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Formative intervention in a disaster prevention learning program

In 2019, the Futaba Center began designing and implementing a new hybrid disaster prevention learning activity’ in which local children and residents could collaborate and assume lead roles in generating disaster prevention learning (beyond the conventional method of performing passive evacuation drills). The Futaba Center’s hybrid coalition (previously described) in Kobe City’s Shin-Nagata area collaborated with the Memory of Hometown Lab—which was established within the Kobe University Architectural Laboratory—to design and implement a workshop that would involve participants in future town planning efforts aimed at preventing or reducing disaster damage through dialogues based on memories.

Curriculum, textbooks, materials/tools. educational methods

Providers of learning outside the classroom, funds of knowledge

Expansion of learning in disaster prevention learning activities through knotworking

Figure 7.1 Expansion of learning in disaster prevention learning activities through knotworking

This new hybrid disaster prevention learning activity would actively foster community collaborations to build an equitable and sustainable society. In the case of disaster prevention education at the Futaba Center in Kobe City’s Shin-Nagata area, community collaborations may be more concerned with the inner-city problems that the area has been facing.

Kobe’s Shin-Nagata area, a location of disaster prevention education aimed at preventing or reducing disaster damage, was developed as a shopping district until the 1980s. A variety of people lived together in this district—a high-density wooden residential area where people could watch over their children while staying close to their businesses. However, since the 1980s, this area has faced inner-city problems and the decline of the shopping district. Division of the regional community was further accelerated by large-scale redevelopment and regeneration projects after the earthquake in 1995. Thus, in the face of the contemporary challenges of lost personal connections felt directly by all Japanese inner-city areas, it can be said that the Futaba Center’s new disaster prevention learning program is an attempt to create boundary-crossing solutions that combine efforts to restore the overlapping and sharing of people’s lives and implement new community-based education for children. In other words, our collaborative intervention research in the Futaba Center’s disaster prevention learning program is an attempt to investigate the creation of new community-based educational activities aimed at bringing about a collaborative community positioned within the expansive context of social experimentation concerning the reconstruction of communities facing inner-city problems.

The collaborative intervention conducted in the practical implementation of disaster prevention education could be characterized as various participants’ efforts to create the commons as common, not private or public. As Peter Linebaugh (2008) points out, “[t]o speak of the commons as if it were a natural resource is misleading at best and dangerous at worst, [it] is not a ‘natural resource’—the commons is an activity and, if anything, it expresses relationships in society that arc inseparable from relations to nature” (p. 279).

Similarly, David Harvey (2012) focuses on this understanding of commons as an activity to create relationships; he introduces the word “commoning”:

The common is not to be construed, therefore, as a particular kind of thing, asset, or even social process.... There is, in effect, a social practice of commoning.... At the heart of the practice of commoning lies the principle that the relation between the social group and that aspect of the environment being treated as a common shall be both collective and non-commodified—off-limits to the logic of market exchange and market valuations.

(p. 73)

In this way, commoning creates collective non-commodified relationships among people as alternatives to capitalism. As Engestrom and Annalisa

Emerging knotworking agency in community-based disaster 129 Sannino (2016, p. 3) advocate, such alternatives to capitalism are “not limited to the creation of the novel organizations and institutions” but also “emerge within established institutions such as education and health care as innovative alternatives to privatization and commoditization.” If education would align participants’ learning activities with social movements and form a hybrid coalition to create a commons as an alternative to capitalism, more commons could be created.

Such education will actively involve building a new community as well as creating a commons as an alternative to capitalism. From the point of view of the activity theory, it can be hypothesized that education that actively involves the reappropriation and revitalization of the commons by the people is realized as a collaborative intervention that promotes the process of expansive learning to create the commons. This expansive learning activity articulates and engages itself with the pervasive primary contradiction between use value and exchange value and between being “controlled by proprietary interests and opening up possibilities of common good” (Engestrom, 2009, p. 313).

As a new disaster prevention education program based on the above ideas and concepts, two workshops for town planning aimed at preventing or reducing disaster damage were conducted in January and June 2019 at the Futaba Center. Before the January 2019 workshop, a white diorama model with a scale of 1:500 recreated the Shin-Nagata area as it was before the disaster. The model was created by undergraduate and graduate students with expertise in architecture and town planning; they were all members of the Memory of Hometown Lab. The first workshop was held January 18-20, 2019, to hear the recollections of the townspeople; it was attended by local residents who used to live in the disaster area portrayed in the model. The workshop was called the “Town Memories Workshop.” During this workshop, participating residents discussed their memories with university students participating as volunteers to record what they heard.

