Monday, December 8, 2008

My Reflection

Well in this class I learned a great deal of things, and had a blast doing it. When I was a kid my father and older brother would always were building things and working with wood and other things. When I was a little girl, I was right there with them try to build things as well. I was very interested in carpentry. When I was getting older I learned to appreciate all the work they did when I was little. Now I enjoy picking up a hammer and nail. More recently I've gained a great interest in building this myself and not buying it. When I signed up for this class last spring I thought that I would learn more and have fun but still be safe. I was right, but the class has been right down to what I was looking for. After looking at the semester and what we did I feel like I should be in carpentry.The first thing that comes to mind when reflecting on this class is all the hard work we all did to start the New Barn. Just because we did not have the 2nd permit we as a class help others out and started to build parts of the New Barn. I feel that there were a few classmates that wanted to do all that we could to get as much as the New Barn done before snow falls or it get to cold out. I also feel that motivation was good in most of the class. I do have to say my motivation at first went down but I was still having fun. I liked getting up on Friday mornings and having class time outside at 8am. It just got the whole class to the New Barn site and working together. When I was down there getting my hands on some tools and getting all dirty. Seeing parts of the barn being built was great.I liked how Mick was trying to find other projects for the class and he did a great job. We got an opportunity to work at MOFGA and the Alpaca Farm as well as our own farm. I liked how we got to work with the local community as it was important to help others when needed. I am really glad to have been involved with this class. I was able to participate in tons of this for class. In this class I learned that safety glasses and hard hats should be worn around Mick and how helpful his is to the one that may not know how to use a tool.
I am thankful for the time we spent putting in to the New Barn but not seeing it right now. I know for me it wasn't but because of my inexperience in what we were talking about. Sometimes when people were talk I would just try and listen. Mick wanted us to know about Environmental Citizen.
I really enjoyed this class, even though there is still not a New Barn. I feel like I have made a difference and learned more about new things. I can’t wait to see the frames come out of storage and the barn actually being put up. I would take any class that as this much hands on at Unity College. I think being a part of building the new cottages for students is a great idea. I hope the New Barn just finished before a other class like this happens.

Thank you to all that made barn time fun!!!

Erin Balcom

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Although I was anticipating an experience completely different from the one I had, I learned a great deal, and had a good time doing it. As a kid my father was always building things and working with wood, but as a little girl, I wasn't that interested in carpentry. As I've gotten older, I've learned to appreciate his work a lot more and enjoy picking up a hammer and nail. More recently I've gained a great interest in green building specifically. When I was signing up for classes in the spring I thought that these two attributes would be included in the class. I was right, but the class has been far more complicated than carpentry and green building.

The first thing that comes to mind when reflecting on this class is the fact that we didn't build the barn. I wanted to have hope for it, but after looking at the syllabus and watching weeks go by still without a permit, I knew we wouldn't be building this barn. My classmates bring up a good point, that after this was established, after we knew we wouldn't be building a barn, our motivation went away. Friday mornings, outside, at 8am, in November, is not my idea of a good time. Though when I was down there, getting my hands on some tools, and seeing parts of the barn being built, I was content.

So the barn wasn't built, what did we do? I almost feel like our class turned out to be a better Environmental Citizen class because we couldn't build the barn. Mick was challenged to find other projects for the class and he did a great job. My classmates and I had opportunities to work at MOFGA and the Alpaca Farm as well as our own farm. As an environmental citizen, reaching out to our local community is as important as helping our own. I am really thankful to have been involved with the activities that I was able to participate in. In this class I've learned that sheep can't move when resting on their lower back, safety glasses will always be worn around Mick, and I've learned how much lumber 5 ladies can move in an hour and a half (those involved know what I'm talking about).

Obviously there's more to it than that. I am thankful for the time we spent in the classroom. I think about Trey's comment, specifically about the students not being actively involved with the dialogue at 8am in the morning. I know for me it wasn't always because of the time, but because of the inexperience in what we were talking about. Sometimes when conversation was going on I was so focused on just listening and trying to form my own opinion on everything. Trey also said that he felt our class was more engaging than most of his other classes; I would completely agree with this statement. This is another reason the conversation sometimes took me off guard. Mick really wanted us to think about what it meant to be an Environmental Citizen and everything that's included in that title. I'm not saying I haven't been forced to think about challenging subjects, but never anything quite like this. I enjoy being challenged and thinking about different aspects of life I don't necessarily come across every day.

I really enjoyed this class, even though it didn't always fill my expectations. I feel like I have made a difference and learned a great deal. I look forward to the time those frames come out of storage and the barn actually goes up. I would also like to see many more hands on classes like this at Unity College. I think being a part of building the new cottages for students is a great idea, but wholeheartedly agreeing with Trey, they definitely need to look more grown into the environment, not glass and cement boxes. I enjoyed having the architect come in and having him discuss green building techniques, personally I would have liked to see more of this.

Thank you,

Saturday, December 6, 2008

some reflections-

I have been thinking about this class some, and decided that I should utilize this tool to share some of my thoughts with all of you. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings on any of this.

This class has been interesting in a variety of ways. I came into it wanting a better understanding of mortise and tenon joinery, and I feel like I got that. I understood the basic concepts; I just wanted some practice with the actual construction. Making some bents and thinking about it made me feel much more capable with the process, and I intend to use that capability in my construction projects. It was great to use the mallets and chisels, which is something they do not teach you if you work modern construction now. In that way, I feel like I got what I wanted from this class.

