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Award Abstract #1141281

The Future of a New England Mill Town

NSF Org: DUE
Division Of Undergraduate Education
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Initial Amendment Date: August 15, 2012
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Latest Amendment Date: July 22, 2015
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Award Number: 1141281
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: R. Corby Hovis
DUE Division Of Undergraduate Education
EHR Direct For Education and Human Resources
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Start Date: July 1, 2013
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End Date: June 30, 2016 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $199,477.00
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Investigator(s): Janet Foley jfoley@bennington.edu (Principal Investigator)
Valerie Imbruce (Former Principal Investigator)
Timothy Schroeder (Co-Principal Investigator)
Ronald Cohen (Co-Principal Investigator)
Donald Sherefkin (Co-Principal Investigator)
Janet Foley (Former Co-Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: Bennington College
One College Drive
Bennington, VT 05201-6003 (802)440-4382
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NSF Program(s): TUES-Type 1 Project
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Program Reference Code(s): 9150, 9178, SMET
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Program Element Code(s): 7513

ABSTRACT

This project is matching academic rigor with experiential, interdisciplinary learning in a sequence of two courses that ground students firmly in their place of study: Bennington, Vermont, and its environs. Former mill towns like Bennington dot the New England landscape. These are not the urban centers at the forefront of sustainable design; but neither are they rural outposts or quickly spreading suburbs. Through analysis of past resource-use regimes and human-environment interactions, students in this project are gaining insight into what a sustainable future could be.

The curriculum is designed mainly for juniors and seniors and for environmental studies students, although it is also appropriate for students concentrating in other disciplines, as well as students interested in learning more about their new college home.

The first course, "The Future of a New England Mill Town," provides the geographic specificity needed for students to understand how social, political, and biophysical processes influence each other. This introductory course highlights core STEM knowledge (from ecology, chemistry, geology, architecture, and psychology) central to sustainability issues, and it also examines how STEM knowledge and approaches are integrated in a larger societal whole through real problems in a tangible, localized setting.

The second course is an advanced projects course that involves individual internships with regional organizations during the college's seven-week, non-residential winter Field Work Term. In this course, students collaboratively design and implement case studies that address issues of sustainability in the Bennington region, drawing on qualitative and quantitative research methods from diverse disciplines. Results from projects are archived and compiled as a resource for partner organizations and as a catalyst for the development of future courses and projects.

While creating locally focused place-based curricula, the investigators are also developing teaching tools that have general applicability in integrating student experience with any locality. Ongoing relationships with local community organizations, K-12 teachers, other colleges in the region, and others with unique knowledge lay the groundwork for future collaborations. The investigators are organizing workshops to collaborate with other colleges and K-12 teachers. Local media are disseminating ideas generated from students' projects.

 

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