Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont offers over 80 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and offers a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. Now in its 35th year, Yestermorrow is one of the only design/build schools in the country, teaching both design and construction skills. Our hands-on 1-day to 3-week workshops, certificate programs and semester programs are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Design by Nature

I just got back from an inspiring weekend at the Omega Institute's Design by Nature conference. As someone who goes to lots of conferences every year, this one was a breath of fresh air. More inspirational than technical, the focus of the weekend was about how we can connect with, and learn from, the environment around us. 

The gathering brought together some of the major thinkers in the field of whole systems thinking Janine Benyus, Van Jones, Jeremy Rifkin, Bob Berkebile, Dickson Despommier, and Natalie Jeremijenko. It was exciting to think about how our work at Yestermorrow connects with these broader themes of designing with nature, biomimicry, living buildings, creating a new green economy, new ways to produce food in cities, green job training, community-based design, and social activism through art.

I attended with Jeff Schoellkopf, one of our longtime faculty and board members, and his son (and YM alum) Carson Schoellkopf, who recently graduated from college. It was great seeing so many college age students in the audience at Omega being excited about these topics. We ended up talking a lot about inter-generational dialogue and how a movement for change needs to come from all different sectors of society.

Constructed wetlands in front of the OCSL
We also had the opportunity to tour the Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) which was one of the first buildings to meet the Living Building Challenge. The building treats all of the waste water from the Omega campus through a series of constructed wetlands and an Eco Machine. The building produces all its own energy, recycles all its own water (and more!), and is built with reclaimed and nontoxic materials.

It was interesting to think about how Omega's experience working with campus wastewater might influence our master planning for the Yestermorrow campus. We're hoping to be able to demonstrate some of the same cutting-edge alternative water treatment systems, although on a smaller and more residential scale that can be phased as we build out the campus.

Many thanks to Omega for inviting a group of Yestermorrow folks to attend and we look forward to more connections in the future.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What is a Ladderback Chair? How is it made?

Start with a green (freshly cut) log.  
Split it with a mallet and a froe.

Shape the legs and rungs with drawknives and spoke shaves, while sitting astride a shave horse.

Create beautiful wood shavings (great for kindling).

 Assemble the components (and celebrate!).

Shape and steambend the ladderback slats, add cloth tape to the seat, and voila!

Look like fun?  Join us for the next offering of Green Ladderback Chairs: October 7-13.  Mention this blog post and we'll give you $100 off!   Call Mark at 888-496-5541 for more info or to register.

(* Thanks to our model, Jeff Labanara)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Student Impact: Shipping Container Finds New Use at ECO City Farms

A young entrepreneur, farmer, and environmental educator, Adam Schwartz came to Yestermorrow seeking hands-on learning in design/build with a strong focus on sustainability. Interested in working at the intersections of ecological design, green building, and sustainable agriculture, Adam chose Yestermorrow’s Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design as the path to pursue his vision for contributing to the growing vibrant food economy.

Adam is farm manager at ECO City Farms, a 1.5 acre educational urban farm in the Capital Beltway in Maryland. For his Sustainable Building and Design practicum project, Adam is putting a sea shipping container to new use by designing and building the FoodShed, an on-farm commercial kitchen for value-added production and a teaching kitchen for local food production.

The project demonstrates low-cost solutions for food processing and enables value-added and farm-to-school food entrepreneurial ventures. The licensed and certified kitchen, constructed of predominently reused materials, features a solar hot water system and an integrated greywater filtration system. The FoodShed will host a variety of cooking and food preservation classes throughout the year. Funded by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Commission, the FoodShed is being documented closely so the open-source design can be shared with other small farmers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Students Go the Distance for Community Design/Build

Architecture students, engineers, and builders have traveled from across the country and—in the case of one student—from the Black Sea to design and build a full-scale public project at Yestermorrow. Led by the dynamic team of Jersey Devil co-founders Steve Badanes and Jim Adamson, along with New York-based architect Bill Bialosky, this year’s Community Design/Build Class is working on a composting toilet structure for Shelburne Farms, a nonprofit education organization, 1400 acre working farm, and National Historic Landmark.

Students from the Eastern Seaboard and beyond have come to Yestermorrow for hands-on experience in working collectively as a team and with the client to establish the program, work within a budget, propose and develop the design, schedule the work, and construct the building. Each phase is explored as a means of making the architecture more expressive, and sustainable building practices are emphasized throughout the process.

