THE CROW AGENCY PROJECT
Contact: Vicki Cherney
CROW NATION GIRLS BUILDING A BETTER FUTURE WITH STRAW-BALE HOUSES
- Background -- A severe housing shortage on their reservation and the chance to win a national competition, prompted a group of middle school girls at the Pretty Eagle Catholic School in St. Xavier, MT, to develop a way to build houses out of straw.
- The Problem -- The Crow Nation housing shortage forces two or three families to live under one roof.
Some members of the Crow Nation have been waiting more than 10 years for a house. The girls: Lucretia Birdinground, Kimberly Duputee, Omney Sees the Ground, Brenett Stewart, and their coach, science teacher Jack Joyce, saw a solution in the abundant straw on the Crow Reservation. The problem: most tribal members perceived straw-bale construction as ineffective and unsafe. The perception was that it could rot or catch
- Scientific Proof -- To demonstrate that straw-bale construction is economical and safe, the team built a model of a straw house, stacking straw bales and covering them with stucco concrete. They also conducted experiments with blowtorches, hoses and thermometers to prove the structure was fireproof, waterproof, and energy efficient.
- Community Support -- Support has been building nationally and locally to help the girls bring this dream to life. Organizations such as the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation which is part of the Bayer/National Science Foundation Award, Red Feather Development Group*, the University of Washington, St. Labre Indian School, Oprah's Angel NetworkTM, and volunteers from all over the country have contributed time, money and talent to help advance this project.
- Breaking New Ground -- Literally -- The team will build a community center utilizing straw-bale construction on the Crow Reservation in July 2002. The center will be a living example of the advantages of straw-bale construction, as well as a place for the community to come together and for children to gather and study.
- Award-Winning Idea -- Their work was ingenious and effective enough to earn them the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant in June 2001. The grant is awarded each year to a team of innovative young people to help bring a promising community project to life. It is part of the Bayer/NSF Award which challenges teams of middle school students to use science and technology to identify and develop a solution to a community problem.
For more information call 1-800-291-6020 or visit www.christophercolumbusawards.com.
* Red Feather Development Group, based in Bellevue, WA, is a national nonprofit housing and community development organization working with American Indians to find lasting solutions for the acute lack of housing and other community development problems that continue to plague many of their reservations.