|Submission Date||Dec. 6, 2017|
|3.00 / 3.00||
Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning
The Partner, Furr Institute of Innovative Thinking (FIIT), a magnet high school of the Houston Independent School District (HISD), currently offers high school students from across Houston the opportunity to study one of three educational pathways, including Environmental Communications, Renewable Energy, and Energy Efficiency systems. FIIT recently received the XQ Foundation Super School which is a $10 million investment in the school. Texas A&M was a part of their application proposal and FIIT stated they feel the strong connection to the university resulted in their award. Texas A&M has worked with FIIT for the last 3 years to immerse high school students and college students in citizen science and place-based education on the FIIT community. This is “an educational approach that combines rigorous academics with hands-on learning and the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to real-world experiences.” With ubiquitous connectivity and career-oriented partnerships, students experience a classroom without walls. Mentors, coaches, and guest speakers are accessible through digital communication, face-to-face meetings, and virtual field expeditions to career-centered sites.
Texas A&M also works with FIIT and their Woodsy Owl Conservation Corps Green Ambassadors which have gained recognition as youth keynote speakers at the 2015 Environmental Justice Conference surrounding their work with food justice, food deserts, and creating urban food forest and corridors throughout the city of Houston. In addition, Green Ambassadors also work with elementary, middle and other high schools to connect and create a sustaining feeder program in which students continue ‘greenification’ projects and efforts throughout their education. In 2015, the Green Ambassadors were awarded the highest honor of The United States Department of Agriculture with the Abraham Lincoln Award for Diversity, Outreach, and Inclusion.
Fundamentally, the Partner seeks to build a program that attracts and serves a diversity of students from across the Houston region and creates a conservation constituency that reflects the community and its natural resource values.
FIIT is located on the East End of Houston. Houston Ship Channel communities such as the Harrisburg/Manchester super neighborhood are at particularly high risk of impacts from the nexus of exposure to hazardous substances and natural disasters. In fact, Manchester residents bear some of the highest cumulative cancer risk among all of Harris County (Linder et al., 2008). Within 1 mile of the Manchester neighborhood, there are 21 facilities that report to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, 11 large quantity generators of hazardous waste, 4 facilities that treat, store, or dispose of hazardous wastes, 9 major dischargers of air pollution, and 8 major storm water discharging facilities (WEACT – find original cite). The population of the Harrisburg/Manchester Super Neighborhood is 98% minority, with a median income that is one-third less that the City of Houston. Only 6% of residents have obtained a bachelor’s degree (City of Houston Planning and Development Department, 2014). Floodplains along Sims Bayou have increased by 15% since 1980, due to increases in development and pervious cover like concrete and asphalt, while expected sea-level rise could expose another 35,000 residents along the ship channel to flooding (CITE Leslie, Paco; RCCCP Fact Sheets).
Texas A&M University's College of Architecture has developed a Memorandum of Understanding with Charity Productions. The MOU specifies that projects scopes will be identified as projects emerge. Currently, the Institute for Sustainable Communities is working with Charity Productions in a number of ways. First an urban planning course conducted a visioning and strategizing workshop with community leaders to address issues of health, hazard exposures, lack of green space, and lack of access to fresh food. Another engineering course is assessing flooding concerns in the neighborhood, while a landscape architecture will develop design solutions to decrease flooding and increase water quality. This upcoming year, two landscape architecture studio classes and one engineering class will redesign large sections of the neighborhoods on the southside of Houston to mitigate flooding. These communities were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The duration is expected to last through the summer, though we believe ongoing relationships with communities is critical for community resiliency and sustainability.
Charity Productions began in 1984 and became a full nonprofit organization in 1988, their services are primarily delivered on an outreach format. Charity Productions is staffed by volunteers and uses contracted services when funded by contract or grant. Charity has service footprints with several major initiatives’ with the City of Houston Health Department and Municipal Courts, Harris County Emergency Management, Harris County Juvenile Probation, Red Cross (southeast and northeast branches), Beaumont and Port Arthur PDs and the Texas Youth Commission dating back to 1987.
One of the neighborhood focus areas of Charity Productions is Sunnyside. Sunnyside, the oldest African-American community in southern Houston, is located south of Downtown Houston between Loop 610 and Beltway 8. Approximately 93% of the neighborhood’s population is African-American and nearly 40% live in poverty (City of Houston Planning and Development Department, 2014). Lacking public support and city-wide buy in, the neighborhood is characterized by its lack of civic services, grocery stores, and safe walkable streets. Environmental concerns are at the forefront of communal concerns, according to the City of Houston’s Department of Health and Human Services, within one mile of Sunnyside, there are 8 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting facilities, 3 Large Quantity Generators (LQG) of hazardous waste, 2 major dischargers of air pollutants, and 1 facility which treats, stores, or disposes of hazardous waste.
Texas A&M University partnered with the City of La Grange, TX in March of 2017 through August of 2018. The project is to development comprehensive plan to address issues the many rural issues they face. La Grange was recently impacted by Hurricane Harvey, where 350 families of a town of 4,000 residents were flooded, most of them low income. In light of this courses will consider long-term recovery planning and issues around social vulnerability. Students within 4 courses have and will conduct visioning and goal setting workshops, develop recommendations around sustainability and resiliency, and an action plan to achieve it over the next 10 years. Courses will also develop a downtown revitalization plan, signage and wayfinding study, and strategy for youth retention exploring crime, disease, and poverty issues.
La Grange is located in rural central Texas along the Colorado River. Much of rural Texas is composed of residents with high poverty, low income, limited access to healthcare, poor health outcomes, large elderly population, and disconnected youth. Using courses on campus, students are exposed to complex problems and the opportunity to explore innovative ideas. Community members are engaged in a participatory process including visioning, goal setting, alternative scenario exploration, and strategies for implementation.
Texas A&M has three other partnerships with similar communities to increase sustainability and resilience of under-served Texans.
The Institute for Sustainable Communities (IfSC) produces transformative research that offers solutions for more sustainable and vibrant communities, translate the research to action through engagement, and create high impact learning experiences for students. IfSC works with communities in the Houston area to engage them in understanding and finding solutions for their urban problems. IfSC works closely with the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Service (t.e.j.a.s.) to investigate the issues related to pollution and environmental justice along Houston's Ship Channel. Researchers (faculty and students) work closely with t.e.j.a.s to take water, soil, air, and particle samples to understand the heavy metals and petroleum chemicals in "fenceline" communities. T.e.j.a.s. guides the research and IfSC translates findings for community members so they can make the most informed decisions about their own health. These communities were also flooded during Hurricane Harvey and our relationship has led to quick research response to understand the level of exposure from the flood waters. This relationship has led Texas A&M to apply and win a $10 million Superfund Research Center to further investigate the public health consequences of communities with chronic exposure from petroleum refineries.
Additionally, the IfSC is partnering with Jones Futures Academy (JFA), a magnet high school in the Houston Independent School District. After a year long citizen science study with high school and college students, JFA approached IfSC about the incorporation of flooding into their entire curriculum. Soon after a brainstorming workshop with faculty and staff, Hurricane Harvey hit and the surrounding community was flooded. Now, more than ever, JFA wants to discuss flooding within their courses to help students cope with the disaster and immerse themselves in a place-based learning experience that truly matters to them and their loved ones. Texas A&M faculty and students will work with JFA this upcoming academic year.
The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE
staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.
The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.