New Orleans is represented in this student group, as is Washington state and Northampton, Mass. Intern Peter Stewart from New South Wales, Australia brings his experience in functional art and building to the class. 

Civil engineer Ryan Galliford rode his bike the 2000 miles from Pensacola, Florida to Yestermorrow to take part in this class. Ryan studied building science in college; he worked toward licensure in civil engineering after graduation and currently works for a small engineering firm that encouraged him to take this class. Becoming interested in design/build, Ryan researched Jersey Devil projects and then realized he could work with the renowned team right here. From Ryan’s perspective, the Jersey Devil team is rejuvenating the medieval craft of architecture, where the designers are the builders and the built form expresses personality and values. The Community Design/Build class resonates with Ryan's desire to put his energies to productive use in the world and is a great way to learn from masters and get his hands into the design/build process while having a great time.

Ayse Sahin and Ryan Galliford
Architecture student Ayse Sahin, a master's degree candidate at Istanbul Technical University, traveled from her native Turkey to be part of this year’s Community Design/Build class. Ayse is preparing to write her master's thesis on engaging building arts in architecture curricula. She heard instructor Steve Badanes lecture in Turkey and decided then and there to try to get to Yestermorrow for this summer’s class. Ayse received scholarship awards from Yestermorrow and from a Turkish organization supporting research for master's students abroad. She reports having a great experience in the class so far, and appreciates that Warren reminds her of her home village in the Black Sea city of Giresun.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Yurt for Sale!

We're looking for a client to purchase a yurt built in our September Yurt Design/Build course. The 12’ diameter structure includes a wooden frame, mildew-resistant canvas walls, waterproof vinyl-coated polyester roof, and a domed plexiglass skylight. Easily transportable, the structure collapses down small enough to fit in the bed of a pickup truck.
Yurt with protective wrap still on skylight.
Yurt interior.
Interior joint detail.

Clients pay for materials plus 20% overhead, for an overall total of approximately $1,600. To see more images of yurts built with the same plans in previous courses, visit our photo album for the course.

We’re also looking for clients to purchase yurts built in next year’s Yurt Design/Build workshops. For more information, contact Abby Martin at

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mobile Movers & Shakers Descend on Yestermorrow

Two unique vehicles spent time parked at the Yestermorrow campus in the last week. First, the Mobile Seed Story Broadcasting Station, a collaborative project investigating food culture in action, set up shop in our lower parking lot.
Nina DuBois and Jenn Hart-Mann in front of the Mobile Seed Story Broadcasting Station.
The Seed Story Mobile has been traveling the country, visiting farmers, growers, and seed libraries; along the way, they've been listening to, recording, and broadcasting stories about pollinated seed networks, the ecology of urban and rural agricultural systems, and the meshwork of environmental concerns permeating food production today. Yestermorrow Certificate student Nina DuBois was onboard the Seed Story Mobile, supporting the work of her good friend Jenn Hart-Mann.

Just a few days later, Certificate in Sustainable Building & Design student Reid Rosemond visited Yestermorrow with the Sol Food Mobile Farm, his culminating Practicum project for the Certificate program. Reid collaborated with friends to create the Sol Food Mobile Farm as an experiential, hands-on teaching program based around planting and harvesting garden vegetables. The program operates out of a retrofitted school bus that is in the midst of a six-month tour around the United States, hosting workshops focusing on gardening, nutrition, composting, and alternative fuels. They hope to inspire individuals within these communities to foster a deep ethic of environmental stewardship in their local area.
Reid Rosemond and his Sol Food Mobile Farm.

We wish both groups the best of luck as they continue down the road!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

In Memoriam

Yestermorrow lost an instructor and friend in early July. 

We were all deeply saddened to hear of the death of woodworking instructor John Connell, who drowned in a tragic accident on Lake Memphremagog. John was new to the Yestermorrow faculty. He co-taught one segment of the 2012 Woodworking Certificate Program and was well appreciated by the students for his skillful teaching and caring attention. John was a woodworker and cabinetmaker for 30 years and owned his own business, Sycamore Woodworks. He was a talented craftsman, teacher, and coach. His excellent teaching and his great smile will be deeply missed. 

