A Project for Students and Citizens

Posts Tagged ‘Student’

Bayou basket-making class weaves memories

In Bayou La Batre on August 14, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Laney Basket 6

By Laney Payne

Laney Basket 4With an eloquent southern draw, soft pink attire, and hands eager to help, Dorothy “Dot” Dowling, or “Mimi” to those who know her best, is far from a basket case.

However, on a July Friday, a group of women and young girls in Bayou La Batre gathered to learn the art of basket weaving from one of the craft’s finest.Laney Basket 3 With over 30 years of experience with basket weaving under her belt, Dowling loves teaching others an art form that is fading fast from today’s generation.

“Oh, I love it. I guess you could say I’m obsessed. When I’m weaving, I’m in hog heaven,” said Dowling.

And Dowling shared her little piece of heaven with the bayou through a lesson filled with “over and unders”, spokes, weavers and raw pleasure. Using all-natural reeds, sea grass, and time-tested methods, Dowling and her students got busy creating a piece of art as unique as the individuals doing the weaving.

“Glue, that’s what I call the “g” word. These are all natural, and each one is different. You couldn’t make two the same if you tried. I love that about it,” said Dowling.

While creating their first baskets, Mrs. Dot’s students quickly picked up the trade and were thrilled watching their baskets take form and come to life.

But baskets weren’t the only thing being woven together. Sitting on the edges of cafeteria tables in a small fellowship hall on a Friday morning, the women in Dowling’s class took time to invest in each other and weave relationships.

Laney Basket 1Ranging from young brunette JROTC members, sisters, grand-daughters, retired bus drivers with shiny pink nails, and even a boy in the mix, the students of Mrs. Dot’s class shared stories and laughs in between the “in and out’s” of weaving.

“I’ve seen people do it, but I never thought much about it,” said student Diane Collier.

Another student, Brianna John, said, “I’ve woven, but not like this!”

As the group put their finishing touches on their work, and Dowling made her final rounds answering each “Mimi, what’s next?” smiles and prideful looks were seen around the table.

As Dowling packed her bag with reeds and tools, she looked at me and said, “Laney, I hope they enjoyed that as much as I did.”

What Dowling doesn’t realize is the lasting impact her investment made here and the lasting impact she continues to make on me as her grateful granddaughter.

Youth pitch ideas for businesses at Selma conference

In Selma / Old Cahawba on July 30, 2013 at 3:35 pm
Students showcase their idea for an "exotic" buffet for their peers. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Students present their idea for an “exotic” buffet to their peers at Selma Youth Conference. (Photo by Nathan Simone)


If “we” keep working together in Selma, you may soon be able to say “oui” at a French restaurant proposed by Selma youth.

Wearing t-shirts that ask on the back “What time is it?” and answer “It’s time to believe in me!,” the fifth annual Selma Youth Conference brought together students of all ages July 25 and 26 for hours of teambuilding, skilled learning and the reminder that education is always key to bettering oneself.

In just two hours over two days, Living Democracy Fellow Taryn Wilson was able  to get approximately 30 students participating in the conference thinking in the entrepreneurial business mindset of planning, debating and creating.

The atmosphere of the camp was intellectually festive, like a celebration of learning. Even though they were required to think critically and produce work, the ability for the students to socialize and exchange ideas meant more smiles and more creativity.

Students were encouraged to ask questions and probe their peers to think critically. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Students were encouraged to ask questions and to think critically. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

The students split into six loose groups and were given markers and a large sheet of paper to draw up a plan for a business. On the second day of the conference held at the Selma Interpretive Center, students finished their plans and made presentations to their peers.

Some were creative and highly ambitious, like a French restaurant (Cherie L’lori) to be headquartered in Rio de Janeiro and a new line of shoes (brand name: G-T3CH) with a built-in television.  Other teams stayed in the realm of practicality.

One group proposed a paper mill located in Selma that sold glow-in-the-dark paper, something many might think could actually be quite popular with college students and late-night independent thinkers.

Another had a grand list of stores to include in a new three-story Shearson mall, including boutiques and specialty shops named after (and presumably owned by) the creators.  All the group members agreed that “Selma needs a better mall.”

An exotic buffet that would serve food and showcase culture from many different parts of the world was also pitched as an idea.

Students work on a business plan for an outlet mall near Selma. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Students work on a business plan for an outlet mall near Selma. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

During the sessions, Wilson set no guidelines about how the students were able to plan out their businesses, and she was pleasantly surprised at how thought out even some of the more fantastic ideas were.

“It was nice to be able to work with real kids on real ideas,” said Wilson. “Some of the plans could actually work, and I just hope they realize that with proper planning and the right mindset, it could be their reality.”