Showing posts from July, 2014

Stay in Touch and Keep Everyone Posted on Your Environmental Projects

Be sure to visit and like our Redesigning the Future Facebook page. You will lots of information about the program and updates for future summits.

This is also a great place to keep new friends posted on your personal environmental work. We know many campers left with great ideas and tons of energy to direct toward projects in their towns and cities. 

You'll also find loads of great pictures made at the Summit on the Redesign Facebook page. Eli Wittum as well many of the counselors, staff, and campers took lots of wonderful photos. Here is a great place to see and share summit memories.

Group Shot at Redesigning the Future: Environmental Summit 2014


Don't Hate Kudzu (well maybe) - Eating and Drinking Kudzu Does Help Ease the Pain

High school students in Dr. Jay Bolin's group Invasive Alien Plants and Animals: Friend or Foe to the Environment? always enjoy the kudzu class. Why? Well, they get to eat and drink kudzu concoctions. 

Granted kudzu has a bad name, and it has certainly caused a lot of headaches for a lot of people. Brought in to counter soil erosion, this plant quickly became an invasive plant that would crawl over and tangle up plants, trees, and old broken down cars sitting in the field.

Fighting it back has been like trying to stick your elbow in your ear.

Given it's hard to impossible to do much about kudzu, students learn to make the best of a bad situation. The campers go out hiking and pick young kudzu leaves and then get to cooking.

One favorite is fried kudzu leaves. Students make and eat these in their focus group meetings.

The kudzu leaves are battered and deep fried. This is quite a southern tradition. Most anyone from the sunny south can tell you that anything tastes good batter…

Communication is Critical, Heather White Tells Summit Campers

Heather White is the Executive Director of Environmental Working Group (EWG), and she made time to stop by Redesigning the Future to speak with everyone about the importance of communication.

We communicate constantly, but we don't always do it well. White provided ways to think about the world, organize those thoughts, and get powerful messages out.

The communication skills program began with a game to get students up and moving and involved in the process of thinking about how we send and receive messages.

Campers wrote down thoughts on sticky notes and put them on the wall boards. Then White had them take the ideas from across the room and begin to organize those words and thoughts so that they had more than just a jumble of random sticky note ideas.

We don't think about communication a lot. We just do it. But, if we want results, we need to be more focused on what we say and do.

White helped summit members look beyond the obvious and make new connections about their messa…

Building Our Own Little Sacred Spaces at Environmental Summit 2014

Members of the Sacred Spaces: Global Heritage and Conservation group spent some time in the campus preserve gathering items to create their own mini sacred spaces after learning about special sacred areas across the globe.

Here are their creations. As you can see, each camper had a different vision of tranquility.

Tackling Snapping Turtles at the Summit

By: Cierra Hunter

A Backbone for Conservation led by Dr. Joe Poston, a professor of biology at Catawba College, gave students real hands on experiences in the wild.

Members of the group included:


A snapping turtle is always a cool find. They are important to the ecosystem, but they are endangered in many areas for a variety of reasons.

Here is a great video out of Canada that provides a lot of information about snapping turtles. It includes tips on how to help the snapping turtles too.

Taking Videos in the Preserve - Oh The Things That You Will See

Students in Dr. Joe Poston's group got a very unique view of nature by using an outdoor video camera. You never know what's out there when no one is watching.

SACRED SPACES: Global Heritage and Conservation

Dr. Charlie McAllister took campers all over the globe in his intriguing section on Sacred Spaces.

Members of this interesting group included:

Rosalie Alff (Jefferson)
Rebecca Bailey (Burlington)
Eric Datta (Chapel Hill)
Nataliyah Gray (Burlington)
Justice Pennywell (Shelby)
Isabel Pernia (Charlotte)
Andrew Whang (Chapel Hill)

The group was ably assisted by veteran counselor Kerstin Brown.

The seven students began by collectively drawing a world map of sacred spaces, which began our conversation about this term.

Then, in five sessions, they selected and profiled twenty-one case studies in three global regions from Beyond Belief: Linking Faiths and Protected Areas to Support Biodiversity Conservation (2005).

Some of the countries: Columbia, Finland, New Zealand, Mali, Peru, Japan, and South America.

