Week Four

Tuesday Feb 3 

Short Paper #6 should be a response to:
Chapter One of Net Smart by Howard Rheingold:
Attention! Why and How to Control Your Mind’s Most Powerful Instrument.

The Wireless Woods by David Gessner.

You should also bring the Elevator pitch for your Project Proposal.


We'll be doing the Getting-to-Know-You Google Hangouts with the Florida students.
Check here to make sure you know what time yours is.

Thursday February 5

Be prepared to talk about what we learned about the Florida students.
Bring a rough draft of your Project Proposal.

Week Three

If you haven't yet looked at all of our introductions on twitter, here's the link.
And here's the link that will show you the Florida students.

Tuesday, Jan 27 

Read for class:
Alison Hawthorne Deming,“The Edges of the Civilized World” on page 143
of the anthology The Future of Nature
Then read the introduction to Net Smart by Howard Rheingold:
Why You Need Digital Know-How—Why We All Need It

(Both books are on reserve in Moon Library)

Short Paper #4

Wednesday on Twitter
Go OUTSIDE and then write one line of poetry.
Then tweet that line of poetry, using #nifkin #poem
Contribute a line by 5 pm on Wednesday.
Then come back later and search #nifkin #poem to find lines of poetry.
Use Storify to put at least ten of the lines together into a poem.
Then tweet a link to your poem, using #nifkin of course.

You can use twitter or facebook or tumblr to get other people
to join us by using this link.

Wednesday night and Thursday, be sure to go back and read the poems.
Vote on your favorite poem by favoriting the tweet.
The person who writes the poem with the most favorites
will win a prize!

Thursday, Jan 29 

Bring laptops to class if you can.

Read for class:
Erik Reece, page 91, “Moving Mountains.”
Short Paper #5 will be a response to that reading.

Here is the link for the Getting-to-Know-You Google Hangouts with the Florida students. Be sure you've signed up for a time and be sure you've listed a gmail address. Please put an asterick by your name if you are willing to be the person who makes sure the hangout happens!

In class, we will be brainstorming ideas for your formal paper,
which will be a Research Proposal.
You may want to start thinking about topics.

Week Two

Tuesday, January 20 
Read for class:
"Staying Put" by Scott Russell Sanders on page 353 of the Future of Nature
“I am Writing Blindly”  by Roger Rosenblatt

Short Paper #2
Here's a prompt for those of you who wanted one -->
Respond to Sanders and Rosenblatt, but you can also expand the paper to talk about your own connection to place. Where are you from? Is it a landscape you feel connected to? What’s the basis of that connection? What are the stories in that landscape? Do you think that humans have a compulsion to tell stories? Where does that instinct come from?

Be sure that you are following Nifkin on twitter.
(As part of your homework, you should always go on twitter and search #nifkin to see if your classmates have put up links, etc. Did I mention that?)

If your books haven't arrived yet, I put copies on reserve in Moon Library.

Wednesday Twitter Madness:
Using our hashtag (#nifkin), go on twitter and introduce yourself. Include a photo and something about who you are or where you are from.You only have 140 characters to make a good impression so think carefully about what you want to say.Then take some time to respond to the other students (including the ones in Florida) who are introducing themselves -- you can reply to them or favorite their tweets. Be friendly and charming. Remember, we want to get people to follow us!

The students in Florida are using #cf122 for their hashtag. So search #nifkin to see how your classmates introduce themselves and then search #cf122 to meet the students in Florida.

If you want to see how students introduced themselves last year, here is the link.

Also on Wednesday: Looking for sources of environmental information on the internet. Go to this GoogleDoc before Midnight on Wednesday. Add a link. Or follow a link and add a comment about what you think about the source.

Thursday,  January 22
Read: "On Thin Ice" by  Charles Wohlforth, page 107
Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibben
Check out the website 350.org 

Paba has suggested that we could also check out John Oliver's take on climate change.

Short Paper #3
What’s the website 350.org about? Why the focus on the number 350? Back in 1989, Bill McKibben wrote the book End of Nature to warn people about climate change. Not enough people listened. Now Bill McKibben is attempting to use the internet to raise awareness about environmental issues, climate disruption in particular, and get people to take action. Can the internet be used effectively for grassroots organizing? Will it be more effective than publishing a book on the topic? What about the Charles Wohlforth piece (originally published in Orion Magazine) that connects climate change to place, people, and animals? Is that effective? What about humor? Was the John Oliver clip effective?

