2021-22 Prairie Studies Events

Quilt Board Workshop

Sample images of North Star and Oak Leaf quilt boards

Sunday, April 10, 2022
3–5 p.m.

Workshop leader: Walker Bell, artist

Quilt boards are large pieces of plywood decorated with the design of a quilt block and displayed outdoors, often on buildings. In addition to being decorative, their designs may relate to natural, cultural, or historical aspects of their setting.

This workshop will involve the collaborative creation of two different 4x4’ quilt boards. The “North Star” quilt block is part of a traditional design associated with people fleeing slavery on the Underground Railroad. Those seeking freedom were generally directed to head north and were guided by the North Star. The town of Grinnell was a “stop” on the Underground Railroad, and J.B. Grinnell, the town’s founder, was a “conductor” or helper for many. The “Oak Leaf” quilt block recognizes Iowa’s state tree.

This workshop has two parts:

  1. an opening general session on Sunday, April 10, from 3–5 p.m. and
  2. smaller one-hour sessions April 11–15 from 7–8 p.m. at which different colors will be added to the boards.

Sign up for the April 10 session and in addition rank the daily sessions in order of your preference. Enrollment is limited on a first-come basis. Sign up here or email Jan Graham.

Iowa’s Lost Lichens and Opportunities to Learn More at Iowa Lakeside Lab, Summer 2022

James Colbert

James Colbert, associate professor emeritus
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology
Iowa State University

Thursday, April 7, 2022
Science 2021, Noon

Colbert’s presentation will provide a brief introduction to the biology and ecology of lichens. The diversity of lichens in Iowa will be discussed — including an introduction to native Iowa lichens that may be rare, or extirpated, in the State of Iowa.

An overview of the summer learning opportunities — including opportunities to learn more about lichens — at Iowa Lakeside Lab will be provided.

If you are an individual with a disability and need accommodations, please contact Conference Operations, 641-269-3235. Grinnell College is not responsible for the supervision of minors on campus.

Visitors and community members are welcome on campus. 

Pipelines to Nowhere: Cultural approaches to energy and climate problems

Headshot of Kamyar Enshayan

Kamyar Enshayan, director, Center for Energy & Environmental Education
University of Northern Iowa
Wednesday, March 2, 2022
7:30 p.m., HSSC A1231

If you have a ton of credit card debt and need help addressing the situation, you go to a consumer credit counselor. Their advice: cut up your credit cards and develop a strict plan to get you back on track towards living within your means.

Similarly, our continued and ruinous dependence on fossil energy and extreme material consumption are proving to be like massive credit card debt that we need to put aside and urgently develop a robust plan to live within the limits of our region and the planet.

However, we lack an overall plan. Instead, we are presented with piecemeal solutions: “carbon capture,” “hydrogen,” “blue fertilizer,” “next generation ethanol,” “bridge energy,” “forever energy,” and on and on.

How can ordinary citizens make sense of these promises of limitless energy? What questions should we be asking? In this session, we will explore together multiple dimensions of the energy situation we are in to better understand our options.

Farms in Crisis: How can we get out of this mess?

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.
HSSC A1231

Headshot of Beth Hoffman

Former journalist and new farmer Beth Hoffman will address the topic, “Farms in Crisis: How can we get out of this mess?”

The average age of farmers is nearing 60, the cost of farmland and fertilizer is on the rise, and climate change is here to stay. Now, more than ever, it is critical we get good farmers and stewards onto the land — but how?

Hoffman moved from San Francisco with her husband John to take over his family’s 530-acre farm in south-central Iowa and wrote the book Bet the Farm: The Dollars and Sense of Growing Food in America (2021) about her experiences. She will talk about the challenges of running a financially viable and environmentally sustainable farm business, the myths that keep farmers unable to make a profit, and the new narratives that can help us look for solutions to our food system’s woes.

