Gonzaga Professors Win Second Grant for NE Spokane Community Project

The Children of the Sun trail in Spokane.
Public art on the Children of the Sun trail. Photo courtesy of helveticka

February 14, 2024
Gonzaga University News Service

Gonzaga University professors Katey Roden (English) and Greg Gordon (Environmental Studies and Sciences) were awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to develop a public platform exploring the history, culture, and ecology of Northeast Spokane.

The project, “Finding Our Way,” will use “digital deep mapping” to build a website for communities along the new Children of the Sun Trail to tell their stories and document the past, present, and future of their neighborhoods. The Children of the Sun Trail is a paved bike/pedestrian trail designed to mitigate the effects of the construction of US 395, the North-South Corridor, and will parallel the new highway. As a project funded by the Digital Projects for the Public arm of the NEH, “Finding Our Way” aims to be a public rather than academic resource.

Roden and Gordon are partnering with Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Spokane Parks & Recreation to develop physical installations and digital access points via QR codes along the trail that offer access to the “Finding Our Way” website. Plans for the website include audio-visual narratives featuring community members, ecological narratives providing information about environmental health and climate change, as well as community maps providing a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the distinct neighborhoods the trail passes through.

In addition to telling the stories of each neighborhood, “Finding Our Way” is collaborating with the Spokane Tribe, whose members have been displaced from their traditional homeland, to develop an ethnobotanical “Discovery Garden” at Wildhorse Park.

The Discovery Garden is within walking distance of several schools and community centers that have interest in developing curricular materials related to native plants, biodiversity, and climate change. Drs. Roden and Gordon hope the combination of a physical garden featuring native plants and a digital website further contextualizing the relationship between people and the environments we live in will help provide opportunities for civic engagement and community building in an area of Spokane that is most directly affected by wildfire smoke pollution and urban heat effects related to climate change.

This second phase of the grant project will run from Spring 24-25 and focus on community outreach, teacher engagement, development of educational materials, and prototyping the website. The initial phase of the project was funded through a from the NEH and concluded in 2023.

According to project co-director, Katey Roden, the goal of this expansive multi-year and multiple-grant-winning project, is to “provide opportunities for humanities students to learn their disciplines in real-world contexts…but more than anything, it is an opportunity for the Spokane community to ensure that often over-looked communities have a place to access information about the place they call home and a platform to tell their own stories. We’re all part of this community—some of us temporarily (like many our students at Gonzaga), some of us as new transplants, and some of us as long-time residents—we want Finding Our Way to help all of us meaningfully connect and learn from the diverse groups of people who call Spokane home.”

Learn about the start of the "Finding Our Way" project with the first grant!