It’s challenging enough to spend your freshman year studying the separation of powers in U.S. government, or the biology and function of cell structure. First-year students in SOU’s Green House have taken on the puzzle of how to feed the world in 2050, despite the complications of climate change and exponential population growth.
Students in the experiential freshman seminar have begun classroom investigation of potential solutions, including discussions of planned parenthood and the benefits and risks of fertilizers and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“While visiting, students and farm owners and managers discuss the desire for and support of small agricultural operations,” said Ellen Siem, a Green House faculty member. “They learn about environmental challenges such as changes in average temperature, precipitation and water use, and sunlight and air quality during smoky summers.
“They can see, first-hand, that small farms require many hands to grow and harvest the food used to populate shelves, CSA shares and restaurants.”
Green House participants have learned the origins of the term “organic” as it applies to agriculture, and they’re evaluating the importance of the “certified organic” designation. “This will be a question each student explores and decides for him- or herself,” Siem said.
The students are also weighing GMO benefits of increased crop resilience and yields against their potential effects on health and the environment.
They are learning about internships and work opportunities, and will soon shift their emphasis from the production of food to its distribution.
SOU offers two freshman seminar “houses” – the Green House, whose students focus on sustainability, adventure, leadership and applied research; and the Skeptic House, whose students learn to apply logic, ethical considerations and reasoning skills as they explore contentious contemporary issues. Both are considered solution-oriented learning communities for engaged, energetic students.
The “house” seminars have nothing to do with buildings and their students have a variety of majors. Their students and faculty share a “homeroom” class that provides academic skill-building and advising, peer mentoring, group projects and off-site adventures that range from field trips to performances.