An objective of the workshops was to enable the participants to produce collaborative interventions in town planning for the prevention of or reduction in disaster damage. For example, in a meeting to exchange ideas (December 7, 2018), the Futaba Center’s director of disaster prevention education program expressed his ideas about the Town Memories Workshop as follows: “[I]t would be possible to have a kind of intergenerational exchange, asking children what kinds of feelings they have about the town they live in at present and using that to make comparisons regarding how things used to be.” This kind of intergenerational exchange could enable both local children and adult residents to become new agents wielding the power of communication (i.c., talking about some things that have not yet been talked about in their own town) and networking across different generations regarding the past, present, and future. In this way, this inter-generational exchange could become a dialogically negotiated site wherein the participants’ agentive actions and collaborative interventions would take place.

On June 9, 2019, eight elementary school students in grades 4-6, six Kansai University’s fourth-year students majoring in elementary education aiming to become elementary school teachers after graduation, and three elderly local residents who had been living in this area for a long time and suffered through the Kobe Earthquake of 1995 gathered together to carry out a jointly created disaster prevention learning workshop. The objective of this workshop—the “Disaster Prevention Workshop on ‘Escape Routes’ of the Town”—was to look for “escape routes” in the event of a disaster; furthermore, past and present descriptions of the town surrounding the Futaba Center were compared.

In the workshop, the participants (i.e., children and university students) were divided into three groups and seated. They first introduced themselves; next, three residents who had experienced the earthquake described for the audience what the town was like before the earthquake. After that, using the diorama model created by locals in the Town Memories Workshop in January 2019, each group gathered by a model and encouraged the residents to discuss the state of the town in the past and share their memories (see Figure 7.2). At lunchtime, participants worked on making tablewarc by folding paper, which is a useful skill in the event of a disaster; subsequently, they served and ate curry and rice using the tableware they had fashioned together. In the afternoon, three groups were formed; together with university students, they walked separate routes around the town while thinking about disaster prevention and comparing the past and present (see Figure 7.3). They considered escape routes while assuming that a Nankai Trough earthquake, an M9 class large earthquake that is expected to occur with 70-80% probability in the next thirty years, would strike the town.

Each group’s talk with elderly residents using a diorama created in the Town Memories Workshop

Figure 7.2 Each group’s talk with elderly residents using a diorama created in the Town Memories Workshop

Each group’s walk on a separate route around the town

Figure 7.3 Each group’s walk on a separate route around the town

Participants finally returned to the room, conducted a retrospective workshop, and completed the four hours of learning activities planned for the day by presenting their escape routes in the event of a disaster.

With the help of university students and adults in the area, the children in the retrospective workshop wrote words and sentences and drew pictures and symbols around a map pasted on imitation parchment, referencing the things they had learned, noticed, and found during the town walk, such as differences between the past and present, important things to consider when thinking about such things as escape roads, predictions of hazards in the event of a disaster, and assumptions regarding escape roads. Their contributions were combined into one piece of work (see Figure 7.4).

For example, in comparing the past and present, things participants noticed about certain places—“scars” of the 1995 earthquake—were recorded on the map. They included areas that were previously filled with old buildings; after the earthquake, the land was still undeveloped and the building foundations were exposed. Moreover, high-rise apartment buildings that had not existed in the past and roads that had been widened to prevent the spread of fire were marked on the map. In addition, the children summarized what they learned about the potential hazards of a disaster, such as the deterioration of houses and buildings, erosion along the coast, cinder block barriers that could collapse, arcades in shopping streets that could be damaged, and glass that could fall. Furthermore, since the height of the expected tsunami in this area could reach up to four meters, the children thought about escape routes that could facilitate an evacuation to places with higher elevations and marked them on the map. They also summarized their findings; for example, the groups of children noted that on the way to a place with an elevation

A map of escape roads made by a participating group

Figure 7.4 A map of escape roads made by a participating group

of at least four meters, there was a large road to be crossed, as well as other important issues, such as difficulties for children with disabilities and elderly people in crossing the pedestrian bridge. Through this workshop on escape roads in case of a disaster, children became aware of fundamentally important ideas for disaster prevention and mitigation (i.e., “protecting your life by yourself”).

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