As part of the Waller Creek Monster Project, I believe we aimed to provide the central Texas community with learning outcomes that encompass three main themes. These include:
- Sustainability: For the celebration of Earth Month, this project aimed to emphasize the need to take action with the onset of Climate Change through the collaborative creation of a Sustainability Roadmap, which shows clear ways to help the environment in our very own community.
- Research: This project aimed to promote the ecological research being done in our very own Waller Creek at the heart of the UT campus, asserting that our urban environments are just as essential for our understanding of how to care for the planet as the Amazon rainforest.
- Mental Health: This project aimed to highlight the benefits urban nature found right on campus can provide a plethora of mental benefits for student stress and anxiety, and provided this with the creation of a relaxing soundscape, yoga classes, and many other relaxing activities.
Stakeholders and Collaborators
Our main stakeholders are the Office of Sustainability, who were generous enough to fund our project through their Green Fund grant. Kristin Phillips, the office Communications Coordinator, was very involved in our project, often attending our class to provide us with feedback and helping out in any way she was able.
The most prominent collaborator of the Social Engagement team, which I was a part of, would certainly be Lauren McKinney, a Junior Sustainability Studies student who researched and organized the content for our Sustainability Roadmap. Her hard work was transformed into an interactive PDF that would allow a user to choose how they would “take action” out of a wide degree of options ranging from simple tasks such as signing a petition, to more complicated undertakings such as doing ecological research with a faculty member.
Making the Invisible Visible
One of the most gratifying elements of our Earth Day project was its goal to make urban nature such as our own Waller Creek more visible to the public eye. This stream that runs through the heart of campus is more often than not ignored by the public. Even worse, some wouldn’t even consider this creek “real nature” given its seeming lack of pristine beauty. The Sound team did a wonderful job of affirming that the benefits of being in nature are found on campus and waiting for someone to indulge in them. The Social Engagement team’s signage really served to underscore Waller Creek as a significant site of research for the effects of Urbanization and Climate Change in ecosystems. Overall, I believe our project would have been successful in making the invisible visible.
Given my background in researching urban environments for the Freshman Research Initiative, I assumed there wouldn’t be much left for me to learn regarding sustainability, but I was very wrong. I knew sustainability was a multifaceted subject that was gaining relevance with the effects of Climate Change which we have already begun to see. What I didn’t know was that the burden of these changes have been placed on the average consumer for decades, and that only recently have people taken on the large corporations who are mostly to blame. No matter how successful these sustainability movements are in these ventures, I find assurance in the fact that change starts with people, and it can start now with the promotion of caring for our urban nature with our Earth Day installation. This project served to strengthen my belief that urban nature is just as valid as nature that is yet to see the effects of human activity, and positive change will come when the general public finds this to be true, as well. Hopefully the Waller Creek Monster project will help make that happen.