From Service Learning to Community Action: An Ongoing Planning and Learning Collaboration in Hazard, Ky

In 2015, EKU professor Alice Jones worked with Hazard Community College professor Jenny Williams to have the EKU Land Use & Environmental Planning class conduct a place-based research project focused on applying the Sustainable Sites Initiative standards (the landscape equivalent of the US Green Building Council’s LEED building standards) to the City of Hazard. The pair envisioned a service learning activity that would not only provide the EKU students an opportunity for place-based practical experience with the Sustainable Sites Initiative criteria, but would also provide HCC students an opportunity to assist as the “local guides” for the EKU students, and to do citizen science, place-related research and experiential learning. In each subsequent year, Jones and Williams have built on that initial project with a series of site-scale community analysis projects on behalf of either the local InVision Hazard community planning nonprofit or the Hazards Arts Greenway organization. The collaboration has looked at issues ranging from tourism planning around the emerging River Arts Greenway, downtown revitalization, watershed assessment, trail planning, and a citizen-science water sampling project. The pair will discuss the evolving nature of the collaboration, how the projects have been used to inform local community organizing and activities, and how using localized experiential learning can provide a richer experience for rural, often place-bound students.