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Sustainability at Wake Forest

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2013 LENS @ Wake Forest

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The Learn Experience Navigate Solve (LENS) @ Wake Forest program offered 38 rising high school juniors and seniors a three-week, hands-on opportunity to engage with peers around the 2013 theme “Sustainability – Operate locally and extend globally.” Students partnered with faculty and community leaders to examine issues, and then worked in teams to tackle real-world challenges. The inspiring discussions and college environment lent itself to fun activities and friendships along the way.

Read more about the 2013 LENS @ Wake Forest experience.

LENS brings sustainability into focus

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

This summer thirty-two rising high school juniors and seniors participated in LENS @ Wake Forest, an annual three-week college immersion program.  For the three years since its inception, LENS @ Wake Forest has taken sustainability as a guiding theme, examining political, economic, social, and legal issues.  Learning took place both inside and outside the classroom, with seminars and presentations given by Wake Forest faculty and excursions to a local farm and to Reynolda House Museum. Students studied rhetoric, honed their writing skills and learned to craft effective presentations. Leigh Stanfield, Director for Global Auxiliary Programs in the Provost’s Office for Global Affairs, organized the program.  Dr. Michelle Klosterman of the Education Department and Dr. Ryan Shirey of the Writing Program served as primary faculty.  ZSR Librarians Hu Womack and Bobbie Collins partnered with LENS to teach participants research skills.

Connor Covello, a rising high school senior from Long Island, appreciated the wide variety of viewpoints incorporated into the program.  He reported “whatever I do, say its business, I will seek to render my business as sustainable as possible; you can incorporate sustainability into anything.”

LENS (which stands for Learn, Experience, Navigate, Solve) culminated with student presentations of their group projects for a Community Partner.  Project development took place over three weeks and involved meeting with Community Partners, eliciting advice from experts on campus, and extensive research.

In addition to getting a taste of rigorous academics, 2012 LENS participants also enjoyed the more relaxed aspects of college life, eating dinner downtown and playing ultimate Frisbee on the quad.  Participants stayed in South Hall, a LEED-certified first-year residence hall, where they kept track of each room’s energy use on a building dashboard monitor.  For Connor, a fun highlight of LENS was a toga party in the South Hall media room, where the group celebrated the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.  While learning objectives are central to LENS, friendships between participants and connections built with faculty have enduring value.   When asked what he will walk away with from the LENS experience, Connor reported he now has an idea of what college life is like, an awareness of sustainability issues, and a number of good friends he will surely miss.

By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow

To find out more about this year’s LENS@Wake Forest experience, read this article published by the WFU NewsCenter.

Faces of Sustainability: Nathan Peifer

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Photo courtesy of Nathan Peifer

Nathan Peifer is a competent and capable person; that’s why it was extremely disconcerting when, one year ago, he realized, in the most basic way, he did not know how to feed himself.  Thus began Nathan’s study of gardening, a journey of self-directed learning he describes as “chasing ignorance.”  This summer his chase landed him in the Wake Forest Campus Garden, where he works for the Office of Sustainability as the Campus Garden intern.  If you have been to the garden lately, you will find it difficult to believe that just one year ago Nathan’s entire gardening experience amounted to trying (unsuccessfully) to grow grass out of a Styrofoam cup for a grade school craft project.  Over this past week alone, the garden produced 74.09 lbs of produce and the harvest has just begun; the fruits of Nathan’s labor will be ripe for picking all the way into the fall.

One of the secrets of Nathan’s success is extensive research.  In order to best manage the campus garden, Nathan does a good bit of reading and seeks advice from his gardening mentors.  He takes inspiration from other gardens as well. Through these visits he has he has learned that every community and campus garden has its own unique strengths and challenges, so “you should never try to become someone else’s garden.”

Nathan identifies a strong partnership with Facilities and Campus Services as one of our campus garden’s unique strengths.  This summer Nathan worked out an arrangement with Megan Anderson, the campus recycling manager, to divert extra cardboard to the garden.  Nathan uses the cardboard to keep weeds down between rows of plants and the cardboard improves the quality of the soil as it degrades.

To Nathan, who is entering his third year in the Wake Forest Divinity School this fall, gardening is an art not a science (although, he points out, there is plenty of science happening in our garden).  He likes to garden because there are no right or wrong answers and you have to think creatively to solve problems that arise.  After two rigorous academic years in the Divinity school, the hands-on, outdoor work of the garden is a welcome change and he finds his work in the garden and his education to be “mutually informative.”

One of Nathan’s favorite aspects of his internship is working with different groups who volunteer their service in the garden.  So far this summer has hosted The Benjamin Franklin Scholars, the LENS program, StudentLife, and 4Good volunteers.  Nathan sees the garden as an opportunity for service learning and hopes faculty will take advantage of the garden as an unconventional classroom with the potential to “bring cultural assumptions [about farming and growing food] into high relief.”

This summer in the garden has helped Nathan shape his plans for the future.  He is seriously considering bivocational ministry, which combines traditional pastoral duties with other work, such as managing a community garden.  To anyone who now stands where he stood one year ago, in a place of ignorance about the source of their food, he offers this advice: “Find someone who knows what they are doing, befriend them, and rely on them as a resource. And remember, there is no one right way to do anything. You just have to try.”

By Annabel Lang, Wake Forest Fellow

High School students view sustainability through a new LENS

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Photo by De'Noia Woods, Photography Intern

Twenty-six high school students learned about sustainability through the lens of food and water systems this summer during the inaugural LENS (Learn. Experience. Navigate. Solve.) Program. Postdoctoral Fellow in Religion and the Environmental Program, Lucas Johnston and English professor Anne Boyle teamed up to lead the program, which was designed to provide high school students with the opportunity to engage in the broader community through writing and intensive, hands-on study of a pressing political issue.

Participants enjoyed such activities as a visit to River Ridge Land & Cattle Co. to see a grass-fed, antibiotic free cattle ranch and a white water rafting trip. According to Johnston, these trips provided students (some of whom had never seen a farmer before) with “a profound appreciation for natural spaces and what they do for us.” The field trips provided context for classes in Environmental Studies and English back on the Reynolda Campus.

During the program, the students worked in teams to tackle a number of ambitious co-curricular projects, including the prominent mural on the shed next to the campus garden, a documentary of fellow students’ projects, and a traditional research project on e-waste about which the students submitted an editorial for publication in the Old Gold & Black.

Academic year volunteers in the campus garden are able to reap the rewards from another LENS project. The new three-compartment aerobic composter, planned and constructed by six students, addresses the need for a compost system in the ever-expanding garden. Food waste from the Campus Kitchen Fresh Market runs is converted into usable soil amendment through a month-long process of turning and transfer between the bins. These bins have also allowed volunteers to incorporate waste from the Gaia food macerator/dehydrator pilot to make a nutrient rich fertilizer.

The lessons learned during the summer have continued to enrich the participant’s lives even after their return home, Johnston said. One student from Stokes County, NC has already started a sustainability club at his high school. “A rising high school senior went home and did this at his school; that is the most inspiring thing. They [the students] took the motivation for change back home with them,” he said.

The program is designed to shift themes to focus on a different pressing issue annually. The overwhelmingly positive response from participants to the sustainability theme this year could influence next year’s theme, though the focus has not officially been determined.

By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern