Dialogue & Deliberation Fellowship
Alyssa Johnson is an Education Program Coordinator at the Sciencenter where she uses community science and outreach to bring science off the shelf and into the community. Her goal is to inspire curiosity and confidence around STEM through accessible youth and family programming.
The Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) is a center for all ages, particularly youth and teens. GIAC serves the immediate neighborhood and the greater Ithaca area by providing multicultural, educational, and recreational programs focused on social and individual development.
Sciencenter and Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) collaborated on a project to address water monitoring and flooding in the greater Ithaca area.
The City of Ithaca is at severe risk of flooding, and many homes and businesses in the area regularly experience flooding, leading to damaged infrastructure and personal property. This flooding is predicted to worsen with climate change. In addition to a Dialogue & Deliberation event, this collaboration included programming for GIAC youth to participate in water investigations.
The Dialogue & Deliberation event took place in July 2022, with nearly 70 community members in attendance. Ithaca’s Director of Sustainability spoke about climate change and flooding in the region, the GIAC youth presented on their water investigations, and the community had a facilitated dialogue and deliberated on a variety of topics. The topics included: the effect of climate change on flooding, the effect of flooding on residents and their neighborhoods, the responsibility that individuals and the government have for mitigating flooding, and the need for improve infrastructure, early warning systems, and improved drainage systems.
The outcomes, including images from the event and a map of community-indicated flood zones, are on display for the larger Ithaca community in an exhibit at the local public library and will also be shared with local government representatives.
The forum was held asynchronously online and was flexible so that participants could focus on multiple issues. They also offered a mail-in postcard to reach individuals without reliable internet access. The project team ran into issues with low participation but were able to improve recruitment through a combination of incentives, synchronous engagement opportunities, online advertising, and community partners’ outreach, eventually reaching 39 participants.
The forum brought up many different ideas for how cultural institutions could support environmental justice, such as providing meeting space for environmental justice organizations, developing interactive exhibits, and developing online tools to help community members access environmental data. The data gathered was shared with participants and the cultural institutions and environmental justice groups that helped to design the forum.