Jessica Hyman from the Center for Rural Studies helped me work through all this and come up with my two questions for the poll. What she helped me realize is that I needed a baseline to start from and then the next generation of the evaluative process for the project could build upon this first poll. I didn't want multiple choice, I didn't want to feed them answers. I wanted the pollsters to tell me something. And they did.
My first question was very open-ended. What defines a healthy lake? Respondents were asked what words they associated with a healthy lake.
- 42% used the word CLEAN
- 25% referred to supporting FISH, PLANT or ANIMAL LIFE
- 17% used POLLUTION FREE
- 16% said CLEAR
Other words used were SWIMMABLE, AESTHETICS, ALGAE/INVASIVE FREE, DRINKABLE, EDIBLE FISH. And get this - HEALTHY ECOSYSTEM and HEALTHY SHORELINE. Hmm, great answers, right? What I got out of this though is that I still need to ask more questions. Like: What does clean mean? What is pollution? What is healthy?
Again, perceptions. I could tell you what clean water is. I could give you a text book definition of pollution and then again, water pollution. But what I really want to know, what I really need to know in order to have this project reach it's goals is: What do the people in the Lake Champlain Basin think these things mean?
VFL Team member Linda Bowden helped me bring this question to the guests at ECHO during Earth Week. We had a blast running around with video cameras recording responses to the question of the day which was, what three words would you use to describe a healthy lake?
Here's the result:
This exercise of asking one question to a number of people and capturing their answers on video was informative in a variety of ways. Approaching people is tough, some wanted to talk, some didn't. We wanted adults to answer the questions, the adults were more keen on having their kids answer the question. The answers came quick, they were brief (which made editing easy)...and then there's the challenge of editing! So, lots to think about. And lots to think about before I hit the road to capture video at local libraries and other community events. I'm playing with a set of questions and statements to use to frame interviews as we move forward with collecting stories about the watershed. Check back in again to the blog and our YouTube page to see what we've come up with...
~Bridget, Voices For the Lake Manager