Our heartfelt condolences to John's family and the many people who knew and loved him.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Welcome Norgay!

Konchok Norgay recently arrived here at Yestermorrow all the way from Ladakh, a Himalayan region of north India. Norgay has long worked as a teacher, and most recently as executive director, of SECMOL, an innovative school that has pioneered passive solar building and renewable energy education in Ladakh.

Konchok Norgay arrives at Yestermorrow
Norgay will be a student in the Natural BuildingCertificate Program this summer, and hopes to gain a deeper exposure to best practices in renewable energy, natural building, and sustainability education. This fall he will return to Ladakh and continue teaching practical skills and systems thinking to Ladakhi youth and builders. He is also working to create social enterprises building energy efficient earthen homes and local foods across Ladakh.

If you see Norgay around campus, please come say "Jullay!" (hello in Ladakhi) - and if you'd like to support Norgay's participation in the Natural Building Certificate Program this summer, please consider donating to his scholarship fund.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

A Gap Year at 50-something

A guest post by Fred Bartels, Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design student
After teaching computer science for thirty years I decided to take a break and pursue a long-standing interest in sustainable architectural design. This interest had been planted back in the 60s and 70s, during the heyday of Buckminster Fuller and The Whole Earth Catalog

Searching for alternatives to full-blown architecture programs, I discovered Yestermorrow. The school’s strong, environmentally conscious design/build philosophy and rich course offerings greatly appealed to me. The possibility of completing Yestermorrow’s Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design in the adult gap year granted to me by my wife sealed the deal, and led to many interesting trips to the Mad River Valley this past academic year.

Yestermorrow has allowed me to explore sustainable design in a supportive and challenging environment with some of the most creative and environmentally aware designers, architects, planners, engineers, and builders in the country. The great conversations with other students and teachers that occur over meals, while working on projects in the evening, and during field trips are as much a part of the curriculum as the formal instruction.  

For my practicum project I’m working on the design of a building with a complex, organically curved roof, to be built as much as possible with natural materials. The knowledge available in the Yestermorrow community has been incredibly helpful in working through many of the challenges involved in the design. Along the way I’ve also picked up many great ideas for building a net-zero house for our retirement.  

I’ve taken courses at Yestermorrow in all seasons, but one thing has remained constant. It is a place that is passionate about the building arts, and making buildings that are as sustainable and enjoyable as possible.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Announcing The Natural Building Companion

It’s here! 

We are thrilled to announce the first edition in the new Yestermorrow Design/Build Library series in partnership with Chelsea Green Publishing. The Natural Building Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to Integrative Design and Construction, written by Yestermorrow faculty members Ace McArleton and Jacob Deva Racusin, released May 1 and is now available through Chelsea Green and at local bookstores. This essential reference book walks readers step-by-step through the design, planning, and construction of natural buildings. It’s a great resource for professionals making the transition from conventional building, homeowners embarking on their own construction projects, and green builders who want comprehensive guidance on natural building options.   

Unique to The Natural Building Companion is its focus on natural building in the Northeast and on building science and thermal engineering—topics not often covered in books about natural building. This book bridges the gap between high-performance building and more traditional, locally focused approaches to design and construction. The package also includes an instructional DVD, filmed on location in Yestermorrow classes, demonstrating many of the techniques and strategies detailed in the book.

Yestermorrow instructor Marc Rosenbaum writes: "'What is a high-performance building?' Racusin and McArleton answer that question by taking a values-based approach that integrates social and ecological good with health, resource efficiency, and durability. Fusing the knowledge of the building-science community with the wisdom and experience of the best natural building practitioners, The Natural Building Companion provides plenty of detailed, how-to information to help readers create structures and communities that are, as the authors put it, 'worthy of our highest aspirations.'" 

Help us celebrate at our Book Launch Party on May 16th in Winooski at The Block Gallery & Coffeehouse from 6-8pm. We'll have fun natural paint activities, DJ'd music, snacks and hors d'ouevres, wine café drinks, a slideshow of Ace and Deva's work, books for sale, a short presentation, and a great crowd of folks.

Order your copy today through Chelsea Green or Yestermorrow. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Yestermorrow Then and Now

by Kate Stephenson, Executive Director

Ten years ago today I arrived at Yestermorrow for the first time, to start my summer internship in April 2002.  It’s hard to believe that much time has passed, but when I think back to those days, it’s amazing to realize how much has changed at the school, and how much has also stayed the same.

