The Final Day- Sharing the Lessons

19 Jan

Okay, you’ve all learned about what a carbon footprint is; you can see your footprints in the snow…who made these prints?”
“It’s a BEAR!”
“No, it’s a mongoose!”

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The crowd of rowdy sixth graders under our supervision exploded into peals of laughter that rang about the young woods. We were attempting to identify animal tracks, keeping in line with the footprint theme of our lesson plans. Another dozen students were taking their turns exploring the Bechtel Environmental classroom; the composting toilets were hard to tear them away from.

This past week, 16 Smithies have been braving sub zero temperatures up at the MacLeish Field Station in Whately, Massachusetts for the Interterm course, Interpreting the New England Landscape. We trooped through ice encrusted snow each day, learning the trails, about the history of the property, the engineering of the Bechtel Environmental Classroom, and winter ecology.

Spending the day sharing this information with the campus school sixth graders really established a sense of community and connection with the landscape that had been building all week.

-Lily Carlise-Reske, ’17


Prior to Monday, the last time I had set foot onto the MacLeish Field Station grounds I was a nervous first-year with a poorly packed backpack preparing to spend my first night of college sleeping in a tent with strangers. The Bechtel Environmental Classroom was nothing more than a concrete foundation. It’s amazing how much changes in three years time.

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Our class this week was made special by the breathtaking view from our meeting table in the Classroom, the company and camaraderie we shared as a class, and the learning that was experienced both firsthand and witnessed with our 6th graders this morning. The process of walking through the crunchy woods identifying tracks, trees, sounds, smells and tastes with the intent of sharing our knowledge created an incredible sense of responsibility that motivated my own learning throughout the week.

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My favorite moment of the week took place on Thursday morning in the middle of the frozen vernal pool. While chiseling through two inches of ice under the enthusiastic guidance of Paul Wetzel, I heard and felt a chilling CRACK that reverberated directly below me to the edges of the pool. My heart stopped and a shiver went down my spine. Everyone around me jumped. Our collective instinctual reactions were a startling reminder of how wild we are underneath it all.

-Anne Ames, ’15


The only other time I have ever been to MacLeish was second semester my first year, for an environmental perspectives class.  I remember first walking into the Bechtel Environmental Classroom and immediately being struck by the beauty of the space with its natural lighting seeping through the 3 sets of windows and the amazing vista in front of the main classroom table. I’ve always been aware of the necessity and amazing benefits of being in such a setting, but having the unique experience to be in such an environment in an integrated academic setting was truly inspirational.

Slightly contrary to this, was my experience at MacLeish this week.  Although this class mimicked the experience of taking part in an academic class in the same setting, with the same natural light and aesthetic beauty I remember from last time, my experience was a deeper one.  Because this class was based around building a working knowledge of the field station and classroom, and gaining a working knowledge of the space, I was able to enjoy being in a space of the classroom I could now interpret in a language appropriate for the living building, as well as better understand why the space was so beautiful to me.

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During this week at the classroom we learned about the ‘7 petals’, or ways in which the classroom incorporates aspects of sustainable and ethical standards of living into the building, construction and use of the living building as a whole. These standards, overseen by the International Living Future Institute, surprisingly and incredibly have only been met by five buildings in the world, of which Smith is the most recently certified. While inside the classroom after our morning hikes or other outside activities, seeing the way these ‘petals’ were used in the environment of the classroom, was an amazing experience.  One of my favorite times of day throughout the week was simply having lunch or spending transitional times inside the main room of the classroom.  It wonderful to essentially be in a space created to enjoy these simple and necessary pleasures of existing in an environment in which being in the moment helps one better connect to their natural surroundings in a way that wakes the imagination like no other.  It’s amazing what natural beauty can do!

-Blythe Coleman-Mumford, ’17

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