Interterm at MacLeish, Day 2

11 Jan

As part of the Interterm class Landscape Interpretation: Get to know and learn to share your New England landscape, students are writing blog posts about their class activities. Today’s guest bloggers are Rhiannon Nolan ’19, Sarah Netsky ’17, and Caitlyn Perrotta ’20.

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We started our day by tromping off into the snow with Jesse Bellemare, a Smith bio professor, who talked to us about how humans have impacted this area since the post-glacial period–changing the landscape by lighting fires, hunting larger game animals, and changing the natural ecological balance.

In the 1600s and 1700s there was a lot of tension in the hilly area that is now MacLeish as the French, British and indigenous people violently argued over the land. This caused the valley, where Northampton is now located, to become more populated until the hills were deemed safe to inhabit.

Jesse took us to see the stone walls around the field station which, at first, one might overlook, but he explained that the walls were evidence of property boundaries from the 1600 to 1700s. Walls with large rocks indicated that the land had been used as a sheep pasture. Walls with rocks off all sizes indicated that the land had been used as a vegetable garden because people more meticulously removed small stones from the soil.

Next Jesse showed us a depression that was once the cellar of a farm home in the 1790s, where a family of 10 to 12 lived and farmed. This home, and much of the surrounding land, was only inhabited for about a generation. The numerous children of these farm families needed their own land to cultivate and moved westward toward more fertile, flatter land on which to farm. The lack of continuous cultivation caused the forest to reclaim the land, giving us the woody area that we see today. These forests are young, causing them to lack a lot of the features that older forests have, such as large pieces of dead wood.

We went in to the Bechtel Environmental Classroom to eat lunch (and nuts!) and then went outdoors individually to hang our weathergrams from yesterday. Some people used the time to reflect and observe the landscape, similar to our sensory exercise from yesterday, and others used it to go sledding down the slopes.

After lunch, Maggie Newey, a museum educator at Smith, came to discuss visual learning strategies that we could employ both in our own lives and when thinking about how to teach sixth graders about the field station. She had us take a couple of minutes to examine our view of MacLeish from indoors and then do the same with a photograph she provided of Scotland. We did a similar activity again after breaking into groups to look at small objects from nature that we had collected while out with Jesse.

We closed by starting to plan how we would structure our Friday with the sixth graders. We can’t wait to meet them in a few days!

Interterm at MacLeish, Day 1

10 Jan

January at Smith: the campus is coated in a blanket of snow, the students enrolled in interterm classes are dressed in hats and mittens, and professors are immersed in grading papers and exams from first semester.

This week, the interterm class Landscape Interpretation: Get to know and learn to share your New England landscape, is being held at MacLeish Field Station. As part of the course, students will be writing and sharing blog posts about their experience.

Today’s post is from Hannah Schneider ’18 and Marisa Douglas ‘AC.

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Day 1, Monday

Today was a busy day since we had a lot of ground to cover. After we arrived at the Field Station, we got to know one another and made our own sketchbooks. The first thing we used the books for was an individual exercise: observe the outdoors with as many of our senses as possible and record our observations through sketches, notes and sound maps. We each took about 15 minutes to simply be present in nature and then make our observations in the books. Upon returning to the classroom, we divided into two groups and shared a few highlights so we could construct a spoken poem.

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Using our sketchbooks and chosen words, we created weather-grams using weatherproof ink on recyclable paper to withstand the harsh New England elements. These weather-writings will be placed on tree branches in the places that inspired us or along trails for other visitors and neighbors to enjoy. The idea is that we write a note to nature and, in time, nature will write us a note back!

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After lunch, Paul Wetzel helped us brainstorm a list of possible animal tracks we could find around MacLeish, from field mice to moose. We learned that understanding the anatomy of an animal can help identify the marks they make (e.g. deer have jagged incisors located on the bottom of their mouth, whereas rabbits have slanted incisors, almost at a 45 degree angle, on the bottom and top of their mouth). We then used what we had learned to find fox, rabbit, deer, mouse and porcupine tracks as Paul lead us through the woods on a beautiful (and cold!) hike. We also looked at different types of trees and plants and even had a taste of one.

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On the way, Paul showed us other interesting things such as the weather station and woodland animal “highways.” Upon noticing some hemlock trees, the group also found a popular porcupine hang out spot.

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When we returned to the classroom, we used our new sketchbooks one last time to reflect on our day. To keep track of what we’ve done each day, we posted sticky notes on a map of the station. We’ll use a different color for each day, and at the end of the week we will be able to see our thoughts, questions and memories throughout the week.

