Creek Week, sponsored by the Environmental Studies 101 class at Westminster College, looked to teach students about the challenges and opportunities of natural spaces on campus during the last week of April.
Events and information sessions on April 23 and 25 included scavenger hunt bingo, painting by the creek and a film screening focused on Emigration Creek, the body of water that runs through Westminster’s campus. Students also practiced yoga and ate snacks at the creek amphitheater on April 25 as part of an effort to get more people involved in exploring the natural spaces on campus.
“We have been studying the creek all semester and our awareness of it is our yoga class specifically,” said Chloe Fender, a sophomore biology major. “Showing that you can do things in our everyday life in the natural space we have on campus.”
Students in the class said they noticed that people walk by the creek but don’t spend much time interacting with it. At the beginning of the semester, they were challenged to create activities that would engage the campus community with it.
Though the students focused specifically on Emigration Creek, they said other natural campus spaces include the butterfly gardens and storm drains, which a group of students painted murals on.
Events like the yoga class serve as a reminder to the on-campus community that natural spaces are assets found around Westminster, the students said.
“By inspiring people with our natural spaces, hopefully people will be more aware and conscious about how we treat the area around us,” Fender said.
Simmons said her class focused not only on the environmental aspects of the creek but also on the cultural characteristics.
“These lands are culturally significant to other people,” said Sydnee Simmons, a sophomore public health major. “And if we see the world how they see it — a spirit or a mother — we are more willing to teach the world a lot better.”
Christy Clay, the professor who taught the course, said the class started with a unit on water that looked at both the science of that resource as well as related social justice issues, including access, pollution and water policies.
“Emigration Creek is a running resource through campus,” she said. “It is nice to interact directly with a water body — a resource of ours that is pretty neglected from time to time.”
Challenges Clay and her class found through study included solid waste pollution, signs of erosion, man-made desire line paths and bigger system-level problems.
“We are in the middle of a really long-term drought, the climate is changing, the snowpack is lower and that means, in the end, Emigration Creek has lower flow than it has historically,” Clay said. “That challenge might not be something we can deal with on campus, but the creek might connect to that bigger dialogue about our changing water and the changing temperatures.”
Erin Snow, a sophomore nursing major, is not a student in Environmental Studies 101 but attended the yoga class.
“[Yoga] is relaxing during the middle of finals week,” said Snow, who also spent time down by the creek recently to help with clean ups. “I think it is pretty cool that we have this space. We should make a little bit more use of it than we do.”
Haley Schiek, a sophomore psychology major, instructed the outdoor yoga class for Creek Week. Familiar with teaching outside, Schiek said there many benefits to practicing beyond a studio.
“Your senses are heightened and altered,” she said. “You are tuning into different aspects of your body or your environment that you would not usually if you were in a studio. It helps you be more flexible — not just in your practice, which you have to be — because you are using different elements to support yourself.”