Bonus: You can also look at all of our introductions on twitter. Here's the link.
And here's the link that will show you the Florida students.

Link for the google hangout collaboration.

Week One

If you haven't done so yet, order your books:
Future of Nature edited by Barry Lopez
Net Smart by Howard Rheingold.

We'll be using google documents in this class. If you have a gmail account, then you already have a google account. If not, you can get one here.

For Thursday, January 15

Read for class:

Short Paper #1 Respond to the readings with a one-page paper. (You can single-space to get it all onto one page. Just double space between paragraphs.) About 500 words or so should be sufficient. Think of the paper as your way of adding to the discussion in the classroom. We will be sharing these with each other: print your short paper out and bring it to class.

Last, if you don't have a twitter account, go here and set one up. Then follow me so that I can find you.

Bring laptops to class on Thursday, we can spend the last twenty minutes of class helping anyone who is new to twitter figure out it out.  We'll be using twitter for an activity with the Florida students next week so we want to make sure everyone knows how to use it. Plus, we can look at some of the projects students did last year.


Welcome to EWP 290 Research, Writing, and the Humanities.

In this course, we’ll be using writing to investigate environmental issues. This course has two themes that might seem to be opposite at first glance —

PLACE, NATURE, HOME, THE BODY: Environmental problems are physical; they happen in specific places, with effects that we feel in our bodies. When we talk about environmental issues, we talk about what we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and especially -- where we live. In this course we will be focusing on place. You’ll be choosing a research site that you can actually go to, so that you can experience it with your senses and do some primary research.

THE INTERNET, VIRTUAL SPACES, SOCIAL MEDIA: Environmental solutions in this century will likely come for a community of writers and thinkers, scientists and artists, policy-makers and activists who know how to collaborate, who are creative and playful, who use writing to think through their ideas, who know smart ways of doing research, who communicate clearly in their writing, who connect with other people who are concerned about the same issues, and who think critically. For most of us, the internet is the virtual place that will give us access to that community and a way to participate in that conversation.

Other themes will evolve from our discussions and writing.

Some questions we’ll be asking this semester:
What’s the relationship between place and story?
What’s our relationship to the landscape we live in?
How does where we live shape who we are?
Can caring about place translate into environmental action?
How has the internet affected our relationships to each other, to our communities, to our local landscapes, and to the earth?
How has the internet changed the way we write?
How can writing be used to help solve environmental problems?
What role might the internet play in solving the environmental crisis?

Investigating Place-based Environmental Issues
We’ll be using writing to explore and express the relationship of humans to place, with an emphasis on the environmental issues implicit in that relationship. We’ll be reading a range of essays that explore the way that humans form a relationship with the landscapes they inhabit and the way that place can change who people are.

Sidney Dobrin, the editor of the book Saving Place defines ecological literacy as “a conscious awareness and understanding of the relationships between people, other organisms, and the environments in which they live.” In our readings and classroom discussions, we’ll be looking at both built and natural environments through the lens of ecology. We’ll be looking at the relationship between humans and the environments in which they live, and trying to find patterns that might help us explain, analyze, and solve the environmental crisis.

In addition to reading two books, we’ll be taking advantage of current environmental information that can be accessed through the internet, from websites like Orion to TED talks and webcomics like XKCD. Our discussion of place-based environmental issues will be an opportunity for you to use information you’ve learned in your other ESF courses.

Going Online with Our Ideas 
Bill McKibben is a writer and environmental activist who thinks it’s important to spend time “unplugged” – for him, this usually means hiking in the Adirondack Mountains – and yet, he has also argued that the internet can be the tool that saves the human species from destroying the earth, that the internet can be how we connect to each other and how we can educate each other. He’s been using the website 350.org and social media like twitter for grassroots organizing on a global scale. We’ll watching Bill McKibben and talking about the ways environmentalists can use the internet.

We’ll be using the internet to get information, to collaborate with each other and students outside this classroom, to explore topics, and to extend our conversation beyond just our classroom. In fact, the last ten weeks of this course is an experiment, and you will have a chance to help shape this course. I plan to use my network of colleagues who teach at other colleges; we’ll try to connect with their students in other parts of the country and the world. I’m hoping you will all use your networks as well.

