Delta State University
SOC/COD 521 Sustainable Development
Fall Semester 2006

Group Project
Integrating Conservation & Community Development

Over the course of this semester, you will work on a comprehensive community development project with the other graduate students in the course.  The purpose of this project is to develop an action research strategy that links Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge and four surrounding communities, focusing particularly on the educational institutions in these communities.  The project will be coordinated using GIS to organize the data, and to develop a set of maps that present the information in a useful way.  The final product will be a strategy document, akin to a research proposal, which identifies key areas that need to be addressed for further research and action.

In order to carry out this project, each student will be a member of two groups.  First, you will join with three other students and focus on one community in Bolivar County, near the refuge.  The communities are:  Benoit, Boyle, Rosedale and Pace.  Second, each group member will specialize in one topic, and will work with the members of other groups with the same specialties.  The specialties are:  community, education, environment, and GIS.

The Community Coordinator is responsible for collecting information from the community, using participatory strategies such as a needs assessment.  Working together, the Community Coordinators will develop a sustainable development strategy, considering questions such as:

    How do local residents conceive of sustainable development?  What would it
      take to ensure a more sustainable future for community members?
    What are the most pressing social, environmental and economic issues in this
    What capacity and means does the community possess to work towards a more
      sustainable future?

The information the Community Coordinators collect will ultimately inform a set of recommendations on how to link the community with other entities to increase sustainability.  Community Coordinators may also compile descriptive data that characterize their communities.  Together, the Community Coordinators should develop a unified approach to carrying out this project, so that all four communities are undergoing similar processes and addressing the same general questions.

The Education Coordinator is responsible for working with the teachers in the community to assess strategies for increasing education for sustainable development.  Working together, the Education Coordinators will develop a sustainable development strategy, considering questions such as:

    How much education for sustainable development occurs now in the school
      system?  Are the teachers amenable to incorporating sustainable development
      in their courses?
    What are the most salient barriers to teaching sustainable development?
    What would the teachers need to increase their commitment to teaching
      sustainable development?

The information the Education Coordinators compile will ultimately inform a set of recommendations on how to incorporate sustainable development into the teaching curriculum.  Together, the Education Coordinators should develop a unified approach, so that the teachers in all the communities are undergoing the same processes and addressing the same questions.

The Environment Coordinator is responsible for working with the Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge staff (including the Friends of DNWR) to assess   Working together, the Environment Coordinators will develop a sustainable development strategy, considering questions such as:

    How much interaction does the refuge staff have with members of surrounding
      communities?  How much environmental education does the refuge undertake?
    Would the refuge like to see more community involvement in managing the
      site?  What resources does the refuge have to increase community
    What information would the refuge staff like to know about surrounding

The GIS Coordinator will work with the DSU GIS Lab to organize the information provided by the group members.  The GIS Coordinator will collaborate with the staff at the GIS lab to develop geospatial data maps which organize the information into applications which will be useful to the wildlife refuge staff, to the communities and to the teachers.  The GIS Coordinator should also create maps of the communities summarizing demographic characteristics, using data from the 2000 Census or a similar source.

Note that each group member is coordinator of one particular area, but is not responsible for carrying out all of the work in that area.  All group members should work in all areas at some point during the semester, by collecting data in the communities, visiting schools and the wildlife refuge for specific projects, and assisting in coding and entering GIS data, for example.  The coordinator should take the lead in their specialty area, but must also solicit and coordinate activities involving the other group members.

The GIS lab offers a capstone course this semester, and unless your schedule is overloaded, you should sign up for this course so that you will have access to work in the GIS labs.  The course is GIS 590, Section 1, and the CRN is 45362.  The course is 1 credit, and you do not have to show up to weekly class sessions.  At the end of the semester, you will present your results to the GIS personnel, and comment on how you used GIS in your project (the pros and cons, challenges, etc.).  If you would like more information on GIS, you can sign up for the course GIS 200: Computer Mapping/Cartography, Section 2, CRN 45303.  The course meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:05 to 4:20 in Whitfield Gym.  Contact Subu Swaminathan (4522) for further information if you intend to sign up for this course.

Note:  For those also taking SOC/COD 600 Community Development this semester, Dr. Green and I agree that it is fine if you do your projects for both courses in the same community.  You must have distinct activities for each project within the communities, however.  If you have any questions, please consult with one or both instructors.