Free ebook on placemaking

Sauna Dam

Building a swimming hole

There’s something–quite a lot, actually–to be said about teaching and placemaking. Wendell Berry commented that the best meaning of work was to make the world a better place, and education broadly understood is a process of worldmaking. Thinking in such ways, I was delighted to find Jay Walljasper’s (former editor of Utne Reader) free ebook: How to Design Our World for Happiness: The commons guide to placemaking, public space, and enjoying a convivial life.

It’s the vision behind Teaching as a Craft of Place and the Heritage Project.

Here’s a sample:

26 Ways to Make Great Places
Have fun while building a better world

1 Challenge the prevailing myth that all problems have private, individualized solutions

2 Notice how many of life’s pleasures exist outside the marketplace—gardening, fishing, conversing, playing music, playing ball, making love, enjoying nature, and more

3 Take time to enjoy what your corner of the world offers (As the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire once declared, “We are bigger than our schedules.”)

4 Have some fun. The best reason for making great places is that it will enliven all of our lives

5 Offer a smile or greeting to people you pass. Community begins with connecting—even in brief, spontaneous ways.

6 Walk, bike, or take transit whenever you can It’s good for the environment, but also for you You make very few friends behind the wheel of your car

7 Treat common spaces as if you own them (which, actually, you do) Pick up litter Keep an eye on the place Tidy things up Report problems or repair things yourself Initiate improvements

8 Pull together a potluck. Throw a block party Form a community choir, slow food club, Friday night poker game, seasonal festival, or any other excuse for socializing

9 Get out of the house and spend some time on the stoop, the front yard, the street—anywhere you can be a part of the river of life that flows past.

10 Create or designate a “town square” for your neighborhood where folks naturally want to gather—a park, playground, vacant lot, community center, coffee shop, or even a street corner

11 Lobby for more public benches, water fountains, plazas, parks, sidewalks, bike trails, playgrounds, and other crucial commons infrastructure

12 Take matters into your own hands and add a bench to your front yard or transform a vacant lot into a playground

13 Conduct an inventory of local commons. Publicize your findings, and offer suggestions for celebrating and improving these community assets

14 Organize your neighbors to prevent crime and to defuse the fear of crime, which often dampens a community’s spirits even more than crime itself

15 Remember streets belong to everyone, not just automobiles. Drive cautiously and push for traffic calming and other improvements that remind motorists they are not kings of the road

16 Buy from local, independent businesses whenever possible (For more information see American Independent Business Alliance and the Business Alliance for Local Living economies)

17 Form a neighborhood exchange to share everything from lawn mowers to childcare to vehicles

18 Barter. Trade your skill in baking pies with someone who will fix your computer.

19 Join campaigns opposing cutbacks in public assets like transit, schools, libraries, parks, social services, police and fire protection, arts programs, and more.

20 Write letters to the editor about the importance of community commons, post on local websites, call into talk radio, tell your friends

21 Learn from everywhere. What can Copenhagen teach us about bicycles? India about wellness?
Africa about community solidarity? Indigenous nations about the commons itself? What bright ideas could be borrowed from a nearby neighborhood or town?

22 Become a guerrilla gardener, planting flowers and vegetables on neglected land in your neighborhood.

23 Organize a community garden or local farmer’s market

24 Roll up your sleeves to restore a creek, wetland, woods, or grasslands

25 Form a study group to explore what can be done to improve your community

26 Think of yourself as a local patriot and share your enthusiasm

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