provide more secure and weatherproof temporary housing for homeless people, focusing in particular on homeless families with children. The group of five seniors interviewed residents and caseworkers at the True Hope Village and created a documentary aiming to bring attention to the Tiny Villages and their positive effects.

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