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.

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.