Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Gulf Restoration Network

The past month at the GRN has seen the beginning of the fall 2010 semester service-learning program at Tulane.  The goal for this semester’s program is to increase students’ awareness of critical environmental issues for the Gulf of Mexico, train students in grassroots organizing methods, and conduct public outreach to sign up 2,000 new supporters for the GRN’s BP Oil Drilling Disaster campaign.

This semester, the GRN partnered with a political science course studying grassroots organizing, a philosophy course studying environmental ethics, and a first-year TIDES class introducing students to environmental issues.  The grassroots organizing and environmental organizing classes focus on weekly Campaign Meetings and environmental outreach.  Campaign Meetings give service-learners opportunities to learn about the GRN’s campaigns and gain skills in grassroots organizing methods like petition outreach and organizing call-in campaigns.  Outreach opportunities happen on the weekends at community festivals, farmers and arts markets, and special events.  Service-learners serve as GRN Advocates talking to people about the impacts of the BP Oil Drilling Disaster and give them the opportunity to become involved in the response by signing a petition demanding Congress enact meaningful oil and gas regulation reform.  We’re about half-way through the semester right now, and service-learning students in these two classes have already signed up more than 1,000 new supporters, as well as learning all about the GRN’s work, critical environmental issues, and the dire need to get the public engaged in protecting the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico.

The TIDES class has focused on organizing screenings of the GRN’s Defend Our Wetlands, Defend Ourselves Katrina Anniversary program.  Planning a screening is the first opportunity many of the first-year students in the class have had to organize an event, and I’ve worked with them during several class sessions on organizing and event-planning skills, as well as hearing about their work learning about environmental issues.  The students are holding their screenings right now, and already several screenings have gotten the message out not only to Tulane students but to people all across the country, as students held the events over fall break in their hometowns.  It’s been a lot of fun watching the students learn about the issues and develop their abilities to talk about environmental work in the Gulf!

Recruitment for spring 2011 service-learning partnerships is about to begin, as well as thinking about the transition to the next Tulane Center for Public Service AmeriCorps VISTA who will be partnered with the GRN beginning in February!

-Nick Poggioli, AmeriCorps VISTA

To learn more about the Gulf Restoration Network, visit their website at: http://www.healthygulf.org/

 

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Notes from the field from the AmeriCorps VISTA team at Tulane University.

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