My first Yestermorrow class in May 2002
I arrived to a campus just gearing up for the summer, since there were few classes offered over the winter.  The main building had only been partially renovated; for the most part only the lobby, office and shop were useablethe rest had no heat or plumbing.  I jumped right in to a bunch of classesTimberframing and Home Design/Build were particularly memorableand started helping out with a variety of projects around campus, including working on the first three cabins. Back in 2002 the staff (Pat Pinkston, Peter Collins and Eyrich Stauffer) were struggling to bring in students and get the new campus up and running.  As interns we were pretty much self-organizing, trying to keep one step ahead of what the instructors needed for their classes, answering phones in the office, and working on the many unfinished building projects around campus. We each did a little bit of everything, and poured our hearts and souls into the place.  It was a lot of work, and a lot of fun.  

After finishing up my 4 month internship that summer and continuing on to graduate school, I still felt the pull of Yestermorrow.  By December I was back, and hired on to the staff full-time.  Though I never could have imagined it when I first arrived in 2002, I’m still here.  The campus has developed in many dimensions (and we still have a long way to go), the curriculum has expanded in ways I never dreamed possible, and our team has grown to include an even wider circle of talented faculty, interns and staff.  We still struggle to find enough students to run each class, we still have a campus with a few unfinished projects, and we’re still teaching the design/build process day in and day out. Many of the amazing instructors I learned from as an internJosh Jackson, Skip Dewhirst, and John Ringelare still some of our most committed teachers and are actively involved in the school.
Over the past ten years I’ve learned a little bit of patience, a ton about how organizations work, and more than I ever imagined about how the design/build process actually happens, both in the studio and on the jobsite.  I’m excited to think where we might be in the next ten years, and am committed to helping realize the collective vision of the Yestermorrow community.  Thanks to all of youstudents, staff, board, interns, and community partners – for making this such a fun place to be.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rethinking Design

A guest post by Joel Glanzberg, Yestermorrow faculty member and master planning team member

The story of the oak beams of Oxford’s New College is helpful in rethinking design as a part of a larger process. Gregory Bateson tells how a maintenance man at the school found that the large beams that spanned the dinning hall were riddled with beetles. In the search for oak beams of that size the forester who managed the school's forestry endowment was called in. When told the problem he replied that he’d been waiting to be asked for the trees, as “everyone knows that in about five hundred years oak beams get beetlely.” It turned out that acorns had been planted when the school was built to supply the replacement beams. Bateson’s comment is “That’s the way to run a society.”

Learning from this example, we can see that the planning and development of a regenerative building begins with the development of the forests that supply the timber, the coppices that supply the withes and poles, the gathering of stones from crop fields, the tending of the sheep whose wool will insulate the walls and ceiling, and the development of the craftspeople who will tend the forest and flocks, fell the trees, tend the cleared fields, and craft the building. Seen in this much longer arc, if the design process is focused simply on the design of form, it misses most of the value-adding potential of the process of which “design/build” is a part. The full value-adding stream includes sourcing materials in regenerative ways and developing all five types of capital, including developing businesses and human and natural capacities and capabilities.

In realizing the full regenerative potential of a building, the process is the most fruitful portion. It is important to shift the focus from designing the form of the building to designing the form-giving process (which includes but is certainly not limited to planning and design). The building is a temporary manifestation of a much longer on-going process. What is to be gained by giving careful thought to the process rather than the form?

There is a well-known example from Australia where a farmer wanted to clear and fertilize a scrubby field and turn it into an orchard. Rather than hiring a bulldozer to clear the field and buying compost to fertilize it, he bought two piglets and some electric fencing. Concentrating their effects, a portion of the field was cleared and fertilized and was planted to orchard trees. The hogs were butchered. One supplied the pork for his family for a year, while the sale of the other provided money to buy two more piglets and corn to feed them for a year. After repeating this process for a number of years the entire field was cleared, fertilized, and planted to fruit trees while paying for itself and feeding the family. By establishing the orchard in stages, the fruit production began before the pork production ceased. In fact, pigs could easily have continued to feed in the orchard, eating fallen fruit and cultivating the soil. The food production process did not begin with the completion of the orchard, but began with the commencement of the process for establishing it. In fact, it was a food production process all along that shifted form from pork to fruit. The form is unimportant. How do we design “design/build” processes that are similarly productive from the outset or from which buildings are a byproduct?

