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Creative Conservation Corp

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A full-scale apiary tower made from salvaged wood by high schoolers is just one of the projects coming out of Creative Conservation Corp.

What is the fate of the honeybee? A full-scale apiary tower made from salvaged wood by high schoolers is just one of the projects coming out of Creative Conservation Corp (CCC) to tackle a complex question about declining honeybee populations. CCC is guided by PNCA alumni as well as contributing experts in sustainable craftsmanship, the Multnomah Education Services and the Oregon Arts Commission. The apiary project, called The Apiary: Designing for Pollination and Food Security, was chosen due to sustainable efforts already in-progress at Alpha High School’s campus in Gresham, Oregon. Alpha High School is an alternative high school, which focuses on how student coursework transitions to a successful career. CCC’s mission and values include Changemaking, Collaborative Design, Design Education, Sustainability, and Systems Thinking. CCC provides multidisciplinary projects rooted in community for high school students to experience what it means to be primary investigators and problem-solvers.

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Apiary poster design for Oregon Green Schools Summit in 2014

Undergraduate and graduate alumni from PNCA serve as the program’s teachers, mentors, and specialists. Partners in the program range from a Senior Content Strategist with Second Story, a firm with interactive design studios, to the Founder and Principal of Bee Thinking, a business aiming to provide honeybees with the ideal environment to thrive. Other partners include the Principal at Alpha High School and Program Director for the Multnomah Education Service District. With the expertise of partners and teachers combined and the experience the high school students bring, inspirational projects are formed and future insights derived. Additional support comes from the initiative Connecting Student to the World of Work through the Oregon Arts Commission, which is a fairly new grant program aimed toward providing learning opportunities in the arts and other creative fields for underserved youth.

PNCA alumni are chosen to be teachers and facilitators from the MFA Collaborative Design, and the MFA Applied Craft and Design, a joint program between PNCA and Oregon College of Art and Craft. These programs’ underlying missions are aligned with CCC in sustainable practice with impact as well as keeping a local mentality. For example, a project by students in the MFA Collaborative Design program was to question what should become of a former high school, Marshall High School in East Portland. Eventually this course left the classroom and received attention from the Portland Mayor to assess whether the building could become a multiuse facility embracing the diverse cultures of East Portland community members. This systems thinking backbone has flowed into other projects at CCC, such as designing an apiary for bees.

The Apiary: Designing for Pollination and Food Security project focused on bees, apiology, and apiary design. Students sought out to answer why honeybee populations were declining, and what underlying larger issues were responsible for it. From this research, students developed, prototyped, and fabricated an apiary especially made for their high school’s campus. Some exercises included making concept drawings to change the Alpha High School woodshop into The Idea Factory, a rebranding by the students. Another skill students developed were future-casting by designing and illustrating a newspaper article that envisioned a world without bees and what actions people could take to prevent the disappearance of bees. Students also gained experience by hosting at presentation tables for the CCC Program at Alpha High School for PNCA Community Day as well as the Oregon Green School Summit. Although the apiary project failed numerous times, it led to thinking at a larger scale with designing a bioswale.

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Student drawing of utopic and dystopic futures and student building an apiary.

The Bioswale(s): Designing for Conservation is another project, which seems different from the apiary project, but is continuing along the same thread of sustainability and systems thinking. The failed attempts at having a living hive on campus made the CCC Program and students broaden their scope to designing a bioswale. Alpha High School students are doing this to provide a better way of capturing gray water and filtration as well as attracting greater native pollinators due to increased green space. “What the students have recognized is that they need more of an intentional environment,” says Patrick Forster, the Director of Continuing Education at PNCA, who is one the people responsible for spearheading the program. If the honeybees don’t have an optimal environment for pollination, then this bioswale could potentially lead to making one.

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Students in the field with Landscape Architect and Public Artist, Peg Butler, learning about the functions and aesthetics important to urban bioswales.

The students at Alpha High School are developing a creative voice in which they are actively participating and making potential environmental solutions for their communities. Sustainability and impactfulness in the local environment will be a mantra CCC will continue through projects like helping the honeybee thrive and creating a bioswale that may affect the high school campus in a more systemic way. With partners in the creative field, the arts, and education, there will surely be more projects, which will not only inspire the high school students, but provide a way for them to be a resounding voice in their own communities, to further cultivate local wisdom.

Images courtesy of Creative Conservation Corp.

by Laura DeVito

— Posted on 03/24 at 02:30 PM

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