One especially interesting area explored by the group was an area of Africa that is a sanctuary for monkeys. The monkeys are considered sacred. As you can see, the area is, indeed, beautiful, and …

Acting for the Environment

By: Payton Coleman

As actors in the "Stories in Support of  Your Cause" campers have been allowing their creative juices to flow as they use their artistic talents to share their concerns for the environment. The main focus for the group has been to show how their passion for the environment can affect the world.

One of the students shared her thoughts about the groups progress.

What have you enjoyed about your group?
"I enjoyed how we can tell stories with each other, be respected and act out the stories as well."                                                         -Lexie Burns

Power Blogging - High School Students Rocked a Blog in Three Days

Green Ink : Blogging for a Better Tomorrow
You would not think six high school students (along with a mentor and three college counselors - one just graduated in May) could rock a blog and get over 400 visits in three days.

Well, these guys and girls did.

You may be wondering how they did that, because those numbers are amazing in the blogashpere.

As the Green Ink group mentor at the Redesigning the Future summer camp for high school students, I can tell you that we're not talking black hat SEO, buying links, or any other tricks.

These high school students simply put up great information and shared their work. As a power blogger, I can tell you that is the key. Put up information people want to read and get the word out. That's what the group did, and it paid off.

Bloggers Working Hard at the Environmental Summit
I am a Communication lecturer at the college, so I can tell you this was not easy. Good online blog traffic does not just happen. If the students were just tossing up …

Focus Group Favorites

By Boothe Pfaff and Aydan Smith:

During lunch, on Thursday, some campers answered questions about their favorite parts of the Stanback Reserve and the summit so far.  

A:Stanback Reserve   

B:The Summit

Holly Kuhn - Backbone for Conservation
A. "My favorite part was going on the trails and looking at all the wildlife there."
B. "Going to our focus groups and studying everything that we have our interests in."

Becan Hennighan - Backbone for Conservation
A. "The variety of plants and animals that live there and the sheer beauty of the preserve itself."
B. "Going out into the preserve and learning about the various animals that live in it."

Amanda Williamson - Backbone for conservation
A. "When we get to actually see and hold the birds as well as walk through the mud to set up turtle traps." "Its just so beautiful and you just feel one with nature."
B. "Meeting new & interesting people and going through the preserve to catch, tag …

Fried Kudzu? Can You Really Eat That?

By: Payton Coleman 

All you need is love,but a little fried kudzu never hurt anybody!

Students in the Invasive Alien Plants and Animals focus group enjoyed some oddly delicious kudzu. Their first mission before enjoying the final product was to explore around the campus for natural kudzu. They then cleaned the kudzu, and deep fried the unusual cuisine.

Here are some comments from the  students about the exercise... 

"We went a couple blocks near the campus, and we cut the kudzu. It was like a scavenger hunt and it was cool." -Anusha Joshi

"As we ate and deep-fried the kudzu, we thought about how funny it would be to sell fried kudzu at a county fair.  We even thought of a great slogan: Saving the environment, one crunchy kudzu snack at a time." -Savannah Swinea

What Would You Do If . . .

Robin Emmons, Founder & Executive Director of Sow Much Good, opened the 2014 National Environmental Summit for high school students.

Her story began when she realized that she needed to make some changes. She began by resigning from her 20-year corporate job. When her husband asked her how her day went, she smiled and said, "I quit my job." But, she told him she had a plan. At that moment, she actually didn't.

The concern that was pulling at Emmons' heart was her mentally ill brother who had many needs as a homeless person with one of those being access to fresh and healthy food. On his behalf and others unable to afford food, she had 50 friends over to turn her entire back yard into a gardening space. Her husband enjoyed his riding mower and keeping up the back yard. She said he still misses his back yard.

Students at the summit were asked what they would think/do if their parents had an epiphany moment like Simmons did and quit working and turned the family yar…

Newspaper Towers and First Place Winners

By: Jumana Mograbi

A stack of newspapers in hand and a couple of minutes on the clock, the campers creativity shone through during last nights Eco Olympics.

The task assigned consisted off building a tower from the newspapers provided, the tower was judged based on creativity and height. The newspapers were folded, ripped into pieces and stacked on top of each other as the campers tried to keep the newspapers from falling apart.

Communication skills and team work were shown as the campers worked together on building a tower, and as they tried to think of ideas that would help them win first place.

After 10 minutes, time was called and the campers stopped working and stepped back from their creations. The focus groups towers were all different in shapes and heights and creativity.