LEED Gold certification for new apartments

21 Dec

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The Friedman Complex, Smith College’s first new student residence in a decade, was recently awarded LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The certification program evaluates buildings on categories such as sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

The buildings in the complex, located on Paradise Road and designed by the Seattle-based architecture firm of Olson Kundig, are named for five pioneering Smith alumnae: Cromwell House, after Otelia Cromwell, class of 1900, Smith’s first African American graduate; DeCora House, after Angel DeCora, class of 1896, Smith’s first Native American student; Hashimy House, after Sabiha Yassin Hashimy, class of 1937, Smith’s first Middle Eastern student; Machado House, after Salomé Amelia Machado, class of 1883, Smith’s first Latina student; and Ninomiya House, after Tei Ninomiya, class of 1910, the first Asian student to graduate from Smith.

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The Friedman Complex is the most recent green building project on campus. Ford Hall, a science and engineering facility, is also LEED Gold; Conway House, a residence for Ada Comstock students with families, received the highest ENERGYSTAR rating possible; and the Bechtel Environmental Classroom at MacLeish Field Station is the world’s fifth fully certified Living Building.

 

A Look Inside Hopkins House

7 Dec

Eliana Gevelber ’19 and Ariana Banks ’18, students in ENV 311 Interpreting and Communicating Environmental Information, write about Hopkins House.

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The Hopkins House cooperative is a Smith house where students cook and do chores together. Because Hopkins residents are not on the meal plan, they have to make their own meals. Food is typically bought in bulk.

Hopkins co-op residents, also known as “Hopkids,” try to be conscious of where their food comes from. One way the co-op does this is by having people fill out a food survey just before each semester. Questions on the survey not only ask about people’s dietary restrictions, but also from where they want to buy vegetables, meat and other animal products. Hopkins gets produce from Hampshire College’s farm CSA in the fall and from various farms at the local farmers’ market in the winter. Also, the carnivores in the house weighed in about whether they wanted to only buy local, organic and humane meat or whether factory farmed would be okay. The survey results from the beginning of the semester showed people prioritized having local meat over having meat often; since local meat is more expensive, we only rarely consume meat. In fact, we’ve only had meat once or twice so far this semester. Hopkins gets bulk dried goods ordered and delivered by the Florence-based cooperative called Pedal People. Ordering large quantities of food reduces the packaging and emissions from shipping associated with food.

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Hopkins residents minimize food waste by utilizing excess and leftover goods. The extra food is stored in a pantry and refrigerated bins and cabinets. Excess produce is even chopped and canned into mason jars for later use. As shown in the picture at the top, Eliana, a resident of Hopkins, made chutney from the abundant green tomatoes that were rescued at the end of the growing season from the Smith Community Garden. There were two grocery bags full of green tomatoes that were not being used, so Eliana made them into a flavorful sauce. The house also relies on composting to ensure food scraps and other compostable items are not going to waste. Compost bins are emptied twice a week into a larger compost bin behind Chapin House.

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Meet the Interns, Part 3

15 Nov

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Hello! My name is Naomi Forman-Katz and I hail from Newton, MA (right outside of Boston). I’m a first-year student at Smith and I’m so excited to be working at MacLeish! I was paired with this team through STRIDE due to my interest in the environment, biology, and sustainability. I was first turned on to the idea of environmental justice and environmental education during the summer after my junior year of high school, when I took an internship teaching Boston-area children about local marine biology and environmental stewardship. This past summer, I worked at various summer programs, including a nature exploration camp for little kids. These experiences sparked my interest in environmental work and the MacLeish Field Station seems to be the perfect outlet for that. I’m looking forward to getting involved in all the projects going on at MacLeish, starting by maintaining the four miles of trails that were designed and built by students. I’m also hoping to work on the American Chestnut restoration project, as well as the fruit orchard, and maybe starting a project of my own!

Other than this internship, I am involved in the Smith community by being the Eco-Rep for Wilder House. Right now, we are working on implementing compost buckets in all of the houses on campus. I am also a member of the Smith College Jewish Community, Divest, and J Street U. I’m looking forward to getting even more involved as the semester goes on, especially with all the fantastic work happening at MacLeish.

Throwback Thursday to Mountain Day!

27 Oct

Three weeks ago, it was a beautiful, quintessential fall day in New England. Today? The first snowflakes are falling and students are bundled up with scarves, mittens, and hats. Feels like the perfect time for Throwback Thursday–to Mountain Day! Three students from Environmental Science & Policy 311: Environmental Communications share their Mountain Day Adventures.

