Saturday, November 3, 2012

Jonesing to get back to school

As I mentioned in June, I'll soon be attending the Lake Washington Institute of Technology to work on a year-long program in environmental horticulture. The best time to start the program is during the fall quarter, obviously, but that didn't quite work out with my schedule. I got the idea just a little too late this year, and I'd already planned my trip back to Ohio in the fall, among other things. C'est la vie. So I'll start winter quarter in the beginning of January, and in the meantime, I'll at least try to keep up with the academic side of the fall quarter so I'm not too behind.

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to sit in on a day's worth of classes to get a feel for what it was like. Actually, the timing worked out pretty well, as they'd just taken their midterm exams and were beginning the second half of the quarter that day. Class started at 7 a.m., and yeah, it felt weird waking up that early. Even when I did college the first time around, I never had a class earlier than 8 a.m., so it should be interesting to see how well I can pull this off on a regular basis. I was fine for one day, but I really made an effort to wear myself out the night before (productive evening at the gym) and get to bed at a reasonable hour. There is another option available for a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. class, which runs from Monday to Thursday instead of Tuesday to Friday, but it wouldn't work as well with my job.

I walked in to a blessedly small class (I think there were about 20 students), with small groups of students sitting around tables. It was nice to see the diversity of ages and backgrounds -- people have come in from all walks of life. I realize that's probably the norm for community college, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. One group of women welcomed me to their table and gave me a briefing on what they've been doing in the quarter so far. 

The first part of the day covered plant ID. The students' daily homework includes going through a list of five to ten plants and recording information about them to review during the next day of class. The instructor had samples of each of the plants on every table, and we examined and talked about them (scientific name, common name, type of plant, characteristics, pruning, landscape usage, etc.). There's a lot to learn here, but I like the approach, and it breaks things down into manageable chunks. It's a little intimidating to think of a long list of scientific names and traits to commit to memory, but after seeing how they go through the material, I feel better about it -- and excited enough to give myself some homework over the weekend!

After doing that for an hour or so, we went out to the greenhouse for some hands-on practice: re-potting plants, pruning, watering, and filling containers with the proper density of soil. Then we came back in for the botany lecture (and it was great to realize how much I remembered from over a decade ago). The class ended with another outside lesson on all the factors that go into giving plants the right amount of water.

So that was Wednesday's class in a nutshell. I loved seeing what a typical day looked like, and it was nice to chat with other students about their experience so far. I'm still kinda bummed that I didn't get the chance to start the program fall quarter, but oh well. I do plan to sit in on another class (or possibly more, if the instructor will let me), so that's something to look forward to. All in all, I just want to get my hands dirty already!

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