Thursday, May 12, 2011

End of the GreenHouse Year

After talking about backyard chickens and eating ethical chocolate, the GreenHouse year really came to a close with the End-of-Year Banquet, which took place in the beautiful Allen Centennial Gardens on a few warm hours that we managed to squeeze out of this cold and wet spring. The tulips were starting to bloom, and little buds were peeking out all around.


But even the oncoming signs of spring weren't as hopeful or as heartwarming as the closing reflections offered by our faculty director and program director:

...and by a few eloquent GreenHouse residents.

These members of the GreenHouse community spoke of what this year meant to them, of how much their freshman years of college had been forever shaped by the experience of living in this dorm that offers unparalleled resources and environmental ideas and community.  I was really moved by this short speeches, by hearing from the student themselves how much it meant to be engaged and stimulated not only in the classroom, but also in their dorms. I've spent a lot of my time in the GreenHouse thinking about how valuable the Housing side of things is, in addition to the classroom side of things. So much learning that happens in college happens in those late-night conversations in the hallways of your dorm, over a meal in the dining hall, as you brush your teeth in the communal bathrooms (and muse over whether to floss before or after brushing), and so on.  So, shouldn't part of our job as educators be to become part of those conversations as well? To help students carry their intellectual and personal exploration into their college lives as a whole? I don't know exactly what form that sort of teaching can take, but I'd love to be part of it one way or another...

But after these thoughtful reflections, we jumped into the food, which was one of the tastiest and best-sourced meals, prepared by Housing Dining Services, that I've ever eaten. After reading Mark Bittman's post this week about cafeteria food, I was especially excited to see the UW folks sourcing ingredients locally, and forefronting plant-based foods.

The appetizers included this spread of roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, olives, and four kinds of cheese:
Then there were at least five different kinds of greens for a make-your-own salad bar. I wasn't even sure what all of these were!  Watercress, sunflower sprouts, spinach...? Any other ideas?

And finally, bread from local Madison bakeries, toppings for the salad greens, and veggie (and chicken) kebabs.


Ooh, and I didn't get to take a photo of the awesome cheesecake with rhubarb sauce that closed out the meal in style.

As we ate our fresh food and looked out at the tulips blooming amid a community of promising students, I honesty felt hopeful about the direction of at least some of our education in this country, despite the very real need for change.*  I hope to figure out a way to be part of this education, and of this change.

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*My ever-thoughtful friend Kroy has been writing recently about alternatives to traditional education: here, here, and here.

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