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I visited a local farm, Outlook Farm Barn & Eatery, which is only a 15-minute drive from the campus. I went apple picking and enjoyed sweet apple cider and homemade baked donuts on the farm. Before I left, I also bought some jams and honey which are all local New England products. I felt so great enjoying fresh apples and foods and having no class today. Although the Mountain Day didn’t come in the week I expected, I think it is still the best day of the semester. — Shuqi Mao ’18

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Rather than going apple picking, I went on a hike to Mount Tom with the chemistry department. While visiting the mountain, I saw some red-tailed hawks playing around in the sky while the sun shining through the clouds. It was a beautiful fall day in New England. After hiking up to the top, we ate lunch and enjoyed the breathtaking view before hiking back down and calling it a day. — Anisha Tyagi ’18

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For Mountain Day this year, Northrop House continued its fabulous tradition of picnicking by Paradise Pond for lunch. The house woke up to bells and an excited email from our awesome HP, coaxing us to get out from under our covers and enjoy the warm and sunshiny day! We sat in a huge circle, munching on our brown bag lunches, giving each other piggyback rides, and admiring the gorgeous view of Smith from our spot by the pond. It’s rare that we can all be together, but Mountain Day is the trifecta holiday that lets us sleep-in, forget homework, and make apple-filled memories together. Shout-out to Northrop for being the best house! — Alexandra Davis ’18

Meet the Interns, Part 2

24 Oct

sophiaMy name is Sophia Stouse and I am a first-year in Jordan House. I spent the summer traveling in Spain and Portugal and spending time in my hometown, New Orleans, before coming to Smith. I enjoy lots of outdoor activities (backpacking, hiking) and am on the Smith equestrian team. I am a tentative Environmental Science and Policy major and am affiliated with the MacLeish Field Station through the Stride Program.

Being a New Orleans native has contributed a lot to my interest in the environment. Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005, was a major event in my childhood. Growing up I came to realize that degradation of the Louisiana wetlands was the main reason that Hurricane Katrina was as catastrophic as it was. Human interference with the water system throughout our history backfired and destroyed our best protection from hurricane destruction. I take ecosystem preservation very seriously because I’ve seen and lived through the effects of not doing so. During my junior and senior years of high school, I was a participant in a program called New Orleans Scholars. For my last semester in high school, New Orleans Scholars focused on the environment and how it is connected specifically to our city. We learned not only about the wetlands, but also about efforts for sustainable energy in the city and how we can create a paradigm shift in communities in terms of our interaction and views of the environment.

I am looking forward to learning more about the environment here in Massachusetts through the MacLeish Field Station. Massachusetts is very different from New Orleans in terms of the ecosystems that thrive here, so I’m excited to explore these differences (for example, apparently it gets a lot colder around here). I love being outside, so MacLeish is a great opportunity for me to get off campus and enjoy the outdoors and have a productive impact at the same time.

Meet the Interns, Part 1

11 Oct
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing you to all of our great interns–from MacLeish Field Station, CEEDS, and Campus Sustainability. Tess Abbot ’20 is first.
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My name is Tess Abbot. I’m a first-year from Brooklyn, New York, and live in Wilson House here at Smith. While the city is a large part of my life, I am very much an outdoor person. Ever since I was little I’ve loved working in gardens and surrounding myself with dirt and plants. My interests in the environment, especially environmental protection, stem from visits to my family in New Zealand where much of the native bush and flora has been cleared and turned into farmlands and pastures. Despite this, I’m always inspired by the resilience of nature, particularly of native plants and how they seem to find ways of creeping back into cleared areas. This past summer, my family and I went to the Whakarewarewa Forest, known for its redwood grove and protection of native and commercial trees and shrubs, in Rotorua, New Zealand. It was very humbling to be surrounded by trees hundred of feet tall that towered over you.
I am really looking forward to creating similar experiences while interning as an AEMES scholar at the MacLeish Field Station. I hope to take on active responsibilities at the station, such as maintaining hiking trails or replanting some of the fruit trees that were lost last winter, as well as adding to the station’s collection of research. I am very keen on learning how to use a laser cutter and creating plaques and signs for the station as well as learning how to navigate and add to the MacLeish story mapping project.