There are many systems that encourage the creation of drawings of the design of buildings as a focus, from permitting to financing. It is usually the assumed design decisions - which are in fact unmade because they are assumed - that could yield the greatest benefit if thought about, questioned, and addressed creatively. If we assume how the building process occurs, we miss many opportunities for regeneration. It is just like assuming that transportation means cars - or if  I'm really thinking radically, electric cars or even buses. This limited thinking misses many opportunities. The greatest limit to yield (potential) is our minds. Certainly this limit is mostly in our assumptions and preconceptions. How do we shift our focus from designing objects to designing processes that are regenerative? How do we stop thinking about any activity as separate from the ongoing life (self-regeneration) of places?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Yestermorrow Collaboration Opportunity

We’re looking for community clients for our basic carpentry classes! Students build small structures (up to 150 ft2) in our Basic Carpentry, Carpentry for Women, and Home Design/Build courses—previous projects have included garden sheds, playhouses, woodsheds, chicken coops, and small cabins. (Images of previous projects are included throughout this post.) Projects are typically built at Yestermorrow’s Waitsfield campus and delivered after the class, though we sometimes build on-site for clients within the Mad River Valley.


We have several pre-designed sheds on file, and for an additional fee our instructors can create custom designs. Yestermorrow is not equipped to carry on a project after the completion of the class, which occasionally leaves some minor work for clients to finish—but our students' work will be done well, and always done under professional supervision. Generally speaking, involving a Yestermorrow class in your project provides a premium product at below-market prices, as we do not charge for labor. Clients pay for materials plus 20% overhead, plus any design and transportation costs. Overall costs typically run $1500-$2000, though costs vary significantly according to the size of the structure, the intricacy of the design, the materials chosen, and other factors.

For more information, contact Abby Martin at (802) 496-5545 or

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Connecting to the Designer Within: An Architect’s Immersion into Woodworking

by Anna Lucey, Woodworking Certificate student
Upon waking my first thought is: maybe I can use the planer to taper that wide board! The strangeness of waking with this thought is compounded by the fact that 11 weeks ago I didn’t even know what a planer was. The reality is this: the Yestermorrow Woodworking Certificate Program is a full-immersion course where you eat, breathe, and sleep the art and science of woodworking. As such, there comes a point where your subconscious takes over the sometimes daunting (but, in woodworking, ever-present) task of problem solving.

At work on a small-scale design/build project.
I came to Yestermorrow with a bachelors degree in architecture and four years of entry-level architecture work (a.k.a. “CAD monkeying”) behind me. The Woodworking Certificate Program caught my eye at a time when I felt disconnected from the designer within. I had spent so much time behind a computer screen fine tuning construction documents that I began losing perspective on what it was I actually enjoyed about architecture: problem solving and making things that were simultaneously useful and beautiful. Certainly woodworking, I told myself, must combine aspects of those things. 

And believe me, as someone who dreamt I was a log after our Stump to Sticker section, it does. 

But it goes so beyond that. I’ve been completely blown away by what I’ve learned versus what I expected this course to be like. What I’ve come to realize as our 11-week program comes to an end is that woodworking is special because:

  1. You get to work with wood and, by extension, forests, trees, lumber mills, micro- (and macro) loggers, lumber yards, and in wood shops with other woodworkers.  
  2. You get to design and build! This process is truly precious to designers because of the conversation between materials and concept. I’ve been blown away at how “design opportunities” (read: “Oh sh*t I just cut this board too short!”), while initially frustrating, can lead to such a rich and sometimes unexpected end product. It’s truly exciting.  
  3. A direct cousin of 2, you get to use your hands all day long. The peacefulness of using a chisel or a hand plane is pretty much unparalleled. Even though you may casually drink 5 cups of coffee throughout the day, you’ll still fall into bed exhausted at the end of it.  
  4. It may have been Rem Koolhaas who said something along the lines of: “Architecture happens in elephant time while all those outside of architecture expect it to happen in rabbit time.” Yeah, yeah, Rem. We get it. But the beauty of woodworking is that is can and often does happen in rabbit time. This does wonders for the psychological well-being of those involved (read: It won’t take you three years to produce something that is so watered down by value engineering that it barely resembles the original beauty of the object you designed).  
  5. You get to smell the difference between walnut and butternut when ripped on the table saw, and in that moment you’ll realize: I love this. 
Hand carving on a shave horse
As with all 20-somethings, I was certain I would know exactly how this adventure in Vermont would go: I would work with my hands, learn a thing or two about wood, and head right back into an architecture office armed with this special new knowledge. But here I am at the end of a truly life-changing 11 weeks. And in this moment, I now realize that it is not the practice of woodworking that will make me a better architect. It is my practice of architecture that will make me a better woodworker. 

