Participatory Observation at Yost Park

I count myself lucky that I am able to take university classes that put me in the ‘real world’. From my own experience, undergrad has been a lot about the background of any given field of study. Rarely do BA/BS classes create classes that involve connecting with your chosen field; luckily I think this perspective on learning and teaching is shifting. Even if it’s dreadfully slow.

Looking at my current class, PAR (Participatory Act Research), we are in close cahoots with various Edmonds city workers. Since the beginning of spring quarter the group I am a part of has been focusing on methods, but as of last weekend, we finally made it to Edmonds for some data gathering.

As one might guess from the title, we focused our attention on observing Yost Park. Not that we neglected our Five Corners research, just that its a tad more difficult to flag down people driving than people strolling a park.

For my part in observation, I tackled the tennis courts at Yost. Which turned out to be dominated by pickleball! A group of elders were spending their time in the sun getting out socializing and exercising. Honestly, it was a visual breath of fresh air. Going into a park I expect it to be swamped with kids, seeing a community of elders was a pleasing change of pace. (On a side note I did have to remind them to put on sunscreen. Washington state is notorious for high rates of skin cancer. If you don’t believe me, you can check out the CDC. Make sure to lather up as the sun comes out of hiding!)

Now what I learned from these folks is that you should never discount your elders. These guys and gals knew exactly what they wanted and how they wanted it done (as they were happy to point out to me, the response was “the right way”). The overwhelming response to Yost park improvements from my pickleball participants were rallying calls for general maintenance! This is where I chuckled to myself; I came in with thoughts of being bombarded with outlandish demands that I could no way influence. Chalk it up to youthfulness in regards to my naivety.

As much fun as it was to converse and be a nerd about research, I’d have to say my most valuable experience to come from my visit to Yost was simply realizing at the heart of any community, people are more interested in small improvements to the quality of life.


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