by Jennifer White ’90 and Stacey Doll
Hands-on learning and transformational experiences are cornerstones of a Colby-Sawyer education, and through the Sustainable Learning Initiative (SLI) at Franklin, more than 280 students have partnered with stakeholders to revitalize the N.H. community. Students’ latest foray into Franklin’s efforts is a four-credit May Intensive that enables students to engage with professionals, improve communication and presentation skills, work on time management, and conduct real-time accelerated research in a setting that replicates a job environment.
This past May, graphic design major Erin Chute ’20 and sustainability majors Stephanie Malicki ’18 and Acadia LeBlanc ’19 worked with adjunct faculty member Stacey Doll to develop recommendations for the green infrastructure in the “infield” of the bridge-to-bridge downtown area. Green infrastructure can include green roofs, bioswales, rain gardens, constructed wetlands and green streets. The students’ design process focused on permaculture, the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.
“I enjoy permaculture design because it incorporates creativity, sustainability, the environment and more,” Malicki said. “With it, we’re proactive and trying to make a difference … and helping others learn what we learn.”
The design plan began with the students identifying and engaging with stakeholders to understand their needs and visions, then developing project goals. They also analyzed and assessed the project site and participants and drew a basemap to provide background detail of the location’s existing boundaries and infrastructure.
“The most valuable lesson I learned from this class is that there are always other sides to an argument,” Chute said. “It’s important to meet with stakeholders and hear them all.”
Based on research and field work, the students redesigned a downtown parking lot with a bike and pedestrian greenway to capture storm water and create shade; perennial plants and a bioswale for storm-water management; safer access points and traffic patterns for pedestrians, cyclists and cars; a storm-water filtration pond to capture runoff before it enters the Winnipesaukee River; and solar lighting, benches and artwork.
The trio presented their final design and findings to gather feedback and bolster support for permaculture design in the downtown site. Stakeholders included the city of Franklin, CATCH Neighborhood Housing, Chose Franklin, the Tax Increment Financing Advisory Board, FBIDC, PermaCityLife and Chinburg Properties. They had some questions but supported the design; one participant proclaimed the project a “net gain” for the city.
“Many people are aware of sustainability but do not have a complete understanding of how it relates to them and their projects,” LeBlanc said. “After educating the stakeholders about what we’ve been studying, they understood how important sustainability is to the community.”
The students’ last tasks were to prepare a Letter of Intent for a Transportation Alternatives Program grant that the city will submit. They’ll also complete a final report that includes their research, design recommendations, sources and an implementation strategy.
“Most college classes work on case studies or hypothetical situations. This class works on actual projects,” LeBlanc said. “It helped me gain experience in the workforce while helping me to learn about my area of study and other topics along the way.”
Jennifer White ’90 is director of Sustainability and Innovation. She holds an A.A. from Colby-Sawyer, a B.A. from Colorado College and an M.A. from Naropa University.
Adjunct faculty member Stacey Doll holds a B.S. from Frostburg State University and has six years’ experience practicing, consulting and teaching permaculture design and implementation.