2007 Outreach and Engagement Awards

2007 Outreach and Engagement Awards

In 2007, Ohio State recognized 15 outstanding outreach and engagement projects and selected two finalists for the regional Outreach Scholarship W.K. Kellogg Foundation Engagement Award and the C. Peter Magrath University/Community Engagement Award: The Sugar Creek Project and Engaged PartnersImproving the Lives of Children and Youth.

2007 North Central Regional Winner

Engaged PartnersImproving the Lives of Children and Youth

The Ohio State University is forging meaningful and creative collaborations to prepare young people for success. These partnerships will make Ohio State the first university in the nation to establish a public/private partnership model supporting lab schools covering infancy through grade 12.

OSU collaborated in the development of the new Metro School with Battelle Institute and the Franklin County Educational Council, which includes Columbus Public Schools and 15 suburban school districts. An initial $200,000 planning grant funded by the Gates Foundation facilitated the development of the concept. The Colleges of Education and Human Ecology (EHE), Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MAPS), and Biological Sciences collaborated in the development of the academic program. Metro School is a small high school designed as an incubator for advancing math, science and technology education. The school was up and running less than a year from the time that the commitment was articulated. Community internships for students are provided by Battelle, Ohio State, COSI, The Columbus Museum of Art, WOSU, and Wexner Center.

Less than a year after the opening of Metro High School, Battelle announced a $4 million dollar gift establishing the Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy housed at Ohio State's John Glenn School of Public Affairs. The Center brings higher education together with leaders in K-12 education, business, technology and government to develop policies and practices increasing the number of students prepared to become leaders in STEM fields. Carl Kort, Battelle CEO sees this effort as improving the pipeline of talented scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians for the future competitiveness of the region and the world. Campus partners include MAPS, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Education and Human Ecology.

Another part of this model is the Schoenbaum Family Center and Weinland Park Elementary School at Weinland Park, an economically challenged area east of campus, where OSU has build a $10 million child development lab school and Columbus Public Schools built a new elementary school. Lab school teachers and Columbus Public teachers jointly plan curricula. The City of Columbus helped assemble the land and is reconfiguring a park to provide green space and recreation areas. The Colleges of Social Work, Medicine, and Public Health will offer programs and the EHE facility features a family advocacy office, onsite health center, and facilities for teaching nutrition to families while providing research opportunities for faculty and students. A private donor provided $2.5 million to build the lab school, alumni and other donors added their contributions. Proctor & Gamble and JPMorgan Chase lead corporate foundation donors with $1 million each. Discussions around establishing a middle school are now underway.

None of these collaborative projects has been easy. Playing well with others is not play at all; it is hard work, reports David Andrews, Dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology, who helped facilitate the projects. Solitary play is simple and offers complete control. Unfortunately, it does not offer solutions to complex problems, which is the goal of OSU's engaged partners working to improve the lives of children and youth.

The Sugar Creek Project

Faced with issues revolving around Ohio's second most polluted watershed, researchers at Ohio State University College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences and local farmers teamed together in 2000 to learn about the watershed. The team, starting with a group of 15 farmers formed around their own desire to be socially responsible and the researchers who wanted to work on a watershed from a participatory headwaters perspective, created a practical approach that has spawned 4 farmer groups; a research, extension, and outreach team of 30 scientists and faculty; 10 grants from the USDA, NSF, and the EPA; 100% endorsement from superintendents of all local public schools in the watershed, a grassroots approach to water quality credit trading, progress towards family-farm based sustainable agriculture, and a significant reduction in the pollution levels. These accomplishments have created The Sugar Creek Method, a national and international model for community-level participatory change.

One of the hallmarks of the project is that scientific research and extension outreach are complementary and inseparable. Farmers wanted to be socially responsible for their water quality but were unable to respond to the EPA finding that their watershed was highly polluted because the number of EPA sampling sites was too limited to assign specific causes. At the farmers' request, the researchers conducted biweekly water sampling at the individual farm level, currently sampling 105 sites. The participatory approach of the team, the high density of sampling, and a common sense approach to water quality emphasizing upstream to downstream together are resolving the sources of Non Point Source Pollution.

The questions initially raised by the farmers stimulated the researchers to pursue a new scientific paradigm through an NSF Biocomplexity grant that linked social and natural sciences. Ten graduate students have been permitted to conduct research on local land and a recently awarded NSF GK-12 grant will fund eight graduate students per year from 2007-2011 to conduct more research in the watershed. These same STEM science students will team with local science teachers to raise the community's science standards, thus effecting long- term change in the community.

Last, the Alpine Cheese Water Quality Credit Trading Program is Ohio's first water quality trading program. Based on the factory's 5-year pollution permit on phosphorus, a method was devised to broker credits at a county-level agency that had a high degree of trust and networking within the Amish area of the watershed. The factory, the local agency, and the university became partners, equally splitting extra credits generated so that the factory could lower costs and that the agency and university could spawn further water quality projects in the watershed. Because of this project, the factory was able to expand. This created 12 new jobs and new milk demand for 35 small Amish dairy farms while the many conservation projects on farms improve water more than if the factory had lowered the pollution level by itself. More information: sugarcreekmethod.osu.edu