Name: Justus Kithiia, Ph.D.
Position: Lecturer in Environmental Policy & Socioeconomic Values
Program: Tropical Rainforest Studies, Australia
The fall (Dry) semester kicked off on a high note this week. All the 26 students have settled in at the SFS Centre for Rainforest Studies (CRS). This is a rather curious lot – within 3 days of their arrival at the Centre, they could recite names of different birds, animals, and plant types. They did not have to wait to recover from jet lag to start waking up at 5 am in the morning for bird watching exercises. Mind you, if you reside in the rainforest, the best dreams that you’ll ever have are experienced during those wee hours of the morning. Therefore, it requires total commitment to be up so early.
On Thursday the 13th of September, it was their first day to get “out of the woods” (literally) to visit the surrounding towns. At CRS, we call this the “Discovery Tour,” whereby student groups get to visit different towns in the Tablelands and interact with residents. The idea is to expose students to the area, horn their observation and information gathering skills while learning about the historical context and socio-economic conditions of the Tablelands. The ensuing presentations by the current group of students were quite insightful.
The highlight of the week was the students’ participation in community service with a local Land Care group. A group of 7 students, the SAM, and I shoveled gravel, pushed wheel barrows full of soil, and carried and arranged logs while landscaping a walking tail in a community park. The one hour of hard work was worth the while as afterwards, the Land Care leaders treated us to “smoko” (Australian slang for mid-morning snacks) and a guided tour of the park. On our way back to the Centre, students commented that the whole experience was all fun and that none of them had done this before. And with that, the first page of the 3 month-long experience has already been written. We look forward to an exciting fall semester 2012.