Wrapping up Social Justice and Tech class at Foothill College

I’m so absurdly proud of my students from the Science Learning Institute at Foothill College; I just finished up serving as their Social Justice and Tech Facilitator. A little over a week ago, my community college students pitched their ideas to a room that included VCs and donors, the President of the college and Chancellor of the district, plus their peers, mentors, and friends.

They are all students from communities underrepresented in STEM who are working to build their careers in tech. They started my hackathon 4 weeks ago and most had never built a website, coded an app, or designed a social impact project. And last Friday, they did! Huge thank you to my friends who came to speak to my students: Ismail Smith-Wade-El and Jorge Pacheco Jr. and Lisa Dusseault and Nikki Hanson and Aer van de Water. The students loved you and learned so much from you!

Here are their final apps and websites:

I wrote a lot of toy apps using Code.org’s App Lab to teach myself the platform and JavaScript; I put my favorites up on my GitHub and linked to them under Projects>Apps above. I really liked using Code.org, though I would recommend start by teaching students the platform using their Dance Lab (complete with songs from Lil Nas X, Katy Perry, and Shawn Mendes and others) before diving into the whiteboard version of their drag-and-drop JavaScript tool. Code.org has a lot of good tools and they were responsive when I caught an issue with their Arabic language processing.

Teaching basic engineering concepts alongside social impact frameworks was such fun. Stakeholder interviews became user interviews, market research blended with program evaluation, good design principals tied in tightly with rules about how to represent vulnerable groups in an empowering way.

If you’re interested in bringing me in to teach a course like this (4 weeks ~ 2 hours a day for 4 days a week), I would love to do it again. If you’d like to run one like it yourself, here’s the handbook describing how to do it, all licensed under a Creative Commons noncommercial sharealike license. I’ve lightly edited the handbook to remove anything specific to this course. I’d love to know how it works in other environments!

PS: Since I was teaching this whole thing on Zoom, we opened up the room 15 minutes before class started and played this collaborative Spotify playlist; it really helped fill that awkward video conference space and gave everyone the same amount of control over the space. Check it out for a lot of cool music.

Poems from the Garden is out!

I’m finishing up fulfillment for last month’s successful Kickstarter for my collection, Poems from the Garden: A pandemic year in sonnets & sloppier forms. I’ll be signing all the books that folks requested in the next few weeks and I expect everyone will have all of their seeds/books/postcards/ebooks by the next of the month.

If you didn’t get a chance to back the Kickstarter, you can buy the ebook and the paperback here.

I’m still writing a sonnet a week for the Friday Journal, and will probably share the ones I like best either here or on my Instagram. Here’s one from last week I enjoyed:

I saw a pregnant
lizard hiding in
the garden on the

chiaroscuro edge
of light along the
dark side of a new-
built plant bed, inching

up and down to warm
and cool her big full
belly with the spring
sunshine. I’m sure she’s

ready to meet her 
hatchlings; I am too.

And here is the lizard:

A pregnant fence lizard sitting on some UV cloth beside a community garden bed

3 Days Left in Kickstarter for “Poems from the Garden: A pandemic year in sonnets and sloppier forms”

A little under a month ago I launched a Kickstarter for a book of poetry I wrote during the first year of the pandemic. We met the project goal in the first four days! I am so grateful to my friends, family, and community for your support.

The campaign is currently funded at 141% over goal. It has 3 days left, after which point I’ll put the book up on Amazon where folks can buy it in paperback or ebook. But the celebrate meeting the project’s goal and the last 3 days of the campaign, I wanted to share the poems I’ve been posting on Instagram. Each are illustrated with images from the Smithsonian museums’ Open Access project, a database of tens of thousands of pieces of art licensed under Creative Commons 0, dedicating them to the public domain.

This book of poetry was always designed to be a small book. I wrote each poem with about a dozen people in mind: the volunteers who come to the community garden each Saturday that we can gather together in a socially-distanced work party. I wrote these poems for the people mentioned in them, and I’ve been so grateful that others have also found something in them: a pinned-down memory of an awful, strange year; the bit of hope many of us found in growing things during that time.

I’ll keep writing a poem every week for the Friday Journal, the weekly newsletter for St Stephen’s in-the-Field, the church that hosts the community garden. I’ll keep posting updates online about the work we’re doing in the garden.

Tomorrow we’re planting trees on the campus surrounding the community garden, oaks that will — with luck, time, and care — still be growing strong in 250 years. If you’re interested in coming to help, comment, message me, or text me. We can always use more hands.

So, if you’re interested in backing the Kickstarter, you have 3 days left. There’s some cool rewards, like native seed packets, a custom poem for your garden, or an audiobook. It’s been fun figuring out how to self-publish this small book and once again, I’m so grateful for everyone’s love and support.

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