Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Fever, Group Projects, and Brain Squeeze

So many things add to the "fever," light, temperature, time of year...I've been away from the clay lab for several days, like spring fever, also a combination of factors. This time of year my schedule changes radically. Lectures and labs are over and our students are working on Capstone group projects. We meet lockstep with groups of students who are doing their best to get their heads around a byzantine syllabus that's so complicated I can barely read it. Professors tend to write the questions for the capstone to show off their virtuosity. But there's a huge disconnect. When we meet with the groups their outlines are usually poorly organized and their sources are very weak. How many times have I had to say to these sophomores, "Television programs are not an acceptable source for a university-level research paper." Arghh! After meeting with eight groups of students all morning two days in a row there's precious little left of the creative side of my brain, so, better to take a break from clay. The Capstone is my least favorite part of the year, not least because it has nothing whatsoever to do with science, even though our program is supposed to be "interdisciplinary."

Mayapan Mask

But on the interdisciplinary front, lots of exciting stuff! I wrote last week that I was accepted to a summer institute with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Two weeks in Mexico City, one of my favorite places, and three weeks centered around the Four Corners region, exploring some famous and some pretty remote sites, including living pueblos that are way off the beaten track and not particularly welcoming if you just trip on in. There will be 24 scholars on board so I am looking forward to meeting up with some new colleagues and sharing a lot of enthusiasm.

Pathways through Mayapan

So the Mesoamerica trip has got me totally excited.

At the Acropolis

Then I found out I was accepted to the Andes Sprouts Society residence, which is an intersection of art, science, and sustainable agriculture. It encourages people to do work in "new media" and I have a couple of ideas. I'll focus my work on composting worms and I'm hoping for some exciting outcomes, will keep you posted! I'll be staying in an off-the-grid, solar powered remote cabin near a working farm and nature preserve. It's in the Catskills a bit west of Albany, New York, and I'll get to be there for three weeks.

Chamula Maize

So all this is an exciting and transformative time, one that I've been focusing on in depth, partly to offset the brain squeeze that the capstone imposes. It's interesting to think about the juxtaposition of group projects (like the Mesoamerica trip) vs. individual projects, like the Andes Sprouts Society Residency. I think in both cases I'll be collaborating and learning a lot, a wonderful way to start a sabbatical dedicated to bridging the gap between science and the humanities.

A Formal Planting

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