The Beginning Core Courses
Reflecting on the work I have put into my capstone, titled The Effectiveness of Elementary Garden Education as a Tool for Altering Global Food Systems, I have realized the Environmental Studies Department does a great job of preparing students from the beginning to think about these huge projects. As a freshman when I took the environmental studies intro course, I came to understand that the major was very self directed and understanding your own interests was imperative. There are many building blocks of knowledge I learned freshman year, and looking back I realize that I did not fully understand until now, such as the Ecotypes surveys. I could not grasp the point of them freshman year, but now I am using these scales as a critical argument in my thesis. Therefore time and repetition can be extremely helpful.
Sophomore year in the Environmental Analysis course I figured out my key interests which revolved around food systems and education, still true today. Throughout this course I proposed a concentration and planned the rest of my time at Lewis and Clark. In the course I also worked on hard skills such as GIS and spreadsheets, things that have come in handy when working on the results portion of my thesis. Overall the skills and theory I began in Environmental Analysis has been built upon to form my capstone.
Continuing my environmental studies journey I took my proposed breadth and concentration courses in a variety of disciplines. These courses are supposed to expand knowledge outside of the major specific classes. A course that was extremely influential to my capstone was the Political Economy of Food. This sociology course introduced me to lots of knowledge about global food systems and the inner workings of supply chains. The reading materials from this class are in fact cited frequently in my capstone.
The education courses I took starting freshman year allowed me to become familiar with the many problems with the systems in place in the U.S. These courses, taught by graduate school faculty, focused on issues of social justice and the inequalities prevalent in the education system. In my first education course we assisted in a public high school in Portland, giving me comfort with working in schools. Throughout these discussion based classes I was able to spend lots of time reflecting on my own education prior to Lewis and Clark and the impact it had on me.
Final Core Courses
The two final environmental studies courses I took before my capstone were Environmental Engagement and Environmental Theory. These two courses were very influential to my thesis in different ways. Environmental Engagement prepared me to plan and follow through with my own research involving reaching out to people outside of Lewis and Clark. I looked at the accessibility of farmers markets in Portland, visiting markets and engaging with organizations running the markets. The project helped me to feel comfortable reaching out to strangers about my research and interviewing people.
Finally environmental theory, which I took last semester allowed me to get a head start on my thesis from a theoretical perspective, putting together a strong foundation for my work to come. In this course I decided on the framework for my thesis and was able to get a lot of the lofty big ideas clarified before moving to the situated work this semester.
Reflecting generally on my courses and education at Lewis and Clark as an Environmental Studies major I am satisfied with how I have been able to pull together all of the different classes I took in a meaningful way. My thesis feels important to me because of the way it ties together so many years of work. I believe I will finish this project with a learned perseverance for working on a task for an extended period of time and the ability to question and doubt myself to make my work stronger.