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Nov. 3, 2010

Smith College Team Asks About Green Space Use

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.— Although the political canvassing ended with Tuesday's elections, a group of Smith College students just began its door-to-door rounds. Throughout the week, students are querying residents of the city’s Ward 3 neighborhoods about green space as part of a project for the Landscape Studies Program.

Ella Hartenian '11  

One of the oldest areas of the city, the Ward 3 district serves as an entrance into Northampton from Interstate 91 and includes the Three County Fairgrounds. The students plan to report about the contributions of green space to the character of the area during a public forum on Saturday, Nov. 6, 9 a.m. to noon, at Bridge Street Elementary School.

If a week’s time seems like a quick turnaround for such an assessment, it is. The project’s fast pace is a function of the research method the students are using, called REAP. “Rapid is the first word in REAP,” noted Anne Leone, director of Smith’s landscape studies program.

REAP – Rapid Ethnographic Assessment Procedure – is a mode of conducting research that differs from traditional qualitative research in that more than one investigator is always involved in a multi-disciplinary team, according to Leone.

The REAP process focuses on a question that can be investigated through fieldwork. In this case, the question came from the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association: What role do green spaces play in defining neighborhood quality of life?

The research method places considerable importance on including local people as part of the process, according to Setha Low, president of the American Anthropological Society, an authority on the method and leader of the Smith investigation. The Smith students are also receiving guidance from Marcia McNally, co-chair of the International Rivers Board of Directors.

Seniors Kathryn Ryan (left) and
Anneliese Baierl

While canvassing the area, each student team will survey at least 15 people about how they use the green spaces in their neighborhood. They will also perform field mapping, documenting the landscape visually in sketchbooks they’ll bring along.

Green spaces in the neighborhood include the bike trail, the Meadows, Bridge Street Cemetery, Connecticut River, Three County Fairgrounds, Bridge Street Elementary School playground, Sheldon Field and North Street Woods.

The green space planning is part of a long-term project spearheaded by the neighborhood association to give residents a stronger voice in city planning issues. The student presentation Saturday will culminate the collaboration between Smith and the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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