Writing Skills and Practice:
EWP 290 is a course that will extend and build on the writing practices that you learned in EWP 190. Learning to write is a recursive practice. It’s like learning to play a sport or a musical instrument. You don’t go to one practice or one lesson and master the skills immediately: you need to practice the skills over and over again, from different teachers and coaches.

You will be analyzing the audience for whom you are writing, analyzing the purpose of a text and how that purpose informs how you write, using writing as a way of learning, brainstorming ideas, pitching your ideas to classmates, choosing a focus, developing ideas, incorporating research into your writing, organizing your ideas, revising your writing after getting feedback from your peers, collaborating with peers, and evaluating the writing of your peers. Writing, is of course, linked to both reading and critical thinking so those are skills that will be emphasized as well.

This course counts as your humanities general education requirement. Consider this definition of humanities from the Ohio Council of Arts: “The humanities are the stories, the ideas, and the words that help us make sense of our lives and our world. The humanities introduce us to people we have never met, places we have never visited, and ideas that may have never crossed our minds. By showing how others have lived and thought about life, the humanities help us decide what is important in our own lives and what we can do to make them better. By connecting us with other people, they point the way to answers about what is right or wrong, or what is true to our heritage and our history. The humanities help us address the challenges we face together in our families, our communities, and as a nation .... As fields of study, the humanities emphasize analysis and exchange of ideas rather than the creative expression of the arts or the quantitative explanation of the sciences …. Literature, Languages, and Linguistics explore how we communicate with each other, and how our ideas and thoughts on the human experience are expressed and interpreted.”

Social media
In this course, we’ll be using twitter and other forms of social media as a way of enlarging the conversation beyond our classroom. Knowing how to use social media is not a prerequisite for the course, so don’t panic if you don’t have a twitter account. You’ll have one soon! We can learn from each other and figure it out as we go along. Your teacher finished graduate school USING A TYPEWRITER so it shouldn’t be too hard to keep ahead of her.

Note: Learning how to use social media (and other digital tools) is a skill that is increasingly valued in today’s workplace. William Ward from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Publication says: "Students with social media certification are getting better jobs and internships. Those who harness social communications are in high demand and have an advantage." (Article here) That’s not why we’re using twitter, but it’s a nice bonus.

The Future of Nature edited by Barry Lopez
Net Smart: How to Thrive Online by Howard Rheingold
We’ll also be using links to online publications and websites throughout the semester. Be sure that you check this blog for assignments.

More on this course
If you’d like to see some of the theory behind the way this course is planned, check here.

Unit One

We’ll be investigating place-based environmental issues. You will be

• reading from the book The Future of Nature edited by Barry Lopez
• writing six informal response papers
• reading each other’s response papers at the beginning of each class
• discussing place-based environmental issues
• writing a memo to pitch an idea for a formal essay
• doing some research for your formal essay
• writing about some of your own experiences
• writing a draft of a formal essay
• doing peer review of each other’s formal essay
• revising your formal essay
• handing in a Unit One portfolio that will be graded according to this rubric.

During this first five weeks, we will also experiment with twitter, Google Docs, Storify, and other digital tools that we’ll be using during for the rest of the course. Our task is to figure out how to use the internet to enlarge the conversation beyond just our classroom.

Short papers

The short papers are informal writing, but you should take them seriously as they are a good part of the writing you will be doing for the course. They should show that you are engaging with the readings and the class discussions.

Think of these short papers as a way to add to the conversation we will be having in the classroom. You'll be sharing them with your classmates. We'll spend the first few minutes of every class reading each other's short papers. Sometimes I'll give you a prompt, but other times, you'll have to choose how you want to respond.

Your response could include:
Questions for class discussion
Your opinion on a topic the writer brought up
A summary of what you read
Observations about what you read
A list of topics you think the piece covered
Questions you might have for the author
An interesting tangent inspired by the piece
Something you researched about the author

You could:
Share a relevant experience from your life
Share relevant information from other ESF courses
Share insights you had while reading
Connect what you read to a topic we discussed in class
Go off on a worthwhile tangent
Ask questions about things you didn't understand in the reading
Critique the text
Analyze some part of the text that seemed interesting
Relate the reading to current events
Relate the reading to environmental issues

 Most of the time your response will be a full page of writing, done on a computer. (Single-space the lines, but double-space between paragraphs.) But not always. Your response might be a drawing or a photograph or even an interpretive dance.