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A Rainy Day Adventure: Theory into Practice

24 Apr

A heavy April downpour set the perfect tone for our first Water Inquiry Story Workshop, held in the Design Thinking Lab of Smith College. Skilled educators from four elementary schools cast dripping umbrellas aside before digging into the learning adventures of Inquiry Inc. and the Case of the Missing Ducklings, our newly published storybook. Pilot teacher Katy Butler introduced the interactive text as she did with her first graders, saying: “It’s a picture book story with characters… the kind of story where we will stop and talk, stop and think, stop and go. You will get to do the activities.”

Katy Butler reads “Inquiry Inc and the Case of the Missing Ducklings” at the Water Story Teacher Workshop.

Teachers then had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the student mindset, studying images of storm drains and ducklings, discussing the questions: “Where do you think the water goes?” and “Where will the ducklings go?” before working together to show their ideas about drain design and water pathways. In his new book Wait, What? And Life’s Other Essential Questions, James E. Ryan– Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education– writes that, “Inquiry… should always precede advocacy,” and it was, indeed, this sense of participatory engagement that characterized teachers’ efforts to “think… talk… and go” in preparation for doing so with their students. Read more at the Water Inquiry Blog

Planning and Piloting

25 Jan

News from Water Inquiry: January 2017

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“I have too many ideas” was a pleasing lament to hear on an icy afternoon in mid-December. Nestled inside a first-grade classroom at Jackson Street Elementary School, Katy Butler (’12, MAT ’18), classroom teacher and Water Inquirer extraordinaire, guided her students through an exciting encounter with our interactive story, Inquiry, Inc. and the Case of the Missing Ducklings. Collaboration was the modus operandi of our Water Inquiry team this semester.… read more

Earth Friendly Move-In Guide

23 Aug

A new year means a fresh start – for you and your environmental footprint! For many of us, coming to college is the first time we’re making completely independent decisions about our space set-up, laundry, what we buy, what we throw away, food choices, and our habits at home. Here are some ways that this transition can empower us to have a gentler impact on the environment…

Packing It All In: Getting your things where they need to go

  1. Pack fragile items by wrapping them in T-shirts or newspaper – skip those packing peanuts!
  2. If you’re taking a car, pack your items in reusable bins. You’ll be moving rooms and storing stuff a lot in college, so large, portable bins are a great investment. You can also pack clothing straight into trash bags and reuse those later!
  3. If you’ll want a power strip for plugging in many things, consider buying one with a switch or a timer, so you can make sure your electronics don’t use energy while you’re out and about.
  4. If you have a roommate, check to make sure you’re not bringing duplicates of things that could be shared!

Settling Down: On-campus tips

  1. Pick up a reusable water bottle at campus events – the first week has tons of free stuff, and buying bottled water is a waste of your precious cash.
  2. It’s easy to overbuy on room stuff and school supplies at the very beginning, but keep in mind that you can always get things later, once you more fully know what you’ll need.
  3. Ask your greeters, RA, or Eco Rep to show you where the dorm recycling is – to get any cardboard clutter away sooner rather than later!
  4. There are so many alternatives to paying big bucks for new textbooks: borrow from a housemate who has taken the class, rent from the bookstore or online, buy cheap used books online, use the textbooks on reserve at the library, or share with a classmate!

Forget-Me-Nots: Things to bring

  1. Check out Smith’s “Free and For Sale” facebook page for cool stuff from cool people – buying from other students is cheaper and prevents things like furniture and clothing from going in the trash. (Be sure to turn off notifications, or you’ll get 30 notifications daily) Another source of great clothes is your house’s Free Box! Anyone can add unwanted clothes or take nice finds!
  2. Buy green for your room: There are many environmentally friendly products at a reasonable price. Everything from shampoos to recycled school supplies! Lots of these items are available at the school bookstore or downtown.
  3. Skip the mini fridge – Personal fridges make up a significant portion of energy usage on campus. Every dorm has a full-size communal fridge! If you do need a mini one, consider sharing it with a friend you trust.
  4. Make/bring/buy/share a drying rack – laundry is expensive, (the dryer costs you $1.35-1.50! That’s a slice of pizza!) and dryers are huge energy monsters. It only takes a couple of hours for clothes to dry when you hang them up!
  5. Bring Tupperware – Smith’s dining halls are usually open for only 2½ hours for each meal- if you’re in a hurry or planning on staying up late, having Tupperware makes grabbing food much easier. And they help cut down food waste!

Once you are here, don’t forget to ask staff in Campus Sustainability about how you can get involved – they’ll have a lot of great ideas for how you can continue to green your time on campus. You can find them in CEEDS, in Wright Hall 005.

-Shelby Kim ’18 and Ellen Sulser ’18
Shelby: I will be a junior this year (how did that happen?!). Sociology major! I grew up in Los Angeles. My main interest right now: ways that making & sharing things can bring about communities that are more resilient and more fair. I will be leading a backpacking orientation group and can’t wait to meet the class of 2020!
Ellen: I’m a junior in Capen house from Saint Louis, Missouri. I’m studying environmental science and policy, reading too many books and attempting to crochet. I can’t wait to study abroad in China in the spring.

Summer at the MacLeish Field Station

17 Jun

Summer work at the Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station is off to a great start! Interns Molly Day ’19, Casey Hecox ’19, Naomi Jahan ’18, and Rachel Moskowitz ’18 have been working on several projects to keep the Field Station at its best. These projects include maintaining the challenge course, clearing weeds around the rock walls, maintaining the apple and chestnut orchards, and installing the test permeable surface materials in the new experimental parking lot.

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Molly and Naomi treat “The Wall” challenge course element with linseed oil.

The interns have been doing a lot of work to keep the dozen elements in our Challenge Course in great condition. They have treated all of the wood surfaces with linseed oil, removed rocks from the immediate surroundings, and used those rocks to build cairns as trail markers for the paths leading to the elements.

The interns have also begun laying down several different permeable materials on the experimental parking lot at the entrance to the Field Station. The parking lot, designed last summer by then-intern Laura Krok-Horton, ’17, aims to help us learn more about which of several different permeable materials will hold up best in this particular location and to wear and tear (including snow plowing), and what possible effects a permeable surface might have (positive or negative) on storm water run-off and flow in the nearby stream.

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The first six parking spaces are covered with a permeable sheet material through which clover and other plants have already begun to grow.

 

 

One side of the parking lot is covered by a permeable plastic material through which clover and grass can grow.

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Student interns work together to lay the sectional paver material on the parking lot.

 

 

 

 

The other six parking spaces include two each of concrete pavers, gravel, and plastic pavers. The concrete and plastic pavers are being filled with soil and will eventually be seeded.

 

 

-Naomi Jahan (’18) is a geosciences major from Los Angeles, California. She lives in Wilder House and spends her time reading, singing, and looking at rocks.