What I learned cannot be summed up to one particular subject or explained in a single sentence. So, I’ll just talk about some of the highlights. First, I learned how to educate myself on unfamiliar topics, so that I can form and articulate a comprehensible and intelligent opinion on the matter. For example, we learned about eminent domain and gentrification. Starting out, I didn’t even know what either of those was. Now, however, I can both explain to you what they are and give a logical argument to back up my opinion on whether or not they are a good thing. I also got to blog about a topic I’m very passionate about, which is human trafficking. Other skills I learned include blogging (of course), leadership (only improved, not learned, I have much yet to learn), and making wooden boxes and (Apocalypse-ready) solar ovens. We had a fun Expedition. (Note: Expeditions are a week, or in this case 8 days, of experiential learning. The expeditions can range from starting your own coffee shop to designing and building a stage for the school to going to New Orleans to help with relief efforts to partaking in a virtual stock market to building rockets and much more.) As for information, I learned a lot about different energy sources, the effects we have on our environment, and ways we can improve what our impact on the earth is.
One place we went to, called Blue Rock Station, really made me think about the way we operate here in America. The way we build houses, use water, and dispose of waste. They have a house called the “Earth Ship” constructed of old tires and bottle compacted with mud; this creates “thermal mass” which keeps the house at a constant temperature of about 57°, no matter what the weather. They only have windows on the South side of their house, because if they faced any other direction it wouldn’t get enough sun, so they would just waste heat. They also collect and filter rainwater for use in their home. And my personal favorite feature is the “Rocket Stove”: a specially designed oven that, given a little wood, could not only cook your pizza, but also effectively heat your house. Though the design is by Dr. Larry Winiarski, an engineering student who interned at Blue Rock Station helped them improve the design for their needs.
So, what I’ve learned is that we can fall into a lot of bad habits as a nation, and what was necessary or practical thirty years ago may be obsolete now. We need to constantly evaluate the way we do things like build houses and use water, so that we can be as efficient as possible and waste less. We can make a huge difference in our generation, but we have to rethink the way we do things and inform others of how to change things. This, of course, means that first and foremost we have a responsibility to educate ourselves, so that we can then help educate others.
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