After observing all the towers the judges gave Invasive Species the award for tallest tower while Go Ahead Change Your Mind won most creative. The newspapers were then recycled and gathered up as the campers…

I Changed My Mind - Learning to Make Decisions at Summer Camp

By Alia Dahlan Dr. Seth Holtzman, a professor of philosophy at Catawba College led environmental summit students on an intellectual journey to truly understand the decision-making process. They learned about how large change occurs and the mindset required to change people's minds.

Participants read passages to discuss ethics and morals of decisions, along with objectivity vs. subjectivity. They had intensive discussions on the philosophy of altering people's perspectives.

Backbone for Conservation: Bird Catching

By: Jumana Mograbi

Bright and early the campers in the Backbone focus group headed out to the Ecological Preserve for their bird catching activity.

The campers studied the birds and the sounds which attracted them into the net which they later on set up in the Preserve.

The campers then set up an iPod underneath the net which projected bird calls in order to attract them. After a 45 minute wait, a bird flew into the net and went quickly down the slope into the bottom of the net.

The campers observed the features and structure, and all got a chance to hold each bird. After the bird was studied and observed, it was released and set free again.

We interviewed Alyssa, a camper who participated in the activity about her experience this morning:

"What did you think of this activity?"

A: "Very interesting, it took a lot of patience to wait for the bird and it took a lot of concentration as well."

"What happened when you caught the bird?"

A: " You had to ho…

Morning Hike in the Preserve, Maps and Untwisting the Human Knots

By: Payton Coleman and Alia Dahlan

We started the day off yesterday morning with a beautiful morning hike exploring bio-mimicry in the preserve. Showered in bug spray and sunscreen we explored the 189-acre ecological preserve looking for resourceful clues placed to teach about how we can look to nature for design and engineering solutions.

Later that day we were visited by the Rocky Mountain Institute, and they taught us about the 5 types of activism which are political, educational,organizational,economic and lifestyle activism.

Splitting into groups we talked about  the different types of activism and how we use them in our everyday lives. Followed by a 30 second group discussion with one person from each group sharing their experience with the rest of the group.

We then read a story about the side effects of DDT when used to cure malaria in Borneo for the Dayak people. Then we drew an ecological diagram of events that occurred in the story. As a group we found this to be an intere…

They're Back! A Tribute to Returning Camp Counselors

By: Cierra Hunter

Here we are in the summer of 2014 and a group of around 50 students are attending an environmental summit at Catawba College, North Carolina.

These students are able to learn and experience nature at its best, along with getting to know nine amazing counselors who have either graduated or are attending Catawba College.

This year we are glad to say that three of these wonderful counselors are back in action! These counselors are Katie Barbee, Morgan King and Kerstin Brown.

I asked each of these counselors four questions and had them answer back to me.

Katie responded like this: What made you come back again this year? She said, "I thoroughly enjoyed my time working at the Summit last year after learning a lot more about the Environment, hearing some great speakers, and meeting a variety of talented, hardworking, and environmentally-conscious campers. The wide variety of activities, focus groups, and people make all the difference."

 Katie Barbee - Giving B…

Heather White - Environmental Working Groups

Heather White is the Executive Director of Environmental Working Group (EWG) and is a "nationally-recognized expert on federal environmental law & policy"

She provided emphasis on this:

"We believe in a strong, vibrant,well-funded EPA and robust authority for the administrator."

Water, Muck and Leeches!!!

By Colleen Smiley
The invasive species group ventured into the pond in the Preserve to look for the illusive Carolina paper shell mussel yesterday.
The only way to find this bivalve was to bend way over and dig your hands into what felt like centuries of primordial ooze (since you can't see through the mud and muck) the only way to discover them was by touch.
With a lot of crawling and feeling around, the group was able to discover six Carolina paper shell mussels.
The laughter began when everyone discovered that the small "worms" were really little leeches!! Field work is amazing.

Rocky Mountain Institute Sessions

By Alia Dahlan
Effective Communication and Collaboration Using clips from television shows, volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Institute taught us about how communication can be used to solve complex "wicked" problems.
We learned a few communication terms:
Downloading- not listening to others
Debating- arguing one side with a strong view
Dialoging- having a bias, but listening to the other side of the argument for new information
Presencing- having no personal bias and focusing on the problem

Grant Funding Activity
We decided where to allocate $100k worth of grants at Catawba College.

Dragon Fly Lake We used a role-playing game to decide how to utilize a fictional lake and the area around it.