University of Iowa

Delmar Storytelling and Community Development

Graduate students in the School of Urban & Regional Planning course Community Development in the Upper Midwest worked with 4th-6th graders from the Delwood Community School District in Delmar, IA to produce videos and books that tell the story of the community through interviews with longtime residents. 

The City of Delmar aimed to engage their citizens in creating a vision for the town that built on the community’s common values, and particularly to revive interest in community development and the small downtown business district.  This project focused on a planning model that brought people together to identify what was distinctive and what mattered most to residents, and used that information to develop a vision and strategic plan for the community.  

University of Iowa students helped gather public input through “storytelling”.  Teams of UI graduate students and Delwood CSD students in 4th-6th grades developed interview questions for local residents.  The teams recorded interviews on video and edited footage into narrative “stories.” This was followed by a bookmaking workshop designed to illustrate key community-visioning themes from the interviews. 

The collaboration culminated in a public open house and a series of videos about Delmar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZNAXQiYs34.

On-campus partners for the project included Center for the Book, IDEAL, and Art Education, with community support from the City of Delmar, the Delwood Community School District, the Delmar Economic Development Group, and ECIA.