Sunday, May 30, 2010

Entry #9--Environmentalism from an Astronomical Perspective

I'm on summer vacation, which, naturally, means way too much free time. I was clicking around on YouTube and stumbled onto this video, which appears to be some of astronomer Carl Sagan's famous quotes set to music.

Now, I'd heard Sagan's name mentioned before, but I didn't really know much of anything about him. Yesterday, I did some research, and learned about some of the things he advocated for. Among these was an idea I've seen held by other astronomers--their reasoning behind the importance for space exploration.
To them, it is an environmental concern, a safety measure. It seems that many astronomers seem to have resigned themselves to the idea that we on earth are doomed. Instead of taking that negatively, it fuels their desire to engage in expansion through the universe, not just limited to this planet Earth.
I've just always been fascinated by this idea and the possibilities it holds, so I figured, it's something that could be written about.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Entry #8--Maymester Retrospective

It's been a pretty eventful three weeks! While a big part of me is breathing a huge sigh of relief that it's almost over and summer's almost here and I'll get to go home soon, I'm really going to miss this!

Your obligatory Chatham squirrel photograph.

I feel like I've learned a lot in this class. Some of the literary analysis flew over my head, but it was still a worthwhile experience. I think reading Richard Louv's text had the biggest impact on me personally, since I'm planning on being a teacher. I think a lot of his information was directly relevant to me as it spoke so much of children and how to connect them with nature. It obviously also had an impact on me, and I've found myself spending much more time outside as a result of reading this book.

Reading the books...well...that was an interesting experience. You've already heard my rants if you've read the other entries, but at the same time, I do appreciate that I have a new appreciation for Watership Down, as well as getting the chance to finally read [and like] The Secret Garden. I...yeah. I should just stop there before I get started.

Working in the garden, though, has by far been my favorite part of this class. I know I'm not much of a gardener, but I've resolved to try to dabble some more in gardening over the summer. My mom gardens, so I could definitely help out there. It's something I've been wanting to do for a really long time, and I figure, now's the perfect time to start!

So while the class is almost over, who knows? I may keep updating this journal even past that...apparently, I'll be living in the environmental house on campus next year, so I'll have more to write about then, hopefully :)

My favorite natural inhabitant <3>

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Entry #7--...More Book Ranting?

I just finished Julie of the Wolves today. BLEAAAAAAAGHHHHHH.
I mean, okay. It could have been worse. It could have been like Call of the Wild, my least favorite book in existence. At least this time, the wolves weren't telling the story.
I talked to my little brother on the phone right after reading it. He really enjoyed my gory stories about cutting open caribou and birds and Miyax eating their insides, but that's because he's a 12 year old boy.
Here's the thing.
My big issue with books is that they can be given medals, praised by all the adults in the world, but if the children the books are written for dislike the book, it has failed as a piece of writing, at least for that particular child. Talking to my little brother, I had mentioned the author's name, and he immediately made a fake-gagging sound, as he had miserably had to read Jean Craighead George's other book, My Side of the Mountain, last school year.
What's the point of introducing these books to kids, if they completely turn them off when it comes to reading??
Isn't it more important that kids read in general, rather than deeply analyzing their books? Because let me tell you, my 12 year old brother refuses to read unless he absolutely has to, and even then he does it grudgingly, and the sole reason for this is because of the books he had to read in school. He was one of the biggest readers I'd ever seen when he was a child, and that love of books completely disappeared once books became tools for analysis. Heck, the same thing happened to me on a much lower scale, except I persevered and kept reading for the sake of reading. It completely breaks me, a self-proclaimed bookaholic, seeing my amazing little brother dislike reading.
What purpose do books like this serve, if that is what they can do to kids?

I just...ughhh. I swear to God, I know I'm not going to be teaching at a higher grade, but if I ever do end up teaching upper elementary school kids rather than just the younger ones, I will never subject them to reading such stupid pieces of literature. My kids are going to be reading and analyzing Harry Potter, and if they don't like it, I swear, I WILL find something they like. Reading has gotten me this far in life, and I am not going to watch kids fall out of their love of reading because of school, a place that's supposed to promote a love of reading!

I realize this is a repetitive, horribly written entry, but reading nonsense like Julie of the Wolves obviously makes me really incoherently passionate about reading material for children. There are much better alternative books that get the same point across in a way that children actually understand and like.

I won't say I disliked all of the book. I really liked the 2nd portion of it, which zoomed back to Miyax's life prior to her escape to live with the wolves. That was interesting. The book would have been a lot better to me if that had been the focus of the majority of the novel, the climax being her escape, and then, very quickly, being found and brought back to her father. I mean, really, did 2/3 of the novel add anything to the plot? I really don't think so.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Entry #6--HankPlants

Where to begin...
There's this team of awesome nerdy brothers on youtube, see? And in the year 2007, they wanted to see if they could go a year without communicating textually with each other. They would only communicate through videos, Hank Green posting one day, John Green the next, for the entirety of the year. This project was a success, gained quite a following, and the Green brothers kept doing the project (now allowing themselves to textually communicate) through this day.
Now, to the present.
Hank Green's birthday just happens to fall on Cinco De Mayo. SO, John got all of his viewers, also known as "nerdfighters", to plant trees and plants for Hank's birthday. Hank, being a geeky environmentalist, would really appreciate this gift of oxygen.
Weeks later, this video was born.