After the first day or two of actual class time, I was pretty excited about some other aspects of the class as well. I wanted to hear what my peers had to say around some of the philosophy and materials that we would be working with. In retrospect, that aspect of the class was something that I feel could have been much improved upon. I know that it was an 8am class, but the dynamics are something that I have noticed in many, if not all, of my classes at Unity.

Real education is not passive. It is not like television. If it is approached that way, it is either totally ineffective or, at best, simple indoctrination. Somehow our culture has developed the opinion that mere presence in a classroom constitutes learning. In the same way that mere presence in a church service does nothing to nurture or develop spirituality, just being in a learning environment teaches one nothing. As students, we need to engage. We need to step forward and challenge what we are being taught. To simply accept what is told us in the classroom is doing ourselves a great disservice, and frankly, it seems like a pretty boring experience for student and teacher alike.

We, as a body of students, have every bit as much if not more influence over the effectiveness of any given class as our professors. If we choose to blindly accept whatever our teachers say to us, the chances are very low that we will even remember it 5 years from now, let along have an educated opinion on the matter. Beyond that, if we do not actively engage in our education, it is not that interesting to be in school. Boring classes are the result of disinterested learners as often as they are the result of poor instruction. Especially in a class like this one, the material is so relevant to our lives that it seems rather tragic to let the opportunity to develop our thoughts and opinions on the matters slip by so passively. This class was about how we approach work in our lives. It was about what we think our government’s role in the workforce and economy should be. These questions are extremely relevant to everyone in our society.

My energy level at 8 am is pretty low, but I pay a lot of money to come to school. I can sit passively and not engage and not learn for free, why would I pay to do so? I know that this class is required, but if anything that should mean that we are more interested in what it has to say. The curriculum of this class is the material that the administration and faculty of this institution have decided that every single person who graduates should have been taught. I came to this school because I felt like the administration and faculty’s philosophy was pretty close to my own. The required classes are a chance to really hear what their priorities are and pick their brains a little.

I should say that there has been more engagement in this class than in many I have taken here, so part of this thought process is not based in this course specifically. Mick did a pretty good job dragging opinions and thoughts out of a bleary-eyed group of sophomores. This thought has more to do with some of my philosophy of work relative to education. Education should be a lot of work, and our behavior as students provides a pretty good insight into our philosophy of labour. This is higher education, and no one is going to hold our feet to the fire. We and we alone dictate the degree of our participation and involvement, and that in turn dictates the quality of our education. To a student, the study of work should be the study of how to approach learning. Unity is a school that it is possible to float through. I have heard peers say flat out that they are buying a degree, and it honestly makes me want to scream.

I don’t mean this as an attack. I did hear some of my peer’s opinions in this class, and I enjoyed it a great deal. I just think that we could have gained a lot more from it if we had all engaged more and challenged some of the ideas we were working with. Education does not have to be boring. In fact, I personally rarely find boring education educational.

As students, we are here to change and grow. No one expects us to have totally solid, unshakeable philosophies. If we wait until we know we are right to speak, we will never grow and never learn what is right. We need to speak our thoughts as they come in order to gain other perspectives on them and see them more clearly. Most of the time I speak I don’t know what I’m talking about, in that I don’t have a complete belief system that I know is correct. I said in class that I thought we should live under a total tyrannical dictatorship. I don’t really believe that, I just wanted to put it into the conversation to see what my peers thought. I said it because I wanted to hear why that thought was wrong, and why consensus or democracy can be as effective and efficient at protecting the environment. As people and especially as students, we don’t need to have the right answer to every question. We need to be comfortable saying something that we are thinking in the moment and seeing what that looks like when other people think about it.

We are capable of creating a dynamic, engaged, mutual educational setting here. Every person in this class is a competent, bright individual. Why not take that and push it? Why not hone and temper our thoughts and beliefs until they can cut through the artifice and ignorance that has become so prevalent in our culture? When someone says something we disagree with, let’s not let it slide. Let’s explore the idea and see where it holds up and where it does not. Then we can gain a real understanding of our opinions and the opinions of others.

Beyond this, I noticed that as it became apparent that we were not, in fact, going to build a barn, the momentum and excitement of the class sort of crashed and burned. I know I was pretty disappointed. I think that in the future, all the red tape needs to be cut before a class like this is offered. It was certainly educational in one way to have the barn not get built, but it was not very good for morale at all.

I agree with Nils that a similar class to build the cabins would be a great idea. The conceptual design that Rick showed us did not really appeal to me. The principals that it was demonstrating were phenomenal. Solar heat, thermal mass, good insulation; these are all great things. But the buildings need to fit the ecosystem, and perhaps it was just the way they looked in the software, but those glass and grey boxes were not something that I would like to see in the woodlot at all. I would be more in favour of a couple of natural building styles using local resources. Cordwood, straw bale, lime plaster, post-and-beam, stonework, these are the things that this ecosystem can provide. Why not work with those, and have more organic buildings that fit the woodlot? Cement is terrible stuff; I don’t really want big cement and glass boxes out there. Why not explore how to make Earthships fit into this ecosystem?

I enjoyed this class a lot. I liked the content and the things we discussed; I really enjoyed those Gary Snyder poems. Thanks to everyone in it, it was fun working with you.

Quasso regimen, carpe iter.

trevanion j grenfell