Courtesy of Ellen Hill
You may have noticed the odd sculpture that appeared a few weeks ago on the quad- it’s made mostly of tires, stacked on top of each other to resemble a figure; dirty and decerped items litter around it, along with a banner stretching across its shoulders, written in green paint, “A Call To Action.”
This work is constructed by the Call to Action first-year seminar students, along with internship coordinator Ellen Hill, who also teaches the seminar. The installation piece is a part of a bigger issue the course is trying to tackle: climate change.
“We really want people to come and ask, ‘why are there tires in the middle of the quad?’” said Hill. “’Why do we have trash?’ And then really think about the climate crisis.” A few weeks prior to the installation’s construction, on World Climate Day, the class took a kayaking trip down the Lamoille River, and gathered as much trash as they could from the environment. They collected ten tires, shoes, plastic jugs, chewing tobacco tins, a hat, and much more.
“It was a fun process,” says freshman Isaiah Cline. “It kind of just shows the beauty of the earth itself and how we view it, but when you take a look behind it…it’s no longer plants, it’s starting to become trash, manufacturing and pollution.”
The class as a whole has involved social activism, most recently focusing on environmental activism. One of the highlights of the class thus far has been collaborating with a local artist, Mary Hill, whose work was recently shown at the Burlington International Airport.
In combination with their linked gateway course, Introduction to Sustainability, taught by Visiting Professor of Environmental Sciences Lisa Zinn, students explore “real-world issues, look for new sustainable strategies, and develop skills to become agents for positive change in our local and global communities,” says Hill.
“The most fun part was definitely collecting it all from the river,” says Skylar Vandervort, another freshman in the group. “As for the process of actually coming up with what we were going to do, [it] was very much a group effort.”
Students will continue to learn how to become social activists by participating in other events, such as the “BeLonging for Justice” movement held every Tuesday on Main Street in Johnson, presentations from alums, and even visit the Lamoille County Solid Waste Management District to see what happens to the food scraps that come from NVU’s dining hall.