April 15, 2010
As a first year student at Rollins College, I have come upon many opportunities during the short time that I’ve called this campus my home. I am part of the pilot Rollins Plan as well as a work-study student for the Office of Community Engagement. This past semester, I was enrolled in three service-learning courses that combined field experience and service with a traditional academic approach in order to prepare students to address the real-life needs of their own communities. These courses allowed me to integrate key concepts throughout the semester by learning similar ideas and themes, connecting them to my overall understanding of community, environment and responsibility.
In the fall of 2008, a group of students led by Associate Professor of Art Rachel Simmons teamed up with Fern Creek Elementary to create art that reflected the natural beauty of Central Florida as part of the course, Green Art in the Community. Through their art, both Rollins students and 5th graders worked to raise awareness of issues that pose a threat to our environment. Due to its success the first time around, Simmons offered this course again for the Spring 2010 semester as part of the Global Challenges: Florida and Beyond RP.
Over the course of the past semester, my peers and I were introduced to concepts such as biophilia, the aquifer and urban sprawl. We learned that urban areas all over the world are spreading outwards across the land and into previously untouched rural areas. This detrimental form of expansion damages the land, air and water quality of these regions. However, Florida stands at the forefront of a movement known as smart growth, which creates a balance between financial viability, livability and environmental sensitivity.
We were able to experience wildlife firsthand by visiting the Genius Reserve and Wekiva Springs. By sitting outside and drawing what we saw, we developed our artist’s eye as we internalized the concepts we had been learning about in class.
As we grew to understand these ideas and the effect that they had on each of our lives, we began taking weekly trips to Whispering Oaks Elementary School in Clermont to teach a group of fifth graders about these topics and how they could use art as a channel for their ideas. On our first day, I was surprised when a student blurted out, “That’s biophilia!” in response to something that one of my classmates had said. The students’ enthusiasm was contagious, and before we knew it, we had found ourselves learning from one another.
My perspective of Florida’s landscape has been changed through my experiences in this course. My first thoughts prior to moving to Florida were Disney, beaches, and lots of hot, sunny days. However, very few people realize that the Everglades, one of the most diverse ecosystems in the United States, are located in Florida as well.
For more information about the Green Art Project check out our Web site at:
http://web.me.com/rsimmons4/Green_Art/Mission.html (Username: student; Password: studio)
To read about my other experiences, click on this link.