"Chattanooga As Text" Participants To Present Pitches

Thursday, June 23, 2022
A three-weeklong summer interdisciplinary social entrepreneurship and placemaking course offered to 16 rising 10th- and 11th-grade girls, Chattanooga As Text (CAT) provides area students with experiential learning opportunities and engagement with the city and its leaders.

Each year, two co-teachers from different disciplines design a curriculum that aligns their expertise with the city of Chattanooga. This year, Dr. Andrea Becksvoort, head of the History Department at Girls Preparatory School, and Claudia Rodriguez, GPS Spanish teacher, have led the program; Dr.
Becksvoort also taught the 2017 iteration of CAT.

The 2022 curriculum focuses on the theme “Community Outside,” exploring these questions: What constitutes outside space, who uses it, who doesn't and how do we imagine outside spaces in more inclusive ways? For the first two weeks, participants—who hail from GPS, the Boys and Girls Club of Chattanooga, and area schools including Lakeview Fort Oglethorpe, CSAS, Hixson, Howard, Notre Dame, Brainerd, CGLA, East Hamilton Middle High—met with experts in the fields of government and parks and recreation, the arts, academia and nonprofits to learn more about the intricacies of where they live, the role placemaking has in enhancing their communities and how students can contribute to and participate in the process—now and going forward throughout their lives.

This week, the students have worked in teams of four, utilizing lecture notes, readings, discussion, design thinking, the connections they established the past two weeks and social entrepreneurship methods to develop innovative solutions that will be pitched to local stakeholders on Friday at 10:30 a.m., at GPS.

“GPS ran the program with great success in 2017 and then sought financial support to continue it,” said Dr. Becksvoort. “We received an E.E. Ford grant in 2019 and raised the matching funds necessary to fully fund the program for three years.” CAT was scheduled to resume in 2020 but was put on hold due to the pandemic. The program is free to all participants, and each student receives an iPad to use during the course and to keep upon completion.

The phased curriculum began with the introduction of definitional concepts (placemaking, social entrepreneurship, design thinking, etc). The second week introduced the participants to the city and region more broadly through visits to organizations, relevant sites, businesses, etc. In the third week, students worked in groups to develop their pitches, culminating in presentations to community stakeholders where one group will be awarded $1,000 seed money to implement its idea within a year.

"CAT’s teachers are grateful to the many community leaders and volunteers who participated throughout the past three weeks, offering their expertise, input, guidance and time to the placemaking course," officials said. "Special thanks to The United Way of Greater Chattanooga, particularly President and CEO Lesley Stills Scearce, for providing not only space for CAT to call its headquarters but also invaluable community connections."

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