And by the way, the planer trick worked great.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Permaculture: unpacking design with ecology

The cornerstone of my Design/Build internship with Yestermorrow is choosing six weeks of courses from a rich and eclectic catalog, everything from building yurts to designing forest gardens. It was a real struggle for me to choose; I would literally take every offering—but I can’t.

Looking at the available courses, I eventually concluded that my “goal” was to become a better designer. Admittedly I didn’t know exactly what this meant. Drafting? Sketching? Organizing and utilizing space for efficiency? Aesthetics? Comfort? Admittedly I still don’t have a clear idea, but I’d guess that most designers spend a lifetime figuring it out.

Luckily I’ve fallen in love with the process of “figuring it out.” So far I’ve manipulated space and ideas, in diverse shades, intensities, and materials—from houses to paper to landscapes. I’ve found that it all comes back to choice—asking what to think about and how to think about it, playfully, with flexibility and confidence. A house can look like almost anything—a box, a passive solar rectangle, or, in Paul Hanke’s case, a dragon. Seeing there is no shortage of options, the heart of design lies in the process, because at the end of the day we have to make a choice—and then create something. Maybe design is exactly that: a process for distilling and focusing a world of possibilities into a single point, so that we can sit in a chair, have a roof over our heads, and interact with the world (and stop designing!). 

The Permaculture Design Certification Course is providing me with an especially cogent ecological lens for informing this process.  Simply put, we humans are merely features within a much broader environmental dance—with water, changes in terrain, soil, wildlife, celestial mechanics, and the many other feature of our ecology.  Anything that we build will be subject to this context—a chair lives within a particular house, on a particular street, in a particular bioregion, not in a vacuum. Permaculture encourages us to deeply and carefully observe our environment so that we can design from it rather than against it. I’m already discovering that ecology can inform and direct design, rather than the other way around. 

Speaking of which, I need to get back to designing maps, landscapes, and trees of colored pencil. I’ll design another blog entry soon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

March Madness, Yestermorrow-Style

Here at Yestermorrow, we've been following the Big Dance in our own way, with a March Madness ping-pong tournament! Staff, interns, and Woodworking Certificate students entered the tournament, playing games at lunchtime and whenever the main studio was free. It's a double-elimination bracket, so everybody gets at least two games—winners advance in the main bracket, while people who lose in the main bracket have a second chance in the lower bracket.
Ben Cheney, Woodworking Certificate instructor, plays Dave Warren, Facilities Manager.
In keeping with the Yestermorrow theme of stacking functions, our ping-pong table doubles as the architectural model-making table in the main studio. It's a little shorter than a standard ping-pong table, and the ball gets lost amidst shelves of books and model-making supplies—there's a built-in breather in some games as players search the bookshelves after an errant serve.
Dave and Ben go hunting for the ping-pong ball.
We're down to the final game of the main bracket, slated for sometime this week. Design/Build Intern (and fierce kickball competitor) Chris will be up against Woodworking Certificate student (and champion derby girl) Heather; the winner of that match will play the winner of the lower bracket to determine the 2012 Yestermorrow Ping-Pong Champion. The prize? The Golden Paddle Award, designed and built by Woodshop Intern Patrick.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Yestermorrow at NESEA

Last week, several interns and Executive Director Kate Stephenson represented Yestermorrow at the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association's annual conference in Boston. Among the high-performance building and renewable energy presentations and workshops were two presentations co-led by Kate, and several others led by Yestermorrow instructors and friends.

On Wednesday, Kate and instructor Bill Reed presented "Whole Systems in Practice, in Place: Where Do You Fit In?" Focusing on Yestermorrow's ongoing master planning process, they discussed integrating design processes, and the importance of shifting attention from technical to living systems and from the project to the place and the living systems that sustain it.

