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Grinnell Welcomes Alumni

More than 1,400 Grinnell College alumni, friends, and family will return to campus for the College’s 135th Alumni Reunion Weekend. Alums from as far as India, Thailand, and New Zealand will return to Grinnell from May 28 to June 1.

Reunion is one of the College’s biggest social events. It combines parties, dances, dinners, and Ultimate Frisbee. Other weekend highlights include an all-Reunion picnic, a 5K fun run, class dinners, tours of the campus and community, and a traditional bakery run at 2 a.m. on Saturday.

Alums will look back at the impact they have had on the world, from the Grinnell 14’s trip to Washington, D.C., which helped start the student peace movement in 1961, to the films alumni have made and the books they’ve written. Nine alumni will receive awards for service to their professions, the College, and community.

Presentations are planned on how the College has changed in the last 40 years, the success of the Liberal Arts in Prison Program, and the first postgraduate steps taken by the Class of 2013. The Alumni College will hold courses on the theme of revolution starting the 28th, and Rosenfield Professor of Political Science H. Wayne Moyer will lead a discussion on climate change.

On Becoming an Excellent Teacher


Bryan Lake ’02 received a 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching for his work as a kindergarten teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary in Urbana, Ill.

He’ll receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation and a paid trip for two to the recognition ceremony and professional development events in Washington, D.C., in the spring. The award was announced Dec. 20.

When Lake came to Grinnell College, his original goal was pre-med. In high school, he thrived in chemistry and biology courses.

It was his first-year tutorial, “Peacemaking,” with Martha Voyles, an associate professor of education, that got Lake thinking about a change in direction. An American Studies course cemented that impulse, and in his junior year, he “decided to change everything.”

That led him to majoring in American Studies and earning his certification in elementary education.

Lake started his career as a fourth-grade teacher, which hooked him on science again. He used active learning to help students get their hands dirty — literally. He says his students’ “eyes got wider.”

When he moved into teaching second grade, Lake taught science as heavily activity based. Students investigated simple machines and discovered how basic circuits work. Their sense of wonder convinced Lake that he was on the right track.

While Lake pursued National Board Certification, he began making connections across subject areas. He developed an integrated math and science unit to foster students’ sense of wonder across disciplines.

When he moved into his kindergarten classroom, Lake’s biggest goal was to tie everything together — math, social studies, physical education, and health, for example. He eagerly embraced science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teaching and learning, which led to the work for which he won the presidential award.

“It’s a huge honor,” Lake says, but “it says more about what kindergarteners can do.” He adds that those young students are capable of higher-level thinking than people think.

Now, in his 11th year of teaching, Lake is working with teachers as one of three elementary instructional coaches for the Urbana, Ill., school district. While he supports all teachers in all subject-areas in his two schools, he’s starting to break back into science.

He’s also helping teachers flesh out their own inquiry projects as they work with the new science standards. For example, some second- through fourth-grade teachers will collaborate with the music teacher to use a variety of instruments and recording devices to capture sound waves. 

The job presented an opportunity to inspire more scientific inquiry-based learning and teaching on a larger scale, Lake says. He also saw it as a chance to learn from colleagues.

Lake misses the kids, though, and hopes to teach kindergarten again someday.

Inspiring Novelists Around the World


Novelist Grant Faulkner ’87 inspires nearly a half-million would-be novelists — more than 150 of them in Grinnell — to write 50,000 words during a 30-day international writing marathon, the largest event of its kind.

Faulkner is executive director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a nonprofit that promotes novel writing every November.  He encourages participants to not worry about spinning perfect prose; getting words on the page is half the battle.  “Although many of our participants are dedicated writers, we attract people from all walks of life,” he says. “They might not call themselves writers before NaNoWriMo, but they find out they can write a novel on their own terms. It’s such a magical thing,” he says, when participants discover themselves as creators.

More than 60 years after Ernest Hemingway soaked in the magic of Paris, Faulkner walked in the steps of the literary icon. He’d considered majoring in economics, but after his study-abroad experience in France he decided to major in English and dedicate himself to writing.

“Everyone has a story to tell, and the way humans make meaning of the world is through their stories,” he says. “National Novel Writing Month provides a gift that allows people to tell those stories.”

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Agriculture on Campus

Nestled between two College-owned houses across the street from Younker Hall are nine vegetable beds, a greenhouse, a toolshed, and a brightly painted sign welcoming visitors to the campus garden. Since 1999, the plot has been a hands-on bridge between students and Iowa’s agricultural roots.

Ellen Pinnette ’15 was one of two student apprentices at the garden in the summer of 2012. She asked fellow students what to grow and hosted volunteer days so those summering in Grinnell could get acquainted with the garden and take home a few fresh vegetables. Extra produce goes to a town community meal, to a local foods buffet, and to Mid-Iowa Community Action, a nonprofit that serves low-income families.

There’s also a student-run local foods co-op that has been a growing force since it started in 2006, when Hart Ford-Hodges ’10 bought local Paul’s Grains in bulk and took orders out of her dorm room. It now includes nine coordinators — students, staff, and community members — and 11 local producers, all members of the Grinnell Area Local Foods Alliance (GALFA). Sarah Shaughnessy ’13, last year’s lead co-op coordinator and Pinnette’s fellow 2012 apprentice, says the co-op offers honey, grains, and baked goods in the off-seasons and is working toward meat and dairy licensing as well. “You’re in the middle of the prairie, surrounded by producers,” she says. “There’s a lot of opportunity.”