LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: Community, Media Activism,

Public Health and the Environment


Anne Fischel  X6416    SEM II E3108  Office Hrs: Monday 1-3

Lin Nelson     X6056    SEM II  E3102  Office Hrs: Monday 1-3


PROGRAM SCHEDULE (all classes in Seminar II)


Tuesday 10-1                  E1105      Presentation/screening/workshop

Tuesday 2:30-4:30          B2107      Anne’s seminar… workshops/workgroups

                                B2109       Lin’s seminar……workshops/workgroups

Wednesday 10-1        A1105, A1107,  A3105   …. Workshops/workgroups

Friday 9:30-12:30            E1105        Presentation/screening/workshop

Friday 1:30-3:30              C3107        Anne’s seminar….workshops/workgroups

                                     C3109        Lin’s seminar…… workshops/workgroups

Friday 3:30-4:30              C3105        Closure


PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: Our program starts with the perspective that the community base of knowledge needs to be supported. In this time of globalization, mass media, and public relations, the knowledge that people hold, in diverse communities around the world, is often trivialized or ignored. Local Knowledge will explore the dynamics of community life through collaborative efforts with people in our region as they work to sustain and empower their communities.


We will draw on broad areas of thought and inquiry:community and regional studies, environmental studies, public health, public policy, labor studies, media, global studies and research methods. Popular education is an important framework for our studies and projects, including the work of Paolo Freire, Myles Horton and the Jefferson Center. An essential goal is to learn how to collaborate with community groups responding to local, regional and global change. Communities, including marginalized ones, can identify and critically evaluate their local knowledge and resources. They can collaborate with outsiders, lending direction to projects and retaining ownership of the knowledge and work that is produced. We would like to work with, not for, our neighbors in the region. We see this as a complex and rewarding process that has the potential to create meaningful social change. 


This syllabus lays out a broad array of possibilities for learning and community engagement. There are assignments/activites you are responsible to complete; others are optional (and so indicated). You cannot possibly participate in all optional activities; be selective, while learning from the efforts of your fellow students.


Questions we are considering:


Š       What is local knowledge? How is it cultivated, applied and critically evaluated?

Š       How are community stories created, documented and communicated?

Š       How does expertise/outside input affect approaches to locally identified issues?

Š       How do broad regional, national and international conditions impact communities and how are these conditions interpreted in different ways at the local level?

Š       What role does media play? How do community members interpret media images? What alternatives exist in the community and how are they utilized?

Š       What sense of history and future guides communities? What is sustainable?

Š       What can we learn about collaborative community research and documentation? What political, aesthetic and ethical considerations should guide this work?



Introduction to Documentary, Bill Nichols, 2001, Indiana University Press.

   (will be read in sections, connected to film screenings)

The Long Haul: An Autobiography, Myles Horton, 1998, Teachers College Press.

PR: A Social History of Spin, Stuart Ewen, 1996, Basic Books

Community-Based Research Reader, The Loka Institute.

When Corporations Rule the World, David Korten

** Other readings will be developed by student study circles as relevant to interests and to project analysis.




**Reflective Notes on Program readings: thoughtful, brief summaries of 3-4 key points gained from your reading. Use them to generate a question for seminar discussion. Written summaries and question should be brought to seminar, shared with fellow seminar members, and turned in to your faculty.


**Public Writing: An exploration of one form of public writing (a news article, letter to the editor, public testimony), drawing on at least one program reading but geared to your project/study group interests.


**Analytical Paper: A 5-page analytical paper dealing with one or more program readings.


**Deadlines for analytical paper and public writing: turn one of these two assignments in to your seminar faculty by Friday of week 6; the other can be turned in by Tuesday of week 10 at the latest. Earlier, if possible.


**Project field notes: careful documentation of project research, including research logs (per library research workshop), observations, materials gathered, notes on discussions/interviews with community mentors and informants, emergent questions, activities, ideas for next steps. Please include some personal writing on your developing knowledge and relationship to your project. Due with project proposals, Friday of week 9.


**Project Proposal. Due Friday of week 9, segment drafts due earlier as indicated in the syllabus. Proposal guidelines to be distributed week 3.


**Study Group Reading List (first draft due Friday AM of week 3 (copies will be distributed Friday afternoon); will be modified as your work progresses.


