Although I am quite busy finishing up my final projects for this quarter, I am super excited because I just found out I will be interning next quarter with GRuB, an area nonprofit! Like me, GRuB supports outdoor education in schools, doing so by introducing students of all ages to farm and gardening skills. This spring, I will be working as one of two Education Program Interns, organizing field trips for something like fifty elementary, middle, and high school students. I have been hoping to work with GRuB since I moved here to Olympia, and pretty soon, my dream will be coming true.
At the same time, I am very much loving my current program, the Nisqually River, and would be disappointed to leave my faculty, Jeff Antonelis-Lapp. Luckily, I don’t have to! Jeff will be leading an SOS in the spring. SOS stands for “Student-Originated Studies.” These are somewhat of a cross between Academic Programs, in which academic work is structured by faculty, and Independent Learning Contracts (ILC’s), in which students entirely design their own learning projects. Basically, SOS’s involve a lot of individual work with a little bit of group time to check in with faculty and classmates about the progress we’ve made on our own. I’ll be able to take on this internship as my independent work for Jeff’s SOS, and I’m happy to have the extra support. Looks like spring has sprung a little early for me…
I am loving my winter program, The Nisqually River: From Mountain Goats to Geoducks. It’s taught by Jeff Antonelis-Lapp, an outdoor educator and all-around great guy. Our focus of study is the ecology of the Nisqually Watershed, including the river itself; the wildlife that live in and around the water; and the area’s human inhabitants, native and non-native.
One of the great things about the structure of programs at Evergreen, in which we generally take only one at a time, is that students can build skills in divergent disciplines, which, taught together, cohere into a unified study of a complex subject. Our work with the Nisqually necessarily includes information on the region’s natural history along with an examination of up-to-the-minute conservation efforts in the watershed. Jeff has arranged the program in such a way that we get to know the area organically: We birdwatch extensively at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, where the river drains into Puget Sound; we raft-floated an eight-mile section of the river; and, soon, we’ll be working with local middle-school students to perform water quality tests at sites throughout the watershed.
As you can probably imagine, such a varied examination of a hyperlocal subject has made for an exciting winter quarter! In getting to know the birds and fish and plants of the area, I have developed quite a personal connection to this place, far from my place of birth. I think is what Jeff had in mind from the start – If we develop love and respect for the river, each of us will work all the harder to protect it and educate others on why they should care too. Now that’s what Evergreen’s all about!
Aaron Dixon, activist, author, and former Black Panther Party captain, was on campus last week to speak about his new book. After his lecture, he signed students’ books and talked with them one-on-one.
Lucky for me, I’ve already taken off for winter break, but I still wanted to post about an event that I went to last week on campus. It happened in the middle of week nine, when students are usually scrambling to finish up final projects and study for final exams. The lecture hall was still packed, though, a measure of the excitement and interest generated by speaker Aaron Dixon, an activist and former captain of the Black Panther Party’s Seattle chapter.
Aaron was visiting Evergreen to promote his new book, My People Are Rising, which several academic programs had read in order to prepare for his visit (one of which was Freedom Dreams: The Cultural Revolutions of the 1960s). The book was also available in the campus bookstore, and several email announcements were made prior to his arrival to inform and involve the entire campus community. According to Aaron, the book is full of great stories. It chronicles not only his early life but also his involvement with the Black Panther Party throughout the tumultuous years of the Civil Rights Movement.
In his talk, Aaron summarized the work of the Party and the extreme, violent opposition they faced as a radical African American group. Aaron described how the Panthers networked with other activist organizations, attending their public protests in order to garner collective support for social change. He also touched on the good community work performed by the Party as they established programs such as Free Breakfast for Children and free healthcare clinics.
I was extremely motivated by Aaron’s story. I have never really considered myself a political person, but hearing Aaron speak helped me to understand that we are all political people. It is up to each and every one of us to stand up against the injustices perpetrated against the disenfranchised. The Civil Rights Movement, after all, is not so far back in our collective American history. I feel incredibly thankful that, as an Evergreen student, I am exposed to a culture that seeks to question the status quo of historical knowledge and challenges social injustice the world over. There is so much work to be done, but I am inspired, and I believe in us!
My program, the Practice of Sustainable Agriculture, toured Osborne Seed Company’s operations on a recent field trip. The monster squash I’m standing on was grown by them in a variety trial for the Pacific Northwest.
Field trips are an integral part of the Evergreen academic experience. At least once every quarter, all forty of us students in the Practice of Sustainable Agriculture program have loaded into Evergreen’s infamous ten-person vans and hit the road to check out the operations of different organic and sustainable producers in the area. Field trips are always great bonding experiences for programs. Not only do we share close quarters while traveling, we also cook all of our meals together outside by the campfire. As we adapt to challenging conditions, we learn first-hand how to develop a supportive community around food.
On Thursday, we set off for the Washington Tilth Producers Conference in Port Townsend. En route, we visited Osborne Seed Company, an independent seed distributor; Alpenfire Orchards, the only organic hard cidery west of the Mississippi; and Dungeness Creamery, a producer and bottler of raw cow milk. We toured each of their facilities, questioning the owners about their operations as we went. These visits not only served as inspiration for each of our own business plans, they were also a great opportunity to connect with local producers about potential future employment and internships.
Tilth is an annual tradition for PSA. In between workshops about genetically modified organisms, traditional charcuterie, seed-saving, growing mushrooms, marketing, running a CSA, farm implements, and many other topics, we networked with sustainable growers, processors, and marketers in the area during meals and coffee breaks. In the evenings, we relaxed after our hard work during intergenerational farm trivia and, later, a square dance. We had a great time on our last outing together as a program. Now that we’re back, we have a lot of final project work to complete in the last few class days of our three quarters together. I’m definitely feeling sentimental about the coming end of this life-altering program…
A few weeks ago, I house sat for Lynn and Ken, a local couple. This is the view from their front lawn. Can you believe it?!
Recently I had the chance to house sit for a friendly couple that I met through the Community Opportunities Database, an online service for students and alumni who are looking for work. On CODA, as it’s known for short, students can search through posted jobs and internships, most of which take place on campus or relate to education somehow. Occasionally, community members will also post when they’re looking for house sitters, nannies, or yard workers. In the past, I’ve gotten a one-time job as a party server through CODA, uploading my resume and cover letter right onto the website in order to apply.
Lynn and Ken, the couple whose house I looked after for a few days, have a beautiful home right on Mud Bay, near Evergreen’s farm. Mud Bay gets its name from the sticky muck that’s exposed when the tide goes out. Lynn even told me a story about some unassuming Greeners who once got stuck in the mud and had to be rescued! Lynn and Ken do all their landscaping themselves and even have a greenhouse.
I had a great time looking after their place. It felt like a “staycation,” a relaxing time I could have without going anywhere. Before they left, they stocked the fridge and freezer with my favorite goodies – yogurt, eggs, and fresh fruits and veggies. I enjoyed looking out on their beautiful view of the water as I made smoothies in their Vitamix blender. I also had a ball looking after their two dogs, who I took on walks on the trails around campus. The only pets I have are two laying chickens, so it was nice to cuddle with the dogs while watching movies on their Netflix, another luxury I don’t have at home.
I watched the sunset from their front lawn everyday while I was house sitting.