On Thursday, Kate and instructors Ace McArleton and Jacob Deva Racusin presented "Energy Performance of Natural Building," examining the building science behind modern straw bale, timber frame, and plaster construction. Using case studies of single-family residences in the Northeast, they presented the findings of thermodynamic and hydrodynamic research, and how natural building techniques fit into a high-performance building portfolio.

We also set up a booth in the trade show, where we talked with a steady stream of builders, architects, energy scientists and developers--including former and upcoming students who stopped by to say hello. Yestermorrow was one of only two schools represented on the trade show floor, and our shave horse and various wooden furniture definitely stood out in an exhibit hall predominantly filled with renewable energy systems and building component manufacturers. But the biggest conversation-starter of all was our willow-ribbed canoe, which helped demonstrate Yestermorrow's focus on experiential learning (and even generated some raffle ticket sales!).

Katrin Klingenberg and the Passive House Tour at the Yestermorrow booth.
One of the biggest themes of the conference was the popularity of the Passive House, both in presentations and on the trade show floor. We were thrilled to see several students from January's Passive House Consultant Training staffing the (very busy) Passive House New England booth next to ours. And Yestermorrow got in on the Passive House excitement when instructor Katrin Klinenberg brought a crowd to our booth as the conclusion of her tour of Passive-House related exhibitors.

Between the four of us who attended NESEA, we must have had several hundred conversations about the Yestermorrow experience, various courses offered, and the school's integrated design/build approach to a problem-solving for a future with limited resources. Even more than these casual conversations, however, the Yestermorrow-affiliated presentations generated excitement about the school's mission and teaching work. May that excitement continue!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

All About Presentation

Pecha Kucha, (pronounced "pe-chahk-cha") is the Japanese word for "chit-chat." It's a style of presentation in which the presenters get 20 slides to show and 20 seconds to talk about each slide. 

With only 6 minutes and 40 seconds to get your idea across, the format keeps the presentation short, concise, and visually interesting. 

Above is a video of the third in the series of Pecha Kucha Nights held in Montpelier, Vermont sponsored by Yestermorrow Design/Build School and Transition Town Montpelier. This Pecha Kucha centered on the theme of "A World Without Oil."

Recently the staff and interns at Yestermorrow had our own Pecha Kucha, where we each presented on a topic of our own choosing. It made for an entertaining and informative time. I highly recommend Pecha Kucha as a template for any orientation-style activity, as it is a great way for members of a group to get to know one another.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Come On People Now...

In exchange for our time, skill and efforts, we interns can request to have a place in classes that relate to our personal pursuits. For three weeks starting in late January, I was in the core class for the Certificate in Sustainable Building and Design. This course pans out to be three separate, intense one-week classes that take the students through studies of Permaculture, Community Design, and Individual Building Design. “Intense”being the operative word. For each of the first two weeks, we found ourselves working in groups of four to complete a large culminating assignment that would be presented on Friday.

On top of learning the curriculum, we were challenged to form, storm, norm, and perform: a sweetly packaged way to illustrate the social dynamics that happen when strangers are asked to huddle up and accomplish a task together. We come from all sorts of backgrounds and stages in life, so it was no surprise that we had some storming happen every now and then. But, no matter what trials happened during the week, on Friday the presentations were well laid out, artfully delivered, and downright impressive.

I’m beginning to think that collaboration could be the beating heart of social change and one of the strengths woven into Yestermorrow’s teaching style. The more we get together, the more we gather our skills; the more we understand each other, the more common ground we find. We will be creating a culture of respect for each others' talents and knowledge, compassion for each others' struggles, and possibly the willingness to collaborate more often. A neat looped system that regenerates itself while enriching all entities involved. This is far from a prescription for world peace, by any means. But I think it’s a step in a positive direction.

Thinking globally, acting locally—this mindset has changed my daily interactions on a perception and attitude level. Instead of coming back to my intern duties with my head down ready to barrel into a solo project, I’ve kept an openness to some collective goals. By the close of my second day back on the job, I was able to work with my fellow interns on two somewhat daunting tasks of planning new space for the intern workbench with David and helping Jess organize the library. In reconnecting with them after three weeks of being in class,  I recognized that we were learning from each others' rhythms of work.

Challenging. Fulfilling. Motivating.