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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Independent Studies and Creativity

Here at Prescott College you’re given the opportunity to customize your education to an extraordinary degree, and one of the best examples of this is the independent study (IS). Through the independent study structure here you can design a class for yourself that encompasses elements of other classes you’ve taken but expands your education in a way that currently offered classes can’t. This manifests in different ways depending on the content area. Some Adventure Education students have used this unique system to create academically rigorous adventures for themselves involving ice climbing in the northern states or caving in Mexico. But the independent study is not exclusive to any one area. I am currently enrolled in an independent study to create a functional library for my future as a teacher, a comprehensive database of resources to help make biology and ecology relevant for my future students.

Artists have an especially fun time with the IS system, allowing them to create entirely new projects that have never been done before; some of which become classes in the future. My partner is currently working on an independent study in Dance, involving dancing every day for 2 weeks in a different environment each day. Today we utilized a computer as an environment, creating a Youtube playlist filled with advertisements to be displayed behind us by a projector, and entertaining assorted random people through Chatroulette. Dressed in aluminum foil, computer chords, and headphones, we did an interpretive dance about technology in modern society.

These sorts of projects are common here; innovation is something that we are encouraged to take part in, rather than pushed away from at our school.

If you have an interest in following a Prescott College Artist through the Independent study process, feel free to check it out here:

http://edanceproject.tumblr.com/


Sincerely,
Zach

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer 2010 Block A: Herpetolgy

Prescott College summers here have been drastically re-imagined this past year. Whereas the summer term used to be a reflection of fall and spring terms; it is now composed of four blocks. These blocks are slightly shorter than the ones in fall or spring semester; three weeks instead of four, so one has to fit even more experience and information into a shorter time period.
My first block of the summer was Herpetology; which focused on studying reptiles and amphibians of southeastern Utah and western Colorado. In addition to learning about the evolution and morphology of these critters-


-we each had to design our own project that would utilize information gathered in the field as well as peer reviewed journals and field guides.



My personal project revolved around caudal autotomy; the ability of lizards and some snake species to shed their tails when threatened and escape predation, and more impressively the ability to grow them back later.



I think one of the greatest things about the personalized projects here is that I become so much more invested in the material when I know I’m going to have to teach it to the class. I feel like there’s a lot of unintentional learning that happens during this process as well. For example; did you know that lizards are always right or left hand dominant like us? I certainly didn’t. Turns out, the left handed lizards are always more clumsy and so loose their tails more often as a result of not being able to run from predators. You can tell that one to all your left handed friends, I’m sure they’re love it.



We learned a ton about performing population surveys in the field, it was quite eye-opening to begin to learn how you go about setting up a scientifically sound field survey in an undergraduate class. We also learned that in a pinch, you can make a head dress out of a tee-shirt to keep the gnats off your face and out of your nose/eyes/ears.



We also discovered a ton of related and equally enthralling material about biotic soil crust…


… Indigenous cultures…



…and that the health food store in Moab, UT, does in fact carry the best ice cream on earth, which happens to be made in NH. Go figure.


I think I saw more spectacular natural bridges, arches, and ruins while hiking through the canyons for this trip than I have in the rest of my life. In sort; it was fantastic. While I admit the shorter block was hectic at times as far as getting work done, I am already loving summer courses. It just doesn’t get any better than watching a woodhouse’s toad sit on a tiger salamander.




Take care all,

Zach

Friday, June 4, 2010

Summertime

To me, summer is bittersweet. Sure, it can be a time to relax and soak up some sun, but more often then not, I spend the time thinking about school. I miss Prescott College when term isn't in session. Call me a nerd, but I actually look forward to my block and semester classes. Its exciting to think about the new term. It reminds me of elementary school--you know, buying all your school supplies and slipping them into that new backpack, laying out your "first day" clothes and sneaking a peek at your new text books....Okay, so maybe I'm a nerd. But when has that been bad? Prescott College is the type of school that you WANT to be at. Lucky for me, that doesn't end when Spring Semester does. Summer Term 2010 has officially arrived! Seperated into 4 "blocks", Prescott College has turned into something of an educational "summer camp" of sorts. Students enroll for short, but intensive classes which can sometimes take them all over the world. Rather than creating a summer term that lasts from May to August, our Block system divides the summer into 4 chunks so students can pick and choose when they have classes. Some classes might span over multiple blocks,heading to Nepal, Alaska, Africa, or Costa Rica, while others might last only one block and either stay in Prescott, or travel to Kino Bay, Baja, Utah, or the Grand Canyon. What makes this an EVEN BETTER choice is the fact that financial aid is available for those summer months! Students who file their FAFSA forms intending to take a summer semester are eligible for 3 terms of financial aid, making summer classes not only logical, but affordable.
Sydnie