Saturday, Day 6: Boat Tour on Pascagoula River and West Harrison County Championship Basketball Game

DSC_0957Today was a relaxing day for all. After breakfast, we headed to the Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point, MS to take a river and swamp tour led by Captain Benny McCoy. The tour lasts about two hours and travels through the old growth swamps and tidal marshes of the Pascagoula River. We saw many shore and water birds including the Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Snipe, Pigeon, Great Horned Owl, Osprey, Killdeer, Red-Tailed Hawk (female) and assorted species of shore birds. In the evening, we were treated to a high school basketball game, as the local favorites, the West Harrison Hurricanes, were playing for the county championship.

~ Mrs. Hanrahan and Mr. Drossel


Boat Tour on Pascagoula River

This is the first weekend that we are spending in Turkey Creek. I thought that we were going to work everyday but, surprisingly, we are going to have some special activities on the weekend so that we can relax, as well as learn more about the environment and culture of this place. Today’s most exciting activity is nothing else but a boat tour. There are a series of lakes and rivers 40 minutes from our home base. The place is called a swampland.

We took a small boat from the old home base of Visions. The tour guide is a very cool and knowledgeable person. He introduced us to a lot of things and animals that may appear in the swamp and marshlands. I’ve heard a lot of people say that there are many rivers and lakes in the United States and now I confirmed it for myself. To be honest, I was really amazed by this place because I’ve never seen such an amount of water in the same place in China. It took us almost two and a half hours to finish the whole creek. During the tour, our guide identified several species of wildlife and also some information on wildlife that we may not able to see during the trip.

At the end of the trip, I learned a lot about the local wildlife and that exist in the creek area. We had a lot of fun and learned information about Turkey Creek deeper. It’s a great trip.

~ Hainiu (Johnny) X.


West Harrison County Championship Basketball Game

Flowers and his brother, Al, invited us to watch a Basketball championship game at West Harrison High School. We walked into the gym and found a place to sit in the bleachers. Jason and I bought some snacks for our friends. When we came back, the game just started. The home team came out and all the audience started cheering. The away team is West Jones HS and they started warming up for the game.

DSC08943The game started, at the first half, West Jones were really fast and strong. Both teams had strong players, and they were all good players. There were a lot of beautiful shots done by the away team and the home team had more passing but less scoring. During the break at halftime, we discussed which team was better. The home team has more supporters and finally they won the game. They had some good substitutions and smart passes. It was a really good game; we all enjoyed it.

~ Martin M.


Friday, Day 5: Introduction to Drywall and Science Lab Cleanup continued

SONY DSCToday was a very productive day with the students who learn quickly and are working very hard. They are learning the value of a well-done job and working together to complete their tasks. Hanging drywall is not easy work and the students are learning a lot about the process from the ground up. We review the process and also look at conservation of materials and labor; what are the steps we can take to minimize these?

~ Mrs. Hanrahan and Mr. Drossel

Drywall at the Blue House

Day 5 - Drywall_Hanrahan5Today was day 5 of M-Term and day 2 at the Vision’s Blue House. Like yesterday, we split up into one group of 5 and one group of 4. The group of 4 headed off to the school, while the group of 5 (including me) stayed at the house. Since yesterday we worked on the basic skills needed, today we were able to start actually working on the house, which meant drywall.

I had done house building with Habitat 4 humanity, but never did we do anything with drywall, so this was a new experience for me. Mike gave me the basic rundown of how this all would work and then he, Mrs. Hanrahan and I worked in one of the front rooms. While we did this, the other four students started sanding in one of the back rooms that was hung with drywall previously.

To hang drywall, we had to bring in the large sheets of 8’ x 4’ drywall and place them down on the worktable. We figured out where on the wall we wanted to place it and cut out spaces if there were any outlets or windows in the way of where we were going to place the drywall. Measurements like this were what took up the most amount of time. Once we cut out what we needed to and carefully, so we didn’t destroy the drywall, placed the piece on the wall, we were ready to screw the drywall into place. We used special driver bits to make sure we didn’t damage the drywall. By the end of the day, the five of us and Mike (with Mr. Drossel’s help after lunch) managed to hang ¾ of all the drywall in the room.

Overall, it was a pretty successful day. There were sometimes where kids weren’t as productive as they could’ve been, but they made up for it with their fast learning and diligent work ethic. Besides this it was quite fun, and I’m excited to continue working on the house. Other kids talk about working at the school, but I’d love to keep going back to the house forever.

~ Sara S.

