Happiness Project Lifts Off in La Grande
Idea Lab inspires high school students to measure their community's happiness
After participating in Oregon Humanities’ Idea Lab Summer Institute, high school senior Lauren Babcock wondered how people in her community would measure their own happiness.
Inspired by artist Jonathan Harris’s Balloons of Bhutan project, she and a group of friends, including fellow Idea Lab alumni Brian Bump and Cassiton Adelbai, created Balloons of La Grande: A Portrait of Happiness. This October, they began interviews, asking students at La Grande High School to rate their happiness in balloons and share their one wish.
“It’s eye opening,” says Babcock. “There are people I’ve never talked to before and then people I’ve known forever whose answers were completely unexpected.”
After interviewing 117 students, the project will broaden its reach to the wider La Grande community. In the end, Babcock and her friends hope to turn the project into an installation that will be displayed in the town’s central market place.
“It’s important because if we don’t consider happiness, we won’t make much progress individually or as a community,” says Babcock. She adds, “I think this project will help remind us that we are a community.”
What started with one student’s curiosity has become a way that people are making connections, asking important questions, and having conversations about the things that matter most.
As for Babcock, her one wish is “to spend my life spreading knowledge and happiness,” a desire that she says was nurtured by her experience at Idea Lab.
“I’m a lot more interested in learning now,” she says. “While I was there, I realized that there is power in knowledge.”