Doreen Richmond, who works in transitional learning at Whatcom Community College, saw students struggling to connect.
“I noticed this year more than any other time in my past 22 years teaching that there were just so many students that were very anxious coming back to campus,” Richmond said.
So she made a plan to give others an opportunity to connect over the summertime on campus.
That is how a diverse group of Whatcom County community members found themselves collaborating to build an environmentally friendly oven made of cob at Whatcom’s Roe Studios July 21-22.
Over those two days, a workshop was held to teach those that attended how to make a pizza oven that would be environmentally sustainable. Those that attended could chat, be active outdoors, and hopefully let some of those anxieties fall away as they worked together with complete strangers to create something unique and functional. – which is all Richmond wanted out of the event.
“When it’s done you say wow, I did that! You feel empowered, we did something from scratch, here it is,” said Jordan Adaams, a custodian and security staff member at Whatcom.
Adaams attended with his fiancée Nikki Stansell who mentioned they recently had little time to go out on a date. “A moment to bond is always a precious thing,” Stansell said.
Many who showed up said they were excited to learn how to build an oven, while some were reminded of home. Victor Florres’s wife is a Western Washington University teacher and friend of Richmond’s. Originally from Mexico, he talked about how these cobb ovens and more natural designs can be found all over his rural homeland. Excited to have built one now himself, he said, “You can try so many things, designs, use of materials and everything is very fascinating.”
Why is cob environmentally sustainable?
Unlike brick or concrete, cob “breathes”, retaining heat and cooling naturally. “It takes about an hour per inch for heat to get through the wall then radiates off throughout the night; it’s called the flywheel effect,” said Eli Adadow who led the two-day workshop. Adadow is the owner of Ancient Earth School of Natural Building. As instructor for these learning seminars, he wants to help empower people into self-creation and also hopes to motivate the world toward sustainability.
While some students came to support the Sustainability Club and others wanted to take the opportunity to learn a new skill, one student named Ace turned the workshop into college credit with a learning contract for engineering. The contract was to first research how to build an oven, then talk with their parents as though they were clients looking for a new oven with specifications, and then finally design on paper and build the oven for them.
The individualized learning contracts available at Whatcom Community College allow you to turn any experience into a learning opportunity.
To make this event possible Richmond worked with Whatcom Community Foundation to receive a Project Neighborly Grant. She presented her plan to hold an engaging event that afterward could even be used to benefit the school. Based on her interest in working with clay in her garden, she looked into outdoor group crafts with would allow her to auction off the final product and give portions back to the Whatcom College Foundation and the Sustainability Club’s garden.
In the process of moving the completed oven to be delivered to the Lummi Beach School, the oven cracked. Richmond hopes to hold another building workshop with the Beach School students on Lummi Island. For information on future events contact Doreen Richmond at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on cob building or natural earth building visit ancientearthbuilding.com.