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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Graduation at Prescott College

This will be my last blog on the subject of student life at Prescott College as a student. Maybe you’ll see me around as an alumnus! I just graduated this past weekend with about 40 other students. The graduation ceremony at Prescott College, like many other aspects of this school, is different than most other educational institutions. Usually a slideshow begins the ceremony, with pictures of graduating students’ adventures at Prescott College. Images direct attention: students watching whales in the Sea of Cortez, bedding down in sculpted-snow quinsy classrooms, exploring pueblo ruins in redrock Utah, or leading a gang of young people on an environmental education adventure trhough a forest near their hometown.
Each student selects a faculty member who knows them well to “give them away.” The faculty member presents their student, or students, and gives a one minute synopsis of the student’s academic or life experiences, strengths, and future potential. The student is then allowed one minute to say whatever they want to say. Most students rattle off a list of thank-yous to family and friends. Some students read poems or stories they’ve written or share meaningful quotes. Others do a practiced or improvisational dance, share a monologue, or tell a good joke. After degrees are conferred by the college President, “real life” begins.
Where do students go after all this?? If I had a dollar for every time I was asked “what are you doing after graduation?” I would be able to pay off my student loans without blinking an eye!! As a new graduate speaking with other new graduates, there seems to be a general consensus: reminiscing the good times, excitement of a new beginning, anticipation of future endeavors, relief of no more homework, and energy to explore what the world may offer. For example, Education students tend to find teaching jobs, both in Arizona and across the United States. Some even started the week after graduation! Adventure Education students usually have some thrilling adventure up their sleeve, both paid gigs as guides or educators and personal trips. Environmental Studies students may work as field ecologists, naturalists, environmental educators, biologists, or land managers. Students of Cultural & Regional Studies may work for non-profit human rights groups, become community builders and leaders, or find work abroad. It’s hard to give any sweeping statements of what new graduates of Prescott College do, because interests and opportunities are so broad. However, I can say they have energy, know-how, and passion to make the world a better place that will be present in anything they do.
To answer that question, what am I doing… During this last semester at Prescott College I did an Independent Study with Lisa Packard of the Highlands Center for Natural History. I was writing the teacher’s guide to the Habitat Learning Program Curriculum, which Lisa authored. The curriculum is bioregionally-based environmental education that takes place in five local public schools with more to come. The teacher’s guide has background information for each lesson. This will familiarize the teacher with ecological concepts and local environmental knowledge, to help the teacher be more comfortable in teaching in an outdoor setting. I will be completing this project in the spring, hopefully with funding from an educational grant!
After that, my partner and I will be farming a local farmer’s property about 40 minutes outside of Prescott, calling our venture Rabbit Run Farm. We will have diversified vegetable crops for sale at the Prescott and Chino Valley Farmers Markets, the Prescott College CSA, and local restaurants. Together (and with help from a few friends) we will be doing all the planning, planting, cultivating, harvesting, and marketing! Look for us at the market or come on out to learn a thing or two about starting a farm!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Snowy Wish

Many people visiting Prescott are surprised to learn that it gets cold here in Arizona! If you want to visit, be sure to bring your sunglasses and mittens. Winter in Prescott is mostly mild, but the snow holds great beauty! It’s just about that time for some frozen precipitation. Most folks who’ve moved to Arizona shudder at the thought of a frosty day, but I’m crossing my fingers for those grey, mysterious clouds to creep over the mountains prepared to give us a show.

Butte Creek in winter (the creek that flows through campus)

“What’s so great about the snow?” some Arizonans grumble. Three reasons – the physical beauty, the much needed precipitation, and the cultural reaction to the event. In town, snow tends to melt within the day or so. Snow sticks around in the surrounding Bradshaw Mountains, accumulating inches on the trails and multiple feet in drifts. Cactus is covered and pine needles are frosted. Those familiar, dusty, hiking trails are transformed into clean, crunchy footpaths. The mountains are veiled in low hanging clouds that threaten to surround you with their icy curtain. The seasonal transformation makes you wonder if you are in Arizona after all.

As an ecologist and naturalist, snow is never an inconvenience. Arizona is dry. We’re in a drought. Winter moisture is a much-needed element to maintaining green forests. Winter moisture is a contributing factor to recharging our severely over-drawn water tables. Plus, seeing the spring snow melt rush down the creeks in a frigid torrent excites the senses and brings a green spring with desert blooms.

When I first came to visit PC, it was in mid-December. The student I stayed with was from Florida, and she had never experienced windshield ice. She didn’t know that those handy plastic ice scrapers even existed. Instead, she went out to her car with a pot full of boiling water and threw it on the ice hoping to melt it… it didn’t work.

We had a light dusting down here over the holiday break, waking up to a frosty ground and low-hanging fog. Though it dissipated by mid-morning, it was the first hint of Arizona’s forgotten season! These pictures are from last winter!