Oakley Strasser

Award Year: 

Oakley was a PiA fellow in Hangzhou, China where she taught English at Zheijiang Institute of Technology for the 2011-2012 academic year.

As our 2012-2013 Carriebright fellow, Oakley worked with hill tribe communities in rural northern Laos to construct vegetable gardens at local schools and create supplemental educational curricula and community engagement activities.

Based in Luang Prabang, she worked with local educational and environmental organizations with a permanent presence and relationship with villages in the area. Oakley's project has enabled the planning, organization, execution and maintenance of gardens in three pilot schools as a means of addressing broader issues of nutrition and environmental awareness. Her ultimate goal was to help construct the initial gardens and to give schools the tools, including a manual in Lao, to sustain and enlarge the gardens and to view them as extensions of the classroom. The manuals contained practical information about how to care for and use each plant, ideas for expanding the gardens, and suggestions for classroom activities and lessons that emphasize the importance of proper nutrition and environmental awareness. Some of these activities and lessons were then adapted to community engagement activities that were designed help parents and teachers feel investment in and ownership of the projects and to understand how the gardens and coops help their students, both physically and intellectually.

Oakley is glad to report that the planning and preparation with the local NGO partners has helped transition full responsibility and investment in this project to the schools and their communities. For each garden, there was one afternoon of construction, one afternoon of planting with the students, and one community day event during which parents, teachers and children participated in activities that introduced the garden and highlighted nutrition information. The gardens are growing very fast, and students have already been able to harvest a few times and take vegetables home. With her team, Oakley is currently planning further construction for at least ten schools that have indicated interest. Upon completing her fellowship, Oakley returned to the US to pursue her graduate studies. She will remain in charge of the project and all relevant decisions regarding its progress, but the local NGOs will continue the hands-on implementation.

Email Oakley at maryoakley.strasser@gmail.com to learn more about the Carriebright application process and her experience.

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