In this post is my own video, in which I plant my Hankplants (sunflowers).

And a picture of my HankPlants later...

Best community ever? Oh yeah. I think so.
As we like to say in nerdfighteria, DFTBA (don't forget to be awesome)!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Entry #5--Runa Gets Soapbox-y [and everyone else runs away]

So here's the deal. As everyone who has ever heard me ramble about literature before, pretty much everyone I'm friends with, I abhor classic literature. I was brought up on books, and living the life I was given, books easily became my always reliable method of escapism; the library was my safe place.
Beginning in middle school, when books began no longer just being books, and were turned into something that has to be scrutinized by detail, English classes became something I ended up abhoring just as much as the books we read in those classes. My escapism got grotesquely turned into something else entirely. My books, my beloved, wonderful books, were being torn apart and I had to sit there and watch.
Which brings me to now. I'm still the same person in that regard. I can't bring myself to analyze books that we read in class, unless absolutely forced to, and even then do so with reluctance and ineptitude.
So it's funny that a few weeks ago, I was offered an ARC from a publisher entitled Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots. And, you know, I know that by saying this, I'm going to offend people, but to me, this book was really openly environmental, and had a much larger, clearer impact on my environmental awareness and literacy than any of the books we've read in class. So yeah, there's a romantic subplot and family drama, but that's what makes it all the more enjoyable. And yet, I'm sure any "literary scholar" would immediately take a book like that and dump it into some pile, labeling it "trash fiction" and not giving it a second glance.
My point? Why not use literary texts that actually mean something to its readers to convey the messages we're trying to convey, such as the environmental ones in this class, rather than the ones where the point has to somehow be dug out of mountains of unrelated text? Why not give books the readers can actually enjoy and relate to, and more importantly, understand?
Just my two cents as a reader.
The books I read should not be disregarded just because they are simpler, more modern, and arguably, not as well written (although that is all a matter of opinion, and to a person like me, a book entitled Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots has considerably more substance than any of the hidden gibberish we've read in class).

(On a side-note, to be shamelessly self-promoting, my review for Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots is located here.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Entry #4--"Nature"

Today, while walking to class at the AFC, I walked past the pond. Off the path, something caught my eye…

See anything off about this?
Here’s a closer look…

See that? That is NOT a real rock. That is plastic. I just found something so completely jarring about the idea of plasticized “nature”. Google to the rescue! Why would someone decide to use such a strange device?

From Brookstone Gifts:
Faux rocks beautify your yard as they cover unsightly pumps, utility boxes, vents and other devices. Our lightweight decorative hollow artificial rocks are easy to use and versatile. Place one of these mock rocks over wells, pumps, septic system outtake pipes, valves, vents, utility boxes and other unsightly objects in your yard. Surround your artificial rocks with grass or shrubs for natural camouflage that blends into your landscaping.”

There is so much wrong with the above paragraph.
“Beautify”? REALLY? I’m finding nothing beautiful or natural about a plastic rock in an outdoor setting.
As the paragraph itself states, one can easily accomplish the same goal using grass, shrubs, etc to hide whatever it is that one wants hidden. This is all just so strange.

Along those same lines, something that has bothered me all year long is the amount of effort Chatham and surrounding houses (particularly those on Woodland Road and its various branches) put into their "beautification". We all love to see our beautiful campus, but really, does the grass need to be mowed weekly? How much energy is this wasting on our supposedly environmentally-friendly campus?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Entry #3--Animals Around Chatham

I am done with The Secret Garden and Watership Down. I enjoyed both, which is so surreal! Watership Down is a book I have actually read in the past, but I think all the analysis and slow, fragmented reading in the 9th grade made it a really dull, unenjoyable read, whereas here, I got to read the bulk of the book in one day, in one sitting, which makes for a much better read. Anyways, so all these books, and this class in general have just made me want to go outside and enjoy the natural world around me, especially at such a gorgeous campus like Chatham. I’ve been taking pictures of the animals I’ve encountered since the start of the class.

A rabbit! I have to say, as horrible as it sounds, before living at Chatham, I’d never seen a rabbit in real life before! They are such exciting creatures to observe…if you don’t scare them away, that is.

Weird fact about me: I LOVE worms. Ever since a 5th grade science class where our teacher brought in worms, and I decided to be a brave little 11 year old and ohmygoodness, actually touch the worm, I’ve loved them so much. People don’t give worms enough credit ;)
There was one day on campus, right after it had rained, around 10PM, I was walking back to my dorm and the ground…oh, it was so amazing, you couldn’t step a foot without encountering a worm. They were all over the streets and sidewalks. By morning, there were just a few dead worm fragments, but certainly no massive indication that they had all been there. Wow. Just wow.

