“I didn’t realize how tough education was there, and how that impacts families and communities,” said Trinity Shodin. “I learned that you have to utilize your resources and be flexible. You won’t always have everything you need.”
Many of the projects that were planned had to be adapted to meet the changing needs of the school. Flying pollinator populations were wiped out by the storms, so lessons were modified to focus more on bees. Wilco donated a bee box and OSU students helped set it up at the school. The other main issue was composting, so students and faculty refashioned concrete pig pens that were destroyed in the storm into a composting center.
Craig Arnold, an online Agricultural Sciences major and military veteran, traveled from Maine to meet the group in Puerto Rico. Craig brought a host of valuable skills, and helped transform the pig pens into compost stalls. He also took the initiative to fix the plumbing for irrigation hoses running to the garden, so that the children no longer have to carry buckets of water.
OSU students were placed into multidisciplinary groups for the projects, but there was a lot of crossover between groups and projects after work began. “Everybody helped everywhere. On the last day, we repaired the cistern—it was nobody’s initial project, but we had this attitude like ‘we have the bodies, let’s get it done’,” said Trinity Shodin.
Students were able to see problem-solving through different perspectives beyond their majors.
The cistern she’s referring to is ten feet deep. OSU students climbed inside and scrubbed the concrete walls until it was clean, and then helped construct a new cover for it.
Kate Field, professor of microbiology and director of AgSci’s BioResource Research program, led a water testing project in which OSU students taught the kids to test water using sampling kits. They also brought along 50 water filters purchased from Waves for Water, a total cost of $2000, which were donated to the community after the trip.
Wanda Crannell, academic program coordinator and advisor for the BioResource Research program, led an effort to remove debris from land clearings and plant twelve native trees. After leaving, local residents picked up where the OSU group left off, clearing more land, tilling the soil, and planting seeds.
Shawn and Susan Rowe joined the trip from the College of Education to create recycling cirriculum, and together they led the effort to create the composting bins, as well as raised garden beds. This effort was crucial, considering that only 5 of Puerto Rico's 75 landfills are currently operational, deepening the garbage crisis on the island.
Another major project was a mural on the side of the school building. OSU students and the kids painted a “Grown in Puerto Rico” map, which displays crop regions on the island and was inspired the by the "Grown in Oregon" map produced by Oregon Ag in the Classroom Foundation (pictured below).
Funding for the trip came from various sources, including college and program donations and a USDA Multicultural Scholars Grant. Many students with AgSci majors and minors received generous funding from ER Jackman Friends & Alumni and the Global Experiences Fund.
The interdisciplinary approach to the trip enhanced the resourcefulness aspect, and the community aspect as well. “Students were able to see problem-solving through different perspectives beyond their majors. Also, on previous trips we travelled the island, but for this trip, we mostly stayed in one area, which gave the students a deep sense of family and community,” said Gaebel, who is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Career Development Center.