Neighborhood Field Trip
Paper 2—Neighborhood Field Trip
The purpose of this paper is to gain some firsthand experience with some of the topics we’ve been covering this semester, and practice critical thinking and writing by bringing concepts, theories and empirical knowledge from the course to bear on what you saw and experienced during the field trip. There are two parts to this assignment: you need to go on one of the field trips discussed below and turn in 2-3 pages of notes that describe where you went and what you saw and experienced. We will talk more about how to do this in class. The second part of the assignment is the paper itself, which should be 6-9 pages. You will staple both of these documents together and turn them in at the same time. People missing the field note portion of the assignment will automatically lose 50 points from their paper grade.
The purpose of the paper is to connect some of your real-life field trip observations to class readings and concepts, arguing how different readings and ideas apply, explain and/or provide insights (or not) for understanding the place you visited, or things that you saw. You will choose one to three themes from your field trip observations to discuss in your paper. You will need to discuss at minimum three readings from class and provide summaries of the arguments and ideas you will apply to interpreting these aspects of your field trip experience. You will also need to include some relevant background information about your neighborhood, from news sources, the census or other appropriate sources to support the points you make and put your own observations in context.
For example, if you visited Eastmont Town Center, what readings could you use to explain some of your observations about the neighborhood? What do the readings leave out? Are there competing explanations for things you observed? Does census data support your observation that a neighborhood is “poor”? You should draw on anything from class that you think is relevant, and you may bring in outside readings as well. Make sure your discussion engages the readings you choose—simply pointing out that a reading is relevant to something, but not explaining how or why in detail, will not be sufficient for earning a good grade on this assignment.
When thinking about which observations to focus on, remember that a large part of your grade will be based on how well you were able to apply readings from class to them. Therefore, if you saw something that seemed really interesting, but does not link easily to a class reading, it might not be the best choice for this assignment.
As with the last paper, some readings lend themselves more easily to this assignment than others. For most of you, the readings from week 7 and 8 and 11 and 12 will probably be the most relevant.
Make sure to begin your paper with an introduction that states where you went on your field trip, and the themes and readings you will discuss.
Watch out for stereotypes! Try not to assume things about what you see. Ask yourself, is there another explanation? What kind of support do you have for a conclusion you might draw about someone or something?
Neighborhood Field Trip Possibilities:
For all three of the possibilities, take notes on what you observe as you pass through the neighborhoods. What can you tell about the neighborhoods you pass through? For example, what does the neighborhood look like in terms of the type and quality of housing and landscaping? What about amenities such as parks and variety of stores? Who is around outside? What are they doing? What is the transportation access like? Are there things to walk to? Would you feel safe walking around in the neighborhood? Why or why not? Is there a police presence? Are there major employers in the neighborhood? Do the types of people getting on and off the bus change along with the neighborhoods? Are there things that signal to you the class status of people and places you see? What are they? What were the richest and poorest neighborhoods you passed through? How could you tell?
You might want to do this project with a friend. Make sure to go during the day. Choose a bus route that travels through poorer and wealthier neighborhoods in the East Bay. Typically, these go east-west, from the “flats” to the “hills” and vice versa. Two suggestions are the #18 bus from Berkeley BART, which travels south and east to its final stop in the Montclair district of Oakland. The #26, which you can catch at the MacArthur, 12th St. or West Oakland BART, travels through west Oakland and up to Piedmont. These two are suggestions; students may choose other routes as long as they pass through poorer and wealthier areas.
Car Variation of Neighborhood Tour
Driving around a neighborhood in the privacy of your or a friend’s car is a very different experience than riding the bus, but the advantage is that you can explore more of the neighborhood. If you do a neighborhood tour by car, you need to experience more of the neighborhood and you have to get out of your car at least once! As with the bus tour, you need to make sure to visit poorer and wealthier areas that are fairly close to each other. You can follow a major bus route, or use the census info below to identify appropriate areas. For example, if you are driving in West Oakland, the area adjacent to Emeryville and Mandela Parkway look very different than streets a few blocks south. Find a map of the area, and look for parks and schools, and include these on your tour. Stop at a store or restaurant and go in. Record your observations, paying attention to what you see and experience, as noted above.
Eastmont Town Center, Oakland
Consider your drive or bus ride to Eastmont Town Center to be part of your field trip and observe the neighborhoods you pass through as you approach it. Eastmont used to be one of the bigger malls in Oakland, but the atmosphere of the “town center” is different than other malls you are probably used to. Walk around and note the different stores and people there. Describe the people you see and what they are doing. Is there a security presence? Anything going on in the parking lot? Visit during the day, preferably during a weekday (mostly closed on Sunday) and bring a friend.
Eastmont Town Center is at Foothill Blvd. and 68th Ave. in Oakland and is accessible by bus or car.
Sources of Neighborhood Information
U.S. Census: Determine the zip code of one of the neighborhoods you visit—look at a map, or record an address you pass by and search it on Google. You can then use the zip code to easily look up demographic information about neighborhoods, which you can use to put your observations in context and provide some background about your neighborhood. The easiest option for finding this information (in my opinion) is through the New York Times Census Explorer. You can google this or, go to http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/explorer. The official census website , which contains more detailed information from different sources (but is less user-friendly) is called American FactFinder. http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml###
Local Newspapers: The San Francisco Chronicle, The Oakland Tribune, The West County Times, The Berkeley Daily Planet, San Jose Mercury News
Online Encyclopedias: This may perhaps be the only time in your college career that you may use Wikipedia as a source of information for your paper. You may use it to reference historical information on Berkeley, Oakland or other local cities that you think is relevant background for your paper. You may also use it for history of Eastmont Town Center. Demographic references however, should come from the census. If you are interested in local history, a good book is Berkeley, A City in History by Charles Wollenberg.
Richmond Confidential. A project of the UC Berkeley journalism school, this website is a great source of information about neighborhoods in Richmond, if you decide to do your neighborhood trip there.
Eastmont Town Center.
“How shopping mall became the Eastmont Town Center”; Oakland Tribune, February 29, 2004
“Rethinking an old box”; East Bay Business Times, November 10, 2000