Embracing Place

Graduate students studied Place-based Education with University of Wyoming visiting scholar Kate Welsh this Fall. The course introduced them to educational methods that use the resources of a community as the context for student learning. They were then challenged to design curriculum that would connect others to this place, Jackson Hole. Finally, the course became an investigation into their own Places. This last piece amalgamated self-reflection and place-based ideas into a piece of creative writing. Their effort and creativity became clear when Orion Magazine, a leading publication on nature and place, chose to publish their work.

Many pieces have been chosen for the Orion’s section ‘The Place Where You Live’ and can be viewed at here . Highlights from their contributions are below:

From Rob Backlund’s ‘A Yurt in the Earth’

“He lives in a yurk,” I hear my mother state to a friend over the phone. I instantly assume that whom ever she is talking to, has never heard of a “yurk”.

“Yes, a yurk in Kelly, Wyoming. It’s a glorified round-house,” she rebuttals to her friend who asks for a “yurk” description and location. I laugh to myself, picturing Chuck Norris delivering a “glorified round-house” to the face of evil as Walker, Texas Ranger.

Yes, I live in a canvas yurt, 20 feet in diameter, in Kelly, Wyoming. My home sits on the edge of the Gros Ventre River, near the base of the Tetons . . . The walls are about an inch thick. They are supported by a latticework of wood that presently responds to blowing wind. The roof sounds like a snare drum roll as the rain falls.

From Stephanie Lewis’ ‘Burntside Lake’

I understand this place first through the water- its wide expanse absorbing energies and spreading them smooth, just as surface ripples eventually fading into flat. The water searches for the lowest point, flowing in rivers, filling up deep glacial tracks and shallow bogs. The water might be clear and cold, in deep and wide lakes; or murky and full of life within a bog.

From Ben Johnson’s ‘On the edge of the Gros Ventres and The Universe’

We played cribbage on a board made from a canoe paddle and watched the storm move in on us. Then made pizzas in cast iron pots and watched the rain and lightning come down. I am discovering this place. New friends, new mountains, and new memories. But with the same starry nights I have always loved and the rays of the same sun that has greeted me my entire life, just projecting themselves onto a different canvas.

Congratulations to all the graduate students for embracing Place and inspiring others to do the same.

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