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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Nature: finding a retreat on campus

Published: March 14, 2014
Section: Opinions

The morning after daylight savings began, like many students, I struggled to get up. After losing an hour of sleep, the sun seemed especially bright at 9 a.m. … excuse me, now, 10 a.m. On a walk up the hill from Massell Quad toward the library, I looked up and suddenly saw a deer prancing around on Chapels Field. I was not the only one surprised first thing in the morning. I heard the voice of a Brandeisian behind me gasp. Seeing a doe was not on the list of things I expected to see this past weekend. Nevertheless, seeing wildlife is nothing new. Turkeys and rabbits, among other creatures, wander around campus all year round. Just this week I’ve seen three first-years pause to take a picture of a heron gliding over Massell pond and another student stop on her walk to class to capture the image of a group of geese. Brandeis may be in Waltham and only a shuttle ride away from the big city of Boston, but the Brandeis bubble allows its students to be a little closer to nature in more than one way.

Take areas such as Chapels Field and the Great Lawn for example. Great wide spaces of grass where events such as Spring Fest and convocation take place. We get to enjoy some fresh air and such events simultaneously. I know that may seem difficult to picture now with all the snow, but even in the cold of winter, many a snowball fight have brought people outside on such spaces.

The campus offers more than a place to play outside. Students have gotten a little closer to the outdoor aspects of our campus. Carrie Chung ’17, shared her experience in a class called Fundamentals of Environmental Challenges taught by Daniel Perlman (BIO). She raved about one particular assignment that spanned across her fall semester, “The Place in the Woods” assignment. She was instructed, along with her classmates, to find one place on campus to just go visit weekly or biweekly and document. Carrie and other students each found an individual spot, where they recorded observations about the temperature, the trees around them, the leaves, the changes in the dirt and anything else they saw around them. These students took the time to watch the trees change last semester, from late summer to early winter, learning about them as they did so. Classes such as this and Eric Olson’s (HS) Field Biology encourage students to take their learning experiences outside the walls of a classroom.

You do not have to take an environmental class to appreciate the nature on campus, though. Some of the trees on campus are actually labeled, allowing everyone the opportunity to learn more about the environment around them. Some students get involved in clubs such as Students for Environmental Action, taking an interest in the environment and the natural world around them. Yet clubs are just one of the many ways to participate or even think more about the environment and nature.

Brandeis’ campus does a good job providing space for us to enjoy the outdoors in an educational and recreational manner, but this is Brandeis. By that, I mean, Brandeis’ inhabitants do not tend to just enjoy things, we make conscious efforts to improve the things around us. In the area of our environment, Brandeis has eco-reps, not the most common occurrence in colleges. These students hold positions to facilitate eco-friendly habits and environmental awareness. My eco-rep taught me that Brandeis is involved in composting. All that food you throw away at Sherman does not simply end up in a landfill. She also pointed out the daily reminders posted all over campus, like the stickers on light switches telling students to turn off the lights when leaving a room.

Nowadays, we live in a fast-paced world where people get sucked into Netflix, Tumblr and Facebook. As students of Brandeis, we live in the city of Waltham, a suburban outskirt of the big city of Boston, a center of a fast-paced lifestyle. Nonetheless, we do not lose touch with the natural world around us. Our campus, from the ponds to the trees to the open spaces, we are enabled to appreciate the classroom of the outside world. More importantly, we as inhabitants of the nature-integrated campus are conscious of our environment. We students do not lose touch with the world as a whole just because we live in the bubble of a campus. The weather is beginning to break. So whether you just want to get some sun on your face or take an active interest in the natural world that surrounds use, Brandeis is a place where that is more than possible.