Science Lab Cleanup

It is only my third day in Turkey Creek and I am experiencing so much already. There is a great sense of community and family here. It is extremely different than the normal routines that most of us have at home. On our first real work day, we split up into two groups. Five people, not including the adults, worked on renovating the “Blue House” and the other four of went to the local 7th/8th grade public school to clean, organize and do inventory in their science lab.

The first day in the science lab we focused on organizing and getting an understanding of everything that was in there. We started to separate the items into categories. We had a spot for kits and activities, a spot for beakers, rulers, etc. Cleaning the lab is an absolutely amazing experience for me. It is a lot of work and can be very tiring, but as long as we know that we are doing something good for the children and the school, we keep going because that’s what matters the most. Today, the second day in the lab, it was obvious how much progress we made. We began to do inventory so that the staff knew what they had and what they may still need. These past two days have been great.

~ Chloe M.

Shed Repair

SONY DSCToday was the second full working day, so right after breakfast, we went to the school to help with some stuff there. The first thing that we did when we came there was work on a building outside the classroom. Several years ago a group of young people who were participants of Visions program built an outside classroom. And the thing that I really liked about this place is that the purpose of it was to be a place where people from different parts of Gulfport and Turkey Creek can meet and communicate with each other. However, it became really old and some pieces of wood just fell down. Therefore, we went there and helped the school with fixing it. Mr. Drossel taught us how to measure 45 degrees by using “speedo”, our “speed square”, and also we explained how to cut wood leg using handsaw. The, he taught us how to use a hammer. I really enjoyed all this process especially using handsaw. I know that it doesn’t sound like girls thing, but it is actually really a lot of fun. First it was really hard for me to use it, but then I got the idea and could use it pretty well. Also I liked using such a tool as a hammer because the nails are really small and to try to beat it inside of the wood you should really try and concentrate.

Today I was really tired in the end of the day but I was really happy that I helped both  the school and students to be able to use this classroom again. Also I really liked working on the classroom and learning how to use different tools because when my parents will need help with something, I will be able to fix what they need to be fixed.

~ Liliya M.

Thursday, Day 4: Basic Carpentry, Science Cleanup and Hike

SONY DSCFirst day was great. It’s amazing how the group has come together. They all received power tool training today in the morning as we will be spending most of our time working on a house that was built in 1918 and has been purchased by the Turkey Creek Land Trust. This afternoon while one group worked on constructing a scaffold/work bench for the group to use while at the worksite, another group visited the local high school to inventory and clean-up their science lab. Believe it or not they haven’t had a science teacher or for that matter a science class in the school for a while. Very strange!!! Tomorrow the group will learn how to hang sheetrock and spackle.

We had the honor of meeting Miss Rose Johnson, the founder of the North Gulfport Community Land Trust and found her to be a well-spoken, engaging and loving woman; such an inspiration. It was the perfect sendoff to hear from her before we were to begin working on helping with the restoration of this historic home.

~ Mrs. Hanrahan and Mr. Drossel

Basic Carpentry

Day 4 - Basic Carpentry and Hike etc_Hanrahan06Today is a very tiring day. In the morning, I was so cold that I woke up during the sleep 2 – 3 times. But today is the first day that we really learned something new in our working place, a beautiful, small house. So we went to the house first and found that the house itself is just like a “skeleton” without any decoration and boards inside the house. So Mike started to teach us how to work, how to construct a house. He first taught us how to use those tools, but most of them, if not used properly, are really dangerous. So I wanted to try first with the drilling and cutting. I wanted Mike to point out what I might do wrong. Surprisingly, I learned so fast that I met only a little trouble, and Mike said I’m a good learner. Later, when we finished training, we started a real job. To be honest, even thought it was the first time I got to learn these things, I was curious rather than fearful. Maybe it is because I have learned everything from Mike already. During the process we worked so hard and concentrated so much that we did not even notice the time passing so quickly. We made 2 tables by the end of the workday. The first one took us a long time since we did not really know how to cooperate swiftly and use tools effectively. However, the second table only took us about half an hour to finish (the legs were already constructed); everyone knows his or her own job. What an interesting day I had!! I had never even thought about working on building houses, but now I do. After working, we also visited Turkey Creek, the place that we need to protect even thought it did not interest me as much as the job of building at the house did.

~ Guorui (Bob) X.