While I love sitting by Chatham’s pond and just observing the ducks, I’ve noticed that they are not very nice ducks. Maybe that’s just how ducks are? I doubt they go through an actual thinking process, coming to the conclusion that they are feeling grumpy today and are just going to be mean to all those humans. They’re still great to watch. I keep meaning to bring bread for them. That was definitely one of my childhood highlights, going over to my dad’s lab, which was near a pond, and feeding the ducks with my mom and brother. I loved doing that…that is, until I was nipped by a Canadian goose and my little self was traumatized. :D

I had to take a picture of the robin, since I had just read The Secret Garden.
I also saw a chipmunk the other day, and I think they are the most fascinating little creatures (another one that I hadn’t seen before coming to Chatham). I wish they weren’t so hard to observe!
What kind of a weird picture gallery thingy is this without a picture of a Chatham squirrel? Wow, I fail at being a Chatham student. I’ll be sure to snap a squirrel picture sometime soon!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Entry #2--Thoughts on Mary in The Secret Garden

In class today we discussed The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I was extremely surprised to hear a general feeling of dislike for this book and its main character from pretty much everyone in the class. It is exceedingly rare for me to like a book that is assigned for school (by which I mean, in almost 14 full years of going to school, I’ve liked ONE book that I’ve had to read for school, not counting picture books). So imagine my surprise when, having started this book, I liked it! It’s easy to understand, and I felt like people had made it sound much more difficult than it actually is. I went into reading it expecting nonsensical Shakespearean gibberish, only to find a story I liked, a character who actually seemed like a real person. It only figures that the one book I enjoy is the one everyone seems to despise.
I don’t personally understand what it is they dislike about Mary. She’s a perfectly lovely girl to me. She has her moments, but she’s a child. Contrary to what some of the students in our class were saying, she couldn’t just up and change her behavior, it’s all she knew! It’s so disturbing seeing so many people in class react so harshly and emotionally to Mary’s behavioral patterns. She’s just a young girl. What would they do if faced with such a child in real life? So she’s not a perfect, well-adjusted character, what, do they expect your typical child to be well-adjusted? I don’t know, maybe it’s the education major in me, but up to this point, I’ve never encountered a child I didn’t like. I’d be veeery interested in what my classmates consider examples of good characters.
It’s just sad, you know? The one time I like a book and think I can discuss it in class, it turns out I can’t, because everyone’s opinions are extraordinarily different from mine, and there’s no opportune moment to speak in the discussion. They were all so energized about Bridge to Terabithia, which I found to be a complete bore of a book. Clearly, I am just not made to participate in English classes, or have good taste in literature, or whatever it is that is wrong with me.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Entry #1--The First Farm Field Trip!

Today, in Environmental Literature and Film for Children & Adolescents, our class went to our school’s farm, at Eden Hall campus. I was really unsure about this prior to going, since my past experiences with gardening were pretty bad. My mom always gardens, but I’m one of those people that tends to kill all plants I try to grow. Plus, waking up at 7:30? Not a fan of that part either. But I did wake up, and I did get to go. After a long and loud car ride there, we arrived. It was such a relief just to get out of the crowded van and into an area filled with fresh air and land and an overall calming and peaceful atmosphere. We were told about all the different things we could do on the farm, weeding, watering, transplanting, and more. I went with a small group to the greenhouses, since I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to tell weed from regular plant in the garden itself, causing more damage than help. Danielle and I volunteered to ‘transplant’ black cherry (at least, that’s what we assume they were!) tomatoes. I found out that this meant taking the plants that were growing in little confined spaces and moving them into bigger pots , so they had more room to grow. We did that relatively quickly, and then had some time to spare. I decided to use this time to sit outside, while the rest of the group was inside, and just enjoy being outdoors and reading. I know it sounds pretty cliché, but after reading what Richard Louv had to say in his book that we’re reading for the course, Last Child in the Woods, I’m realizing that I don’t spend as much time outdoors as I used to when I was younger. I still do go outside and just revel in nature, but being in college and having a more hectic life, I don’t have that much time to do so. So I did take a moment to just sit there and read in silence, no technological distractions as I usually have, no loud classmates, nothing, just myself and nature and the sound of flipping pages. Absolutely lovely. I’ve decided to use this beautiful spring weather to my advantage. If I was in my hometown, Charlottesville, Virginia, it’d be in the 90s by now. I’ll be going back there in just a few days, and I know I’m going to spend most of my time indoors, since I *hate* the heat, so I should really take advantage of this beautiful spring weather we’re having here before I lose that opportunity.


For my Maymester class at Chatham, one of my assignments is to create an eco-journal. The assignment is intentionally vague, so I'm doing with it what I please, pretty much. I decided to transfer my entries onto a blog, just to make it more accessible. Enjoy!