Cold Comfort

You know those Carnivals where people parade through the streets barely dressed in sequins and other flamboyant costumes, breathing fire and turning cartwheels and dancing the samba with total strangers? Well, you won’t find that kind of Carnival at Marlboro, except maybe for the occasional flamboyant costume, but this week marks our very own Winter Carnival. I mean, you would not believe the plethora of events to help us all forget the bun-freezing temperatures (-15 degrees this morning, no lie) and deep snow. It kicked off with a stirring round of dodgeball last Friday, under the influence of copious amounts of cotton candy and popcorn, and goes on through the much-anticipated broomball tournament this weekend. Along the way there will be capture the flag, a scavenger hunt, ultimate Frisbee, a gingerbread decorating contest, a gingerbread eating contest, a snowshoe relay, bowling challenge, ping-pong and foosball tournament…even a video game tournament. Seriously, what winter?

Speaking of bun-freezing, yesterday I joined a small but hearty group of students (five), staff (two) and faculty (one) in a rousing series of 3-on-3 ice hockey games, one of the more intellectual Winter Carnival events. I’m not sure if it was as rousing for the spectators, because there were only three of them and their jaws were apparently too frozen to cheer and they went someplace warmer before long, but the players had a great time. It was just exactly like the NHL, except I fell down a lot and there were no fights and the rink was probably about the size of a face-off circle. In classic Marlboro style you could always tell where the puck was, because it sent a spray of snow up from the surface of the ice, except when it disappeared in the snow along the edge of the rink. You might think that hockey requires way more skill than broomball, but when I was laying on the ice (did I mention I fell down a lot?) trying to dig the puck out of the snow and giggling shamelessly, it did not seem all that different. I’d say it was great training for the broomball tournament to come, samba dancing or whatever comes next.

 

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Learning by Doing Stuff

You might think that students already have enough to keep themselves busy on this pile-o-snow they call Potash Hill, between going to classes, eating, sleeping, sliding down the library hill on their butts and rubbing sticks together to stay warm. Not so, Rousseau! I’m telling you, this semester’s “Stuff to Do” Fair turned the humble dining hall into a regular Grand Central Station of doable destinations. There was something for every snowbound scholar, including Dead Tree Radio, the farm, the Women’s Resource Center, In-Sight Photography Project, volunteer fire company, fencing, peer advising and even—I love this—a foot-soaking society. But my favorite was something called “gymcraftics,” which looks a heck of a lot like building monumental sculptures out of human bodies in physically impossible positions.

I’m not kidding, freshman Randy Morantes and junior Hannah Ruth Brothers were defying gravity right there next to the condiments counter, building Eiffel Towers and Arc d’ Triumphs as effortlessly as if they were sitting in class debating existentialism. Gymcraftics Network is a Massachusetts-based organization that brings this kind of crazy upside-down undertaking into schools in the region. They were introduced to Marlboro by enterprising sophomore Sophia Romeri last fall. Gymcraftics is totally a perfect fit for a place like this that appeals to multiple intelligences, you know, verbal, mathematical, extraterrestrial, etc., because it is both artistic and kinesthetic. All that amazing movement, self-expression, teamwork and contortionism is enough to get even the most book-shy intelligence up and running. It’s the ultimate example of learning by doing, and a fitting tribute to the variety of stuff to do on campus if you remain, er, flexible.

 

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Dalrymple’s Glazed Look

If senses are the windows of the soul, like our man Blake says, then are windows the senses of a building, hmm? I like to ponder this when I look up at ol’ Dalrymple building, which has got to have more ever-loving windows than any other renovated barn outside of the Microsoft Corporation. There are 104 double hung windows, to be exact, and I know this because carpenters are up there right now tenderly replacing each one with the latest, energy-efficient, thermal-pane units. Anyone who has sat shivering by one of Dalrymple’s rattling old sashes in February can imagine what a difference this might make. I mean, if you added up all the leaks in those leaky sashes it would probably be the same as leaving a door wide open day and night. All those rattling windows qualify the building as the architectural equivalent of a sieve, but that is about to change.

You see, the new windows are part of a colossal effort to make all of Marlboro’s buildings more energy efficient, with support from a Department of Energy grant. In a campus full of funky old buildings, Dalrymple is among the funkiest and oldest, so starting here is kind of a no-brainer. Work last winter to majorly re-insulate the old building has already made a huge difference, according to Dan Cotter, our very own director of plant operations. According to Dan, who is one of those guys who wears short sleeves all winter, last year’s heating oil consumption for Dalrymple was 38 percent lower than the average for the previous three years. Not only that, you’ll be relieved to learn that a “blower door” test showed that the new insulation reduced air infiltration from 16,000 to 11,146 average CFM50. Wow.

For those of you totally fluent in math and physics, unlike me, CFM50 means the airflow, in cubic feet per minute, required to create a change in building pressure of 50 pascals, where a pascal of course equals one newton per square meter, or about .0000098692 atmosphere. But you know, if decimals with more than two zeros make your eyes glaze over, and if one newton per square meter is the same to you as one galileo per gallon, you are not alone. Just hum yourself a comforting tune and rest assured that Dalrymple is way snugger and Blaise Pascal also made honorable contributions to philosophy and theology. Those snug new windows will make a huge difference as well, and if windows really are the eyeballs of a building they will give Dalrymple a new, clearer perspective on the world.

 

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Middle Age of Discovery

You know, many students might think of college as something they kind of just have to get through, like walking across hot coals in their bare feet or navigating the Ted Williams Tunnel during rush hour, before they move on with their real lives. Others, naturally including all Marlboro students, are totally learning to learn: studiously preparing for a lifetime of hot coals, traffic jams and less painful enlightenments. Given the age-less approach to discovery at Marlboro, I was not surprised to, er, discover that many of our illustrious professors have also put in time at the Brattleboro Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The Osher Institute, an extension of the University of Vermont right here in our very back yard, allows locals in the 50-and-wiser set to enjoy lectures and courses that are sure to keep the ol’ neurons firing.

Last semester these well-ripened learners were treated to a course with William Edelglass, Marlboro’s inimitable philosophy professor, community court member and broomball luminary. Called “Ethics in a More-than Human World: Topics in Environmental Thought,” the course looked at how recent philosophers have extended morality beyond humans, to include wombats, baobab trees and whole blooming ecosystems. “With a growing awareness of environmental degradation, philosophers have been particularly interested in reconsidering the moral dimension of our relationship to the environment,” our man William says. His lifelong learners eagerly discussed readings ranging from Aldo Leopold’s land ethic to Arne Naess’ deep ecology; that is, if they could find them in large print.

William continues a fine tradition of Marlboro professors sharing their scholarship with seasoned hot-coal-walkers. I mean, we’re not talking about Crocheting 101 or Listening to Lawrence Welk’s Greatest Hits, but serious intellectual heavy lifting. Just in the last couple years, Lynette Rummel shared her insights on African politics, Amer Latif compared religions through “myth, ritual and emptiness,” Meg Mott looked at Emerson and democracy and Geri Pittman de Batlle explored the startling short stories of Nadine Gordimer. In previous years, music professor Stan Charkey, theater professor Paul Nelsen, American studies professor Kate Ratcliff and Asian studies professor Seth Harter have all led lively, brain-rattling Osher classes. Next semester features retiring (but never slowing down) biology professor Bob Engel teaching all about birds, which will surely be enlightening to even the most time-weathered learner.

 

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