Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More on Islandwood Local

Environmentalists from China come to IslandWood in search of ideas to curb their country's pollution problem.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Hot Zone

On the ferry back and forth from Seattle to the Kitsap Peninsula, I finished The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. At some point last year, my wife bought it in a 3 for 2 deal at Borders, and I just grabbed it from our bookshelf one day. This is a book about level 4 viruses, Marburg, Ebola, and some others, and the the people that work to contain them. What I had to keep reminding myself was that this is a work of non-fiction. Otherwise, it reads something like a Dean Koontz novel. The book begins and ends in a place called Kitum Cave in the flanks of Mt. Elgon between Kenya and Uganda. This cave is where scientists and doctors suspect Ebola lives in nature, but they never do find out. Between cave episodes, the reader is treated to several graphic vignettes of people dying from the first known cases, as well as short-lived breakouts that don't necessarily get contained. They just disappear naturally. The main storyline is the appearance of a new strain of Ebola in a monkey house (holding place for the more than 16,000 monkeys a year imported for biomedical research and testing) in Virginia. As you can imagine, this is a page turner and cringe inducer. Pick it up and finish it in a day or so.

Monday, April 16, 2007

"Where Inspiration Comes Naturally"

And that's (the post title) what we learned really happens at Islandwood (this website is extensive, sit down with a cup of fair trade coffee) outdoor education center. Already, after simply driving up the windy, evergreen-canopied driveway, we'd been transported to some place familiar and futuristic yet ancient and forgotten. Sleepy gray skies held at bay by giant fir trees, and the pace of life slowed down to match the rhythms of the forest, set by the deer, slugs, geese, and birds (maybe a cougar) that share this space with the humans. Everything softened by green moss. It's easy to forget that the city is a 35-minute ferry ride away.

Okay, so that's the parking lot, and we finally did make our way to the actual school where we had a few minutes to read the information on the walls and models in the visitor's center while we waited for our tour guide Caryl. We read about recycled glass counter tops, recycled yogurt container counter tops, cork floors, fiber boards, certified wood, buildings and windows placed to maximize natural energy, on-site water treatment, organic gardening, and technology. We also learned that this week we were sharing the grounds with one retreat group and University of Washington education graduate students who live there for a year to develop and teach the curriculum to the visiting 4th-6th grade students.

Next, we set out on our tour, which covered a couple of the more than 4 miles of former oxen trails, now for humans. There were streams, lakes, native and invasive species, dorms, outdoor classrooms, a suspension bridge, composting toilets, and 3 tree houses. A student (or adult on a retreat or attending a seminar) at Islandwood experiences all of the amenities, man-made and natural. Technology is used as a means of communication, as well as a tool to help maintain and sustain the ecosystem at Islandwood and wherever the visitors live, hopefully. Each day, after each meal, food waste is measured and recorded. And students spend a tremendous part of their free time journaling in quiet spaces. Something Greg and I would have loved to do, although simply walking the trails in silence with Caryl was awe-inspiring and inspirational.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Eye Of The Techno-Storm

My morning started with a breakfast conversation with a man named Charlie who traveled to Seattle this week to judge a book contest. He’s a book publisher, so we discussed book design, layout, paper and other pleasantries. Sufficiently caffeinated, I met Greg on 1st avenue and we walked down to Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park. We stopped in the cafĂ© for a debrief of the previous day at Seattle University then made our way along the Z-shaped walkways of the park with a little guidance from John, a Seattle Art Museum docent.
We learned that the 9-acre park used to be inhabited by 82 million gallons of toxic waste (I think that's the correct amount). Not only is the park an example of urban design but community clean up. In addition, along the beach, the museum set several tons of the kind of rock that the baby Salmon from the Duwamish River now use as a safe place to rest on their way out to sea, another Seattle example of environmental living.

Next stop was the sales office for Mosler Condominiums, one of several eco-friendly, LEED certified condo buildings in the downtown area. Although the sales rep wasn’t much help and wasn’t too interested in the green aspects of the condos (other than the fact that they had a bigger pricetag), still we were able to learn about the green materials, energy-saving construction and appliances, hybrid plug-in stations, and a few other key features. What I found cool about the project was that it was the developer’s first building, and he’s a 5th generation Washingtonian. There's a newspaper article pinned on the wall of the Pensione titled "A City That Likes Itself." Pretty simple concept.

After probably the best pizza I’ve ever had at Serious Pie, Greg and I hopped in the car (for the first time of the trip—we could’ve taken public transportation, but I had a ferry to catch after our visit) and headed to DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, nestled between Nintendo and Microsoft. Greg described our visit pretty accurately when he said it was like going into the eye of the storm. This is a college that offers degrees in computer programming, real-time simulation, and animation. They have an interesting, mostly-male enrollment, with their first Bachelor’s candidates slated to graduate in April, several have already been hired at leading video game design firms, including Microsoft of course. It was great talking to Angela, our tour guide, about her background as a middle school language arts/social studies teacher and the story of her journey to DigiPen from the east coast. But schools 2.0 and the video game industry are two worlds that have yet to collide, even though both of us can imagine the possibilities. I’m going to keep in touch with them and see what happens in the future.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Service Learning At Seattle University

Teaching can be isolating. Although I have an office now and have to leave it to get to my classes, I once had a classroom that was easy to never leave. And a lot of times, it can feel as though the profession of education lives in its own bubble, irrelevant to the rest of the world. That's why I'm so excited to be taking advantage of what Punahou School offers its teachers, a few days each year to go somewhere else, meet new people, get inspired, and bring back new ideas. So right now, I'm in my hometown, Seattle, Washington with Greg, visiting several schools and places that deal in service, sustainability, and technology. As a way to process what we see, I'm using my blog, and Greg and I are going to podcast our reflections and interviews.

After a particularly brutal red-eye out of Honolulu (I think I broke a fever on the flight), Greg and I picked up our rental car at 5:30am after 3 or 4 hours of neck-wrenching, knee-cramping sleep on the flight and headed to the Pensione Nichols where I'm spending the next four nights. Greg couldn't check in at the Westin until 4pm or so, but Lindsey at the Pensione hooked him up with some breakfast, which I'm pretty sure was fresh from the Pike Place Market, and a bed. Those next 3 hours of sleep were invaluable.

We hopped the Metro and found our way up First Hill to Seattle University's Center for Service and Community Engagement. There we met with Kent Koth, a friend of Greg's after his visits to Punahou to help plan The Luke Center for Public Service. We learned a lot about what Kent's done at Seattle U. All of which is discussed in the accompanying podcast. Quickly though, Kent pointed us in several new directions with regards to how technology is being used both in service programs and sustainability initiatives and development. First, he mentioned a program that Kjell Rye has put together at Garfield High School called Global Technology Academy. It's amazingly organized, and without knowing much, I'd summarize it as a program that teaches students hardware, software, and programming, sends them to areas around the globe, and these same students teach the community there how to use/repair these computer that they then donate to the community. Kent talked about S.U.'s own computer recycling program with Nicaragua, and the way he's integrated undergraduate and graduate level web design and computer science programs in working with non-profit institutions. All very exciting ideas and programs.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Blogging About Thinking

The thinking is...: Math-magical thinking

The post and linked website are cool. More importantly, I just found out about this blog by Mark Hannington. Bruce posted the link.