Public Policy—Opportunities to Observe and/or Participate


*The state legislature convenes this January—through a variety of local community organizations there are opportunities to work with environmental groups, the Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition or the American Civil Liberties Union on either lobbying, tracking legislation, or other relevent activities to inform ourselves about public policy at the state level.


*Collaborate with local groups working with the Olympia City Council on a variety of policy initiatives.




Opening events (optional):

January 2, 4pm: Meeting to prepare agendas for City Council session—at Community Youth Services

January 3: Welfare Rights Organizing Coalition training session on citizen lobbying at the Legislature, First United Methodist Church; 1224 Legion Way SE; 352-9716 for more information; 5:30 potluck, 6-8 training.


Week 1: January 4-7

Readings: Introduction to Documentary, Ch. 1 and 2.


Tuesday, Jan. 4*:

Preparing for winter/spring project work. Project exploration. Opportunities to collaborate with organizations working on policy/legislation.

Olympia City Council and other community interest areas.

Forming “study circles.” Common threads and reading.

Local Knowledge student government.


Tuesday and Wednesday: Community Center visits and explorations


Wednesday, Jan. 5  10-1:         Study circles—plan activities and readings

Project development—group discussions 


Friday, Jan. 7   9:30-12:30   Film: Roberty Flaherty’s “Nanook of the North”

                      1:30-3:30     Seminar: Nanook and Intro to Documentary


*January 4th: Citizens bring issues of concern to City Council, Olympia Center

5:30-7, social time and food;

7:00 discussion sessions with Council Members


Thursday, January 6, 7pm, Olympia Ctr, Multipurpose Room A & B,

Thurston County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, annual meeting, “The 2005 Legislative Session and a Plan for Action”


Friday, January 7th, 7:30  OFS (206 E 5th Ave) “The Take” (Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein), workplace action and economic justice in Argentina. Benefit for Organic Volunteers Latin America.


Saturday, January 8th: Legislative Workshop on environmental Issues (Puget Sound health, environmental building, children’s environmental health…).   Sponsored by WA environmental organizations, at REI Store, 222 Yale Ave. N. 9:30-2:30. Carpool from TESC, 7:30, returning @ 4. Register as group through Lin or register yourself www.wecprotects.org.  Event is free.  See Lin for details.


Sunday, January 9th, 4pm, Social Justice Film Series, Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 2200 East End St. NW. “The Doctors, the Depleted Uranium and the Dying Children”   … focusing on current war in Iraq






Week 2: January 11-14

Reading: Long Haul


Tuesday 10-1:  Proposal Workshop            

Tuesday2:30-4:30: Study circles develop reading, discussion, possible workshop plans. Focus on skill and resource development needed for projects.  Groups plan week 3 project site visits (Friday, Jan. 21) and study/project group visits to regional archives (Wednesday, Jan. 19).


Wednesday 10-1: Discussion of last quarter’s films: what do we need to learn?  (Optional: can replace with group project planning, but recommended for video students).


Friday, 9:30-12:30: the Highlander Center: Popular Education & Participatory Research, Possible Guest: Carol Minugh

Screen “You’ve Got to Move”

Friday 1:30-3:30: Seminar on Long Haul


Week 3: January 18-21

Reading, Introduction to Documentary, ch. 3 and 4.


Tuesday 10-1: Screen Pare Lorentz’s “The Plow that Broke the Plains” and “The River”  

Tuesday 2:30-4:30: Seminar on Introduction to Documentary


Wednesday*: Study Groups visit regional archives, collections and resources.


Friday AM:    Project site visits

Friday PM:    Report-back on visits to archives/collections

                  Study Circle Reading Lists Due to distribute in class


*Wednesday, January 19th, Seattle Art Museum,  7-8:30.. First in 3-part lecture series on “Our Health, Our Environment: Making the Link”.     Number 1 is…

“Enduring Legacies: How Pollutants Shape Brain Development”, focused on pediatric health. Lecture series = $25 or $10 each event.



Week 4: January 25-28

Reading: PR: A Social History of Spin, Intro to Documentary, Ch. 5 and 6


Tuesday 10-1: "The Persuaders"

(consult pbs website: www. PBS.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/persuaders)

Tuesday 2:30-4:30: Seminar on PR, Parts 1-3, through pg. 212

***Draft of Proposal Segment 3e Due on Relationship to Subject


Wed* 10-1: Skills Development:

*Lighting Workshop for video students (Anne)

                  *Lin in Community Center for project consultation


Friday* 9:30-12:30: screen Frederick Wiseman’s “Hospital” (you may also choose to go to ACLU lobby day)

Friday 1:30-3:30: seminar on Intro to Documentary  and “Hospital”

Friday 3:30-4:30: closure


*Guest speaker Sam Wineburg (author of “Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts”) Wed, Jan 26th evening 6-9:30; Th, Jan 27th, 3:30-5:30 reading.


*Friday, Jan. 28th: ACLU-WA Lobby Day, register online at www.aclu-wa.org


Week 5: February 1-5

Reading: finish PR, Intro to Documentary, chapters 7 and 8


Tuesday 9:30-12:30: screen Connie Field, “The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter”

Tuesday 2:30-4:30  Seminar on PR


Wednesday, 10-1:  Skills Development:      

Video students: Workshop on non-linear editing, part 1 (Multi-Media Lab)

                            Lin in Community Center for project work)

Friday 9:30-12:30: Workshop, Movement Messaging (PR and Prime Time Activism)

Friday PM: Study group work time

***Draft of Proposal Narrative Due (Part 3b)


Week 6: February 8-11

Reading: CBR Reader


Tuesday* 10-1: Participatory Research and Community-to-Community connections

  Screen Elizabeth Barrett’s “Stranger With a Camera”

Tuesday 2:30-4:30: Seminar on CBR Reader and “Stranger with a Camera”


Wed** 10-1:         Skills Development:

Video Students: Non-Linear Editing Workshop, 2 (in Multi-Media Lab)

         Lin in Community Center: skills development/project consultation


Friday 9:30-12:30: Media in the Community: screen Suzanne Lacey’s “No Blood No Foul” (optional screening); study or project groups have the option to meet.

Friday PM: Project group work time***in class, on informed consent


Public Writing or Analytical Paper due


*Tuesday, Feb 8, 7-8:30, Seattle Art Museum, #2 in Env Health series..

“Herbicides and Human Health: Are Frogs Our Canaries in the Coal Mine?”


**Wednesday, Feb 9, 7pm, Olympia Ctr, Rm 206, Thurston ACLU-WA, training workshop, ”Effectively Advocating for Civil Liberties in Your Community”


Sunday, February 13, 4pm, Social Justice film series, “The Underground Railroad,” in honor of Black History month, Unitarian Universalist, 2200 E End St. NW, Olympia


Week 7: February 15-18

Reading: When Corporations Rule the World


Tuesday 9:30-12:30: Screen Franny Armstrong’s “McLibel”

Tuesday 2:30-4:30: Seminar: When Corporations Rule the World


Wed 10-1: Skills Development

Lin: Workshop on Corporate Research

Anne: media work in progress  


Friday 9:30-12:30: Screen “Trading Democracy”

Friday 1:30-3:30    Seminar: When Corporations Rule the World

Friday 3:30-4:30    Closure


****Draft Proposal Sections Due (3c, d and e)     


Thursday, Feb 17th…. Environmental Legislative Workshop and Citizen Lobbying. AM in downtown Olympia, PM at the Capitol. Host: People for Puget Sound.  See Lin for details.


Week 8: February 22-25


Tuesday 9:30-12:30: Screen and Discuss “Witness to the Future”

Tuesday 2:30-4:30: Project Work Time (faculty available for consultation)    


Wednesday and Friday: TBA, as needed


Week 9: March 1-4


Project Work Week: faculty available for consultation


Proposals due


March 3-6, Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, University OR/Eugene, “Living as if Nature Mattered”.  Sessions range across environmental, health, social justice, globalization, public interest law.

http://www.pielc.org   See Lin for more information.


Week 10: March 8-11


Tuesday, March 8: last day to submit public writing and/or analytical paper


Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday morning: Project presentations, exchange, development, community consultations



Evaluation Week: March 14-18


March 16th, 7-8:30, Seattle Art Museum,  Env Health lecture #3,

“Air Pollution and Children: Not Breathing Easy”