November 27 - December 8, 2017
When we first interviewed students interested in the Field Semester program in February 2017, we asked each of them if they were prepared to do something different. We asked if they were willing to help build the program from the ground up, reflecting along the way, with the intent of building an even richer experience for the students who will come after them. In a word, we told them that if this program were to be sustainable, they would need to contribute. They all agreed, and expressed excitement at the prospect of helping to create something that future students would benefit from.
On the very first day that we sat down to begin planning the curriculum of the Field Semester program, we planned on our future students playing a prominent role in Sophomore Stewardship Day. Our idea was to have our students independently research a sustainability-related topic of their choice, design a project around it, and then pitch their project to the Sophomore class in December. Sophomore advisories would then make a choice as to which projects they would be interested in executing during the May 2018 Sophomore Stewardship Day. While this was the longest sustained indoor time that we spent together this semester, the effort paid off with several excellent student presentations delivered alongside those of local professionals.
Since our last post we also embarked on our final unit: Energy. With the semester winding down and the weather getting colder, an energy unit that required a bit more indoor time was welcomed by students. This past week students learned about the solar energy production capabilities of the Field Campus, as well as its energy consumption profile. Students crunched numbers in spreadsheets, did an energy audit survey, and even had a chance to tour the Green Dorm, seeing first-hand how a modern building can maximize efficiency without sacrificing comfort or utility.
The past few weeks have, like the entire semester, been an experiment in what is possible when a group of people try to make the most of an opportunity. As teachers, we have worked to maximize our resources, doing our best to create a rigorous academic experience that just happens to take place outside of a traditional classroom. This wouldn’t have been as successful as it was without the contributions of the students. They, first and foremost, have been a delightful group of young people. Class chemistry has been excellent since day one, and their feedback, flexibility and insights have made a lasting impact on what this program will look like in the years to come. In a class that focuses on how humans can best manage their resources, these students have learned that their contributions can make a real difference.