Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Please Consider Our Place in Nature

As many of you are already aware, Ilse Schweitzer and I are team teaching a highly interactive version of English 3110/Our Place in Nature this fall for the Honors College. We are tremendously excited about teaching this particular course, not only because of our shared interest in environmental issues and nature writing but also because of the timeliness of our topic, particularly in the wake of recent events in the Gulf and the clear evidence throughout the world of the too-often-detrimental impact that human activity continues to have on the earth that we share. To develop what we hope will become a lifelong interest in environmental issues in our students, as well as a lifelong interest in the humanities, we have designed a course that we believe is truly dynamic this semester—complete with a bevy of compelling guest speakers, two off-campus field trips, a screening of the West Michigan-focused documentary “Eating in Place,” and a writers’ workshop led by none other than our own Kate Dernocoeur, a recent graduate of our MFA program who will return in early November to provide our students with a hands-on primer in nature writing that we hope will result in some amazing student work.

But these are just a few of the highlights of our exciting semester to come, and given the diversity and quality of the guest speakers who will be visiting our classroom and our desire to engender a department- (if not university-) wide conversation about the environment and our place in it, we hope that you will keep our class on your radar this semester and join us for one or more of the many events that we have planned.

In keeping with the tech-focused nature of our course and our desire to harness our students’ social networking skills in service to the environment, we have created a Facebook page (cleverly entitled “English 3110: Our Place in Nature”) to which we invite you to become a member. We will use this page to post links that you might find of interest, digital pictures and film footage from our class, as well as information about upcoming events, such as the presentation on digital storytelling that Pen Campbell, the co-director of the Third Coast Writing Project, will be sharing with our students on Thursday, September 16. With Gwen Tarbox’s generous help, we are also in the process of revamping our fledgling classroom blog, which should be up and running soon with all of the “bells and whistles” that we hope our students will employ in their own nature-focused blogs this semester. And we will also shortly have our own gallery on the National Writing Project’s website to celebrate our students’ nature writing successes—and to which we hope you, too, will consider adding your voice as the Second National Day on Writing approaches on October 20th.

In the meantime, however, here is a list of the events that we have scheduled this semester. Feel free to contact us should you wish to attend any of these events OR should you wish to collaborate with us or include your students in any of the events that we have planned. All of our events, unless otherwise noted, will take place in 4045 Brown on Tuesday or Thursday mornings from 11-12:15 p.m.

We’re looking forward to a really amazing semester and hope you will join us as we—and our students—consider “our place in nature.”

September 16 Digital Storytelling Presentation with Pen Campbell, Co-Director, Third Coast Writing Project

September 30 Great Lakes Conservationist and 2010 English Department Distinguished Alumnus Dave Dempsey

October 12 Tom Springer, author of Looking for Hickories: The Forgotten Wildness of the Rural Midwest

October 21 “A Taste of Nature” Farmers’ Market Celebration and Screening of the 2010 Documentary “Eating in Place,” followed by a roundtable discussion with Nurya Love Parish, producer of the film and president of the Grand Rapids Area Council for the Humanities, and Ruth Stein, former ABC News producer and writer and editor of “Eating in Place.”

Please note that this event will take place in the Lee Honors College from 11-1 p.m. on October 21.

October 28 Classroom visit by Dr. Christoph Irmscher of Indiana University, one of this fall’s Scholarly Speakers. Topic TBD.

November 2 and 4 Nature Writing Workshop with Kate Dernocoeur*

*Given the time constraints of this two-day workshop, we will be limiting visitors to our classroom during this week. Please let us know as soon as possible if you are interested in coming in to observe the workshop, however, and we will do our best to accommodate your request.

November 11 Nature-focused Art and Photography with Dr. Bill Davis of the WMU Department of Art

December 2 “Urban Forestry Will Save the World” with Geoff Kempter, Certified Arborist and Technical Services Manage, Asplundh, Inc.

Posted by Christina Triezenberg.

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