Construction of Scaffold/Work Bench

Day 4 - Basic Carpentry and Hike etc_Hanrahan10 Today I woke up at 6:30am and feel so cold because last night I did not have any things to cover my body so I got a lot of nightmares. After eating breakfast, we took 5 minutes to drive to the house that we will be working in. Mike, who is very good at building houses, teaches us different names of different machines and of course the skills needed to use the machines. Then he told us our goal today is making a bench in a day. We learned how to use the cutting tools (hand, miter, circular, jab and hand saw) and how to read the measurements on the measuring tape. Then, we used the cutting machine (miter saw) to cut different lengths of wood that we need. Then, we use the drill to set the nail on the wood and correct each other step by step. In the measuring step, we should read the measurement accurately because if we make a mistake, we have to fix it or cut the wood again. We have to be very careful. With Mike’s help, we took 3 hours to build one and a half tables in a day. We felt so tired and exhausted. But, it’s very interesting to know how to build the bench and, for me, it is a very good experience.

~ Yinru (Jason) S.

Turkey Creek Hike

SONY DSCWe went on a hike along the Turkey Creek right after we came back from work. My feet were freezing cold and I was really tired because I haven’t slept well for days. The entry was not easy to find. The whole park was like some secretive base. I felt like I was walking through the closet in the story of Narnia. I had no idea of where I was going. I went hiking in Saddleback Mountain in California several times, but Turkey Creek was different. Turkey Creek was heavily polluted. It was supposed to be a habitat for migrant birds, but I didn’t see any of them. The bridge was falling apart (a couple of pieces of wood on the railings need repair) and there was trash on the road. I hope that Turkey Creek’s environmental problem can be solved as soon as possible.

~ Yingqi (Ingrid) Z.


Tuesday, Day 2: “Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek”

Today we watched a powerful documentary film about the struggles of Turkey Creek and the community’s efforts to overcome them with the help of Derrick Evans who shows how a great leader can make a difference. “Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek” was created by filmmaker Leah Mahan and illustrates both social and environmental injustices that were imposed on this community. Many thanks to Leah Mahan who made the viewing of her film possible.

Group Photo_Ross

Tomorrow, we begin our adventure!

~ Mrs. Hanrahan and Mr. Drossel

Reflection on Film

Most people in Turkey Creek are Afro-American and they are trying to defend their land from the government. The government is cutting down trees and making the surrounding town more commercial. Government wants to make the town more modern. People in Turkey Creek are unsatisfied because the government is taking away their neighborhood.

Derrick Evans is a Boston teacher who moves home to Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors – former slaves who settled on the Gulf Coast in the 1860s, are being desecrated to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport. He’s trying to help the people of this community preserve their heritage. His role is a leader in the battle to save Turkey Creek. In order to help save the town, he decided to fill out an application to ask for his and others’ homes to become a part of the National Register of Historic Places. He invited representatives of the local and state government to attend a town meeting and talk to people who live in the community. One of the things they discuss is the disregard for the wetlands and their environmental purpose. Wetlands are important for proper drainage. However, many in the government are just interested in progress, not believing this is true. Flooding from the river destroys some communities.

The state of Mississippi received funds from the Federal Government to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, but instead of rebuilding people’s houses, the government used the money to build some big buildings for profit, for the economy. The government will be able to gain a lot of benefits from this. If they cut down the trees, the environment will be destroyed.

~ Chengzhi (Martin) M.

Interesting link: Bridge the Gulf Project

Monday, Day 1: Introduction to Mississippi

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.10.26 PMFinally M-Term is here. As the most interesting and exciting term at Ross School, this year’s M-Term came much earlier than last year. For this year’s M-Term, I selected a community service trip to Mississippi state. We are heading to a local African-American community named Turkey Creek.

This is the first day of M-Term. We are not going to Turkey Creek until Wednesday, so all we are going to do today is to do some research on Mississippi State and Turkey Creek. As I’m doing my research, I realized that this trip to Turkey Creek is going to be so different than my last trip to Panama, which we didn’t really do much for Panama. Turkey Creek is a community established by slaves that are freed due to the Civil War. Although they were freed, people in the country, especially in Mississippi are not accepting them as a part of the community so African-Americans have to build their own lands to live. They bought 320 acres of land in North Gulfport and named it Turkey Creek. This is the origin of Turkey Creek. Turkey Creek is in a self-sufficient system that isolated them from the outside world. As Gulfport kept developing, the city started expanding to the North. As soon as an airport was built next to Turkey Creek, this land became much more valuable and the Federal Government started attempting to take over the land. However, this attempt is failed for sure as members of Turkey Creek community are so strongly united that the Federal Government cannot persuade them in any way.

Not long after people celebrated the success of saving their community, Hurricane Katrina heavily attacked Turkey Creek. Turkey Creek is not a highly developed community. In fact, it’s a self-sufficient community so people have to ask the Federal government to rebuild their homes. The government took this chance to build a market and toxic factory in the community.

What we are going to do there is to learn about the society there as well as help the community to do whatever they need. This the first time I ever participated in community service and I am really looking forward to it.

~ Hainiu (Johnny) X.