Sunday, April 11, 2010

Evergreen Students Celebrate Spring Through Environmental Programs

Above: Master in Environmental Studies (MES) student Travis Skinner shows MES professor Gerardo Chin-Leo how to make bike panniers at The Evergreen State College's Rachel Carson forum yesterday.

by Janine Gates

Spring was anything but silent at the Rachel Carson forum at The Evergreen State College yesterday as the college celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Master of Environmental Studies (MES) Program. Botanist and conservationist Estella Leopold was the keynote speaker.

Several breakout sessions throughout the morning included an opportunity for participants to learn how to make homemade bicycle panniers. Participants could also take a tour of the garden surrounding the college's Native American Longhouse.

Travis Skinner, 24, is an MES student and coordinator of Evergreen's Bike Shop. He demonstrated how to construct bike panniers out of cat litter buckets. Skinner says he puts out a request on Craig's List for the containers, buys nuts and bolts from downtown's Olympia Supply, and makes washers by smashing beer bottle caps and drilling them to the correct size. The buckets can be made for just about $5.00 a pair.

Skinner, who is focussing his environmental studies on the connection of land use planning and transportation, lives near Priest Point Park, and bikes to and from Evergreen everyday.

"For riding in the rain, you need something rainproof. It may not look as chic as fancy panniers, but there's something about doing it yourself. I rode to Vancouver for Spring Break and didn't have one problem with them. They work well," says Skinner.

Skinner is excited to launch a new bike share program in about two weeks. To learn more about the student project, go to

Another part of the forum included an ethnobotanical garden tour around the college's Longhouse by students of the "Tend and Tell" program. Student garden stewards Luna Krahe, Angel Chandler, Marja Eloheimo, Emily Driskill, and Krista Koller took turns explaining each section. The garden contains different themes and includes a seasonal creek, swordferns that are estimated to be 75-100 years old, and plants that are used for medicinal purposes.

Above: Student Luna Krahe, center, in orange coat, led a group tour of the garden area around the Longhouse at The Evergreen State College yesterday.

"'Ethno' means "people" and "botany" means plants. Through the garden, we are teaching people about that relationship," explained Krahne. The class is writing a book and working on an educational garden curriculum that can be used in K-12 classrooms.

The Rachel Carson forum was started in 1990 by Eli Sterling, a MES student and graduate student association coordinator. Sterling now coordinates Olympia's annual Procession of the Species event, which will be held later this month.

For more information about the Master of Environmental Studies Program, contact The Evergreen State College at (360) 867-6225 or go to

Above: Swordferns welcome spring.