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Interdisciplinary Rambles and Education

r.graham.barrett's picture

On November 18th, Rachel and I met up with our 3 freshmen partners (Alex, Hannah, and Rochelle) to conduct both the botanical tour and the geographic tour of Bryn Mawr.  We began by first sitting down at our usual circle chairs outside of English and having a discussion in which we compared and contrasted our two classes. While there was certainly some similarities (they are of course taking an ecological-minded class as well) there did exist some differences, mostly in terms of the texts we read. Following this, Rachel and I brought the freshmen into the woods and had them examine privet, viburnum, spice bush, beech trees, and tulip trees. In turn, the freshmen brought to various buildings and structures around campus and explain to us the composition of each particular building, and highlighted particular usage of Wissahickon Schist and Baltimore Nice on a few of the buildings and contrasted their attributes. As we finished up the Interdisciplinary Ramble of the campus at the Bryn Mawr Fieldhouse, our combined groups discussed what we had learned through each of the botanical and geological examinations of the campus. We ended with an agreement that the current landscape of the campus did consist of the natural landscape but in the process of being turned into a college campus the landscape had to incorporate imported components (such as Baltimore Nice and the non-native species in the woods).

            Looking back on our time with the freshmen during this Ramble, I feel that it was a lesson on education. Yes the intention of the Ramble was to educate group members from the other class about the aspects of the campus they didn’t get a chance to explore in their previous tour of the campus. But by attempting to recreate the experience and lessons from their own tour, each half of the group had to decide what the most important information from the previous tour was and relay that to the other half. By deciding on what information to relay, we were thinking back to the first tour and choosing based on what information we best retained but also what information we received was deemed the most important or useful for understanding the botanical or geographic composition of the campus. This process thus made me realize that the usage of whatever information we remembered was dependent on how well those who gave the earlier tours, meaning  the people who were trying to teach us, had relayed the information they had deem important for us to know. In turn, the process repeats itself as we relay the same information to the other half of the group so they could complete their cursory knowledge of Bryn Mawr’s landscape composition. Such a process made me think that ultimately our ultimate knowledge of our surroundings is based on how well the information which was stressed as important was relayed. In doing so, we also have to ensure that if we want the people we are educating to best understand their surroundings as well, we need to make sure we present what we designate as “important” in a clear enough manner, so that these students of ours best know the essential qualities of the surroundings, why it is unique, and how best to interact within it.