#3 Brainstorms Are The Best Storms

As the prompt has guessed, I am feeling a bit stuck in this process. Hopefully in this post I’ll be able work through the ideas I have one by one to determine whether I should rule them out or hold on to them for further investigation. From my interviews and the ideas I’ve had since starting the class, I’ve compiled a short list of issues I might want to explore more. 

When I first started this course, one of the biggest Vermont issues I knew and cared about was the declining water quality of Lake Champlain. I’d first heard about this in my AP Environmental Science class two years ago. We studied our own Lamoille River and found that the nitrate and phosphate levels were extremely high, most likely from the manure running into the river from the farm right next to the water. If that was an issue in our own small river running through Morrisville, imagine all of the other places in Vermont where manure and other contaminants are able to seep into waterways and how those rivers and brooks all lead to the large lakes in Vermont where this excess of nutrients is able to collect. When I interviewed Ms. Tymon, I realized there hadn’t really been any change in the right direction on this issue and that millions of dollars were going into fixing the lakes, which isn’t solving the real problem. Someone needs to rally to protect the smaller bodies of water that run into those large lakes. Why couldn’t that be a group of students? One issue is that we would never be able to become experts on this issue the same way people with degrees that deal with this for a living understand it. Although this is an issue I am passionate about it, adding to the conversation might be a challenge that is out of reach (but give me feedback if you disagree).

The other is about sustainable development. When it comes to how we build, or the way we construct roads, or the energy sources we invest in, there are ways to improve our state without degrading our natural resources. Although awareness is really the way to improve this issue, people often just tune out when it comes to sustainability, but maybe if a group of students whose futures will be affected by the decisions made today said something, people would listen. I could go on and on about the wide range of issues within this topic but when considering if any of those topics would be worth researching further it comes down to this: even if people would be willing to listen, would we have anything new to say? I’m still not sure what the answer to that question is.

I came into this class with the intention of focusing on an issue that had some relation to the environment since that is what I’m most passionate about, so this would be a perfect opportunity to have an even greater understanding of one single topic that I could get behind. But as Penny brought up (one of my interviewees last week), environmental issues are harder to tackle and by taking on one of these issues, I may end up “biting off more than I can chew”. 

I’ve also become really interested in exploring this idea of cross cultural communication between young students. This is the issue that I feel the strongest personal connection to and I think I could add my own perspective to the larger conversation around this topic. When I was fifteen, my best friend and I traveled by ourselves to France and stayed with a family I had only communicated with via letters in the past. Etell had been my “penpal” since I was twelve and getting those letters from her every month amazed me whenever I thought about how far they had traveled. When I finally got to go to France, I learned so much about their culture just by being in it everyday and I found myself comparing and contrasting the differences between our two ways of life without prompts or guidelines to go by. In my opinion, the best way to learn about another culture, is to meet and learn from the people that live in it everyday. Although most students don’t have the opportunity to travel to their childhood penpal’s house, there are other ways to have kids interact with other students from around the world. It is so important, especially today, to influence the future generation to accept and appreciate people who are different from them and want to learn about those differences instead of shying away from the unknown.


Image citation

“Living in Japan: Pros and Cons.” Nippaku, Wordpress, 21 Sept. 2015, nippaku.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/living- in-japan-pros-and-cons/.


3 Responses to “#3 Brainstorms Are The Best Storms

  • Rachael,

    You’re just where we want you right now, mulling over options before committing. Currently you’re considering two environmental issues–water quality & sustainable development–and you’re interested in cross cultural communication among young people. Here’s some of my thinking.

    I’m sure that you can gain access to those with expertise re: water quality & sustainable development, so I wouldn’t shy away from these just because it’s not something you’re steeped in. I’m drawn to the angle you’ve for going re: water quality, in that you studied local systems earlier as a student and the results have not gotten better. Bottom line: if you’ve got fire in the belly about one of these, don’t shy away from it. We can help you get access to experts.

    I really like the idea of cross cultural communication between young students, too, and I encourage you to unpack / explore it some more. Would it be to connect students in Vermont who are from and/or living in different cultures (eg, Winooski / Burlington students from other cultures connecting with PA / more rural students), and/or might it mean getting to know students from other states? WtS has connections to students from different cultures within the US (Navajo Nation, Lawrence Mass, Atlanta, Kentucky, South Carolina, etc), so we could consider reaching out to them. Or are you thinking internationally?

    Another idea might be to link up with students from another locale to explore environmental issues that are related. For example, maybe you could tackle water issues here while working with a student who is working on different types of water issues in their community. While it might add a layer of complexity, working with students from another location could be great.

    Finally, keep in mind that in the end you can decide to go with one of your topics, or you might be interested in a topic that one of your WtS classmates digs into. In other words, keep digging / thinking things through, while keeping an open and calm mind (easier said than done!).

    Take care,

    Bill Rich

  • Hi Rachael!

    You’re definitely doing a lot of great thinking and I think that each one of your topics would be engaging to research. I see why you think that some of the environmental issues are unattainable and you won’t be able to make an impact. However, it would be possible make something happen if you focused in on something less broad than the whole lake. For example, the river you talked about in Morrisville would probably be easier to make change for rather than Lake Champlain. Maybe it is a singular farm that affects an entire river? If it’s something you really are passionate about, you can make something happen about it. Also, I think your other thought about cross cultural communication would also interesting. It is similar to my topic on refugees in some ways as well. I think all of your ideas are good paths to follow!


  • Diane Bahrenburg
    5 years ago

    Hello Rachel,
    I enjoy being a witness to your curious mind. Your ideas sound authentic and worthy of your time and energy. Keep the doors open right now and follow your gut. See what surfaces. For example, if you stay present to the environmental challenges of Lake Champlain or the benefits of cross-cultural relationships you may overhear a conversation or read a news story that kindles your interest. Follow that spark. I am new to WtS, and I sense I am in for a fascinating journey with you. Remember: learning is messy. Play around in the mess you are creating!

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