Exploring Intersections between the Environment and Human Health

13 Sep
Hello! I’m Athena Sofides, a sophomore majoring in environmental science and policy. I also hope to complete the environmental concentration in sustainable food. I’m interested in exploring and studying the intersections of the environment, nutrition and public health, something I was able to do as an intern at the Path Family Center, GPM Pediatrics, and the Healthy Path Foundation this summer.
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 The Path Family Center is an interventional, holistic health clinic for pediatric patients with chronic conditions like autism spectrum disorders and autoimmune diseases. The Center has a particular focus on the environment and nutrition in its diagnosis and treatment of its patients, many (most) of whom experience drastic developmental improvements after detoxing, removing traces of heavy metals and bad bacteria in their systems through natural, herbal, holistic measures, all the while replacing them with good bacteria and supplemented vitamins and minerals. GPM Pediatrics, the “regular” pediatrics practice off of which the Path Center is based, incorporates what is done at the Path Center into each patient’s visit, considering heavily food and environmental factors in each child’s development. I’ve also been volunteering with the Healthy Path Foundation, a nonprofit designed to establish a new standard of care in the medical field by financially supporting education, research, and expenses for families seeking alternative, interventional healthcare.
As an intern, I decided to help augment the Foundation’s mission to educate by creating the Healthy Path Blog (https://thehealthypathblog.wordpress.com/) as a potential resource of empowerment and education by and for young adults in the context of environmental/holistic health in the 21st Century. The Healthy Path Blog hopes to serve as a resource for young adults in understanding what health looks like in our modern world, why contemporary health is as it is and what we can do to improve it. HPF Blog aims to do this by sharing educational resources, improvement steps and tips, and opportunities for community engagement and empowerment with our readers. This includes everything from op-eds about new research, nutritious recipes, or reflections on specific experiences. I’ve gotten so much out of this experience so far and am excited for the HPF Blog community to grow. I hope you will take a moment and take a look at some of our posts, and even consider writing a guest post of your own!
A bit more about me:
I am excited to be living in Hopkins House this year!  In my free time, I like to crochet, listen to Queen, and continue my unending quest to find the best ice cream in NYC.

Semester Abroad in New Zealand: An Intern Update

6 Sep

IMG_1583Hi! I’m Anna George and I’m a CEEDS MacLeish Field Station Intern. In the spring semester of 2016, I had the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand on the Frontiers Abroad Earth Systems program. With twenty-five other students, I traveled to the Cook Islands and to the North and South Islands of New Zealand before I enrolled in a semester at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. While I was there, I had the opportunity to extensively study New Zealand’s unique focus on conservation and ecology.

In New Zealand, conservation is a necessity. The country is host to a diverse group of endemic species found nowhere else because it has been separated from all other landmasses for the last 65 million years. The unique creatures include frogs that give birth to live young and giant flightless birds. However, there is one group that is mostly absent: mammals. The only living native New Zealand land mammals are two species of bat which were likely blown over from Australia. There are no native mammalian predators, only those introduced by humans: rats, possums, weasels, and stoats. Most native species were not accustomed to persistent predation and have been in slow decline since the mammals’ introduction by Polynesians and Europeans between the 1500s and 1800s.

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However, all is not lost. The New Zealand government has been working to protect their threatened species by setting up pest-free conservation land, doing large-scale poison drops, and educating citizens on how they can get involved. The public has responded enthusiastically. Many individuals have taken it upon themselves to set up traps or hunt on their land for the invasive predators. Others work with nonprofits to protect native habitat. The concerted and united conservation efforts have been more successful for some species than others; however, I think there’s still hope for most New Zealand wildlife, in large part because of its citizens’ dedication.

Exploring New Zealand’s geology and culture was just as exciting as learning about their conservation efforts. When abroad, unlike at college or at home, I felt as if I could actually take advantage of opportunities to see the gorgeous places around me or go to exciting local events. It was my only chance to see a New Zealand rugby game or go to a Chinese lantern festival. With this in mind, I threw aside laziness or even, on occasion, homework, as excuses and enthusiastically explored the country. I visited an active volcano, hot springs, Hooker Glacier, and Mount Sunday (home of Rohan from Lord of the Rings). I stood in a hobbit hole, stayed at a Maori pa (community center), and dipped my feet in a glacial lake.  After five months, I felt as if I had done an excellent job of seeing New Zealand. There are still places I missed—Lake Wanaka, Stewart Island and others—that I would definitely visit if I ever return, but, as my plane took off from Auckland Airport, I felt satisfied with what I had seen. I was ready to go home and perhaps apply the same philosophy of seizing opportunity to more familiar places.

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