Finding solutions

For most high school students, learning happens one individual discipline at a time. But in the world outside the classroom, finding solutions to challenges requires looking across disciplines. Wake Forest is starting a summer residential program this year to help high school juniors and seniors learn that the biggest challenges in the world can only be solved by studying a variety of perspectives.

The LENS program — for Learn, Experience, Navigate and Solve — will give students a college experience from a liberal arts perspective, says Kline Harrison, associate provost and professor of business. “It’s a holistic experience. It’s about learning what it’s like to be a college student while exploring and helping to solve a contemporary problem. The kind of student we are looking for is interested in taking up challenges.”

The three-week summer program will be limited to 36 participants chosen on a competitive basis. The priority deadline for the program is March 5, but applications will be accepted through May 31.

In its inaugural year, the LENS program will examine the challenges of sustainability — specifically in the areas of food and water systems and climate change — from a biological, ecological, political, economical, social and legal perspective. Lucas Johnston, a teacher and post-doctoral fellow in religion and environmental studies and co-director of the program, says participants will also use technology to tackle climate change questions. “We’ll use existing climate data to do some computer modeling of future scenarios, and discuss how energy production and consumption may or may not be related to shifts in the earth’s carbon and nitrogen cycles.”

Activities in and out of the classroom are designed to empower the teens, he says. Among other activities, students will visit a farmer’s market to purchase locally grown foods for a group meal, and visit the Yadkin River, Forsyth County’s primary water source, to meet with a representative from the local Riverkeepers chapter.

“What separates Wake Forest’s program from other similar programs is the goal of having students leave with the confidence and the tools to envision and implement their own sustainability success stories at home,” Johnston says.

Co-director and English professor Anne Boyle says LENS will help students learn how to develop and present well-crafted ideas. “Students will begin to see how they can use writing to learn, to test ideas, and then to persuade others of the value and efficacy of their ideas,” Boyle says. “LENS participants will have the opportunity to engage in one-on-one writing tutorials with me and collaborative writing workshops with their peers as they work to understand complex ideas and translate these ideas into proposals for community action.”

Categories: Community, Student, Sustainability, Wake Forest College