Tag Archives: visual thinking

Interpreting – Reflections on Day 2

14 Jan

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is fairly widely known throughout both the Smith Community and the greater population. Ford Hall, opened in 2010, was Smith’s first LEED Gold certified building. After our discussions today I learned a lot more about what exactly this means. In Smith’s case ​ LEED Certification led to water recycling mechanisms, green roofs, and computer monitored air and light systems. Through today’s discussions about the Bechtel Environmental Classroom at the Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station I began to understand how LEED certification, while wonderful, is also limited.  We can do much better. The Living Building Challenge, set forth by the International Living Futures Institute, incorporates seven petals that promote change in public policies ​and ​change in industry that will encourage more sustainable architecture in the future.​

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One of the things that was the most mind-boggling to me was the requirement ​to exclude thirteen chemicals on the “red” list from the building.  That required generating a material ingredients list for every component that is needed for the building, somewhat like an ingredients list for a cereal. We look forward to teaching the 6th Graders about the Bechtel Classroom and the Field Station on Friday!

-April Birnie, ’15

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After lunch and a quick sledding break, Maggie Lind, director of education at the Smith College Museum of Art, came to the Field Station to discuss Visual Thinking Strategies with us. She began her presentation by asking us to look outside the classroom’s large picture window and describe what we noticed in the landscape. After each observation, Maggie reflected what we said, helping build the conversation. She never interjected with any specific facts or tried to lead us to a “correct” answer; rather, she allowed us to draw our conclusions based on what we saw. After that exercise, she explained that this was a facilitation technique called Visual Thinking Strategies, which allows the viewer to interpret the landscape without feeling pushed to notice or focus on any specific thing, but rather what interests them the most. Maggie also introduced us to the ideas of Freeman Tilden, who worked for the National Park Service in the 1950s and first brought the idea of landscape interpretation to the forefront. It was great to have Maggie come and discuss this method of presenting and acquiring knowledge about the field station, and left us thinking about how we could use Visual Thinking Strategies to teach the Campus School sixth graders who will be joining us on Friday.

-Catherine Bradley, ’17

After Maggie Lind (from the Smith College Museum of Art) taught us about Visual Thinking Strategies, we tested our newly acquired knowledge by going outside and finding our own artifacts for our group members to “interpret” and to apply the strategies. People chose a wide variety of artifacts ranging from gathering a cup of snow to finding a piece of bark, to taking a photograph of an artifact too big to bring indoors.


Once we each found (or photographed) our artifact, each person presented theirs to a small group and used the strategies we’d learned to allow their fellow group members to interpret the object in their own way. We went into this activity knowing that when it comes to interpretation, everything is valid and therefore many viewpoints were voiced which enriched the experience for everyone.

-Maia Erslev, ’18