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Community-inspired research

Documenting settlement history for a cottagers' association doesn't sound like a typical university research project; nor does the evaluation of a grade five art program or the examination of grape varieties that grow in this region. Though not necessarily typical, these are examples of the research being conducted by Trent University students through the Trent Centre for Community-Based Education (TCCBE).

These are community-inspired projects, that provide opportunities for students to do real-world research as part of an academic course. At the same time, students are contributing to the social, environmental and economic health of the community. The TCCBE, founded in the mid-nineties by Trent professors in collaboration with local community leaders, is a cooperative initiative that facilitates community-based research.

Governed by academic and community representatives, the TCCBE is unique in its field, explains Jennifer Bowe, TCCBE director, adding other universities regularly inquire about the model.

"It's about research that's important to our community," she says, adding it's the TCCBE's job to marry the research expertise at Trent with the ability to put results into practice in the community.

Andrea Carter, a fourth-year Human Geography student is looking to local sources such as land registry, survey analysis, and interviews to document the seasonal and permanent settlement history around Canning Lake. She is also working to continue to develop a historical profile and a "family tree" of land division over generations.

"It's a good way to link my strong interest in human geography to a real-life experience," says Ms. Carter, adding she's also able to apply everything she has learned about research. "It's going to be something I've done for someone else - it's not just something for me, it's for all of them (Canning Lake residents)."

The following are other examples of projects underway:

Community Violence Report Card, for the Rural Outreach Committee (Buckhorn)
With the support of two faculty members, five Sociology students are conducting research on violence in this area north of Peterborough. One student is identifying the existence and accessibility of supports for rural women living in situations where domestic violence is present. And four students are compiling statistics about the incidence of violence in the region. The two pieces of research compliment one another, and will give local leaders and service providers a more complete picture of current needs in their community.

Climate Study for the Central Ontario Viniculture Association
A Physical Geography student is collecting and compiling historical weather data for the last 25 years from two weather stations in Peterborough. Data will be analyzed to assist local grape growers in selecting grape varieties more likely to thrive in the surrounding region.

Program Evaluation for the Art Gallery of Peterborough
Two students from International Development Studies are completing this project as part of a fourth year course that teaches methods of assessing community development projects. The pair plan to interview participants (children and teachers) about the impact of the art gallery's education program, which is targeted to grade five students.

Posted December 17, 2003


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