Hoffman is a beginning farmer on more than 530 acres in Iowa. For the last twenty-five years, she has worked as a journalist covering food and agriculture. Her work has been aired and published on NPR’s Morning Edition, The Guardian, The Salt, Latino USA, and the News Hour.

Lecture: “Why Is Iowa So White?”

Thursday, Nov. 11, 11 a.m.
HSSC A1231

Headshot of Charles Connerly

As of the 2020 census, Iowa is the seventh whitest state in the nation and the whitest state in the Midwest. Professor Connerly will survey Iowa’s history — from the Indigenous nations who resided here until the land was taken from them to the establishment of “black codes” that restricted who could move here. He will highlight the ways that Iowa has at times welcomed and excluded different groups of color. He’ll look at some of the milestone civil rights decisions in Iowa as well as some of the decisions and events that serve more as millstones, weighing us down and holding us back from becoming a place where every Iowan can thrive. Professor Connerly will conclude with a look at the ways in which government continues to attempt to maintain Iowa as a predominantly white state.

Charles Connerly ’68 (history), recently completed a 42-year career in urban and regional planning at Florida State University and the University of Iowa’s School of Planning and Public Affairs. At Iowa, Connerly founded the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, a campus-wide program for facilitating community engagement centered on sustainability throughout Iowa. His most recent book, Green, Fair, and Prosperous: Paths to a Sustainable Iowa (University of Iowa Press, 2020) is a historical and contemporary assessment of Iowa's sustainability challenges and responses including the environment, economic equity, and social equality.

Round-Table Presentation and Discussion: Sustainability on Campus and Beyond

Thursday, Nov. 11, 4 p.m.
Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center 101

How well is Grinnell College doing with on-campus sustainability initiatives? Can Iowa learn from us?

The College has been taking steps to address climate change, groundwater depletion, stormwater flooding, and unsustainable land use. Liz Queathem (biology) and Chris Bair (environmental and safety coordinator), co-chairs of the College’s Sustainability Committee, along with students Sharene Gould-Dulabaum (compost/recycling coordinator, CERA intern), Jacy Highbarger (Herbicide Free Grinnell, college garden/prairie intern), and Hannah Malicky (chair, Student Environmental Committee) will briefly present what the college has accomplished in these areas. Professor Charles Connerly ’68, author of Fair, Green, and Prosperous: Paths to Sustainable Iowa (2020, University of Iowa Press) will comment on where the state of Iowa stands in relation to these environmental challenges. The floor will then be opened for comments and questions from the audience.

If you are an individual with a disability and need accommodations, please contact Conference Operations, 641-269-3235. Minors under the age of 18 need to be accompanied by an adult. Grinnell College is not responsible for the supervision of minors on campus.

These events are co-sponsored by the Center for Prairie Studies and the History Department.

New Naturalism on Campus: Designing and planting resilient, ecologically vibrant landscapes at Grinnell and beyond

Thursday, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m.
Noyce 2021

Kelly Norris standing near a prairie garden

Kelly D. Norris is one of the leading horticulturists of his generation. An award-winning author and plantsman, Norris’s work in gardens has been featured in The New York Times, Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, Fine Gardening, Garden Design, and in numerous television, radio, and digital media appearances. His passion for planting at the intersections of horticulture and ecology has culminated in a new book New Naturalism: Designing and planting a resilient ecologically vibrant home garden was published in January 2021 by Cool Springs Press. Norris also presents plants for Cottage Farms Direct on QVC and lectures widely to consumer and industry audiences.

He is the former director of horticulture and education at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, where for 8 years he directed efforts in design, curation, programming, garden, and facility management after serving as the owner’s representative to nearly $20 million in capital projects.

In addition to his latest project, Norris has authored three other books: Iowa Gardener’s Travel Guide (2008), A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the rainbow for beginners and enthusiasts (2012; winner of the 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award), and Plants with Style (2015).

Norris has earned recognition from a variety of organizations including three awards from Iowa State Horticultural Society (2009-2011) for his service and contributions to horticulture in Iowa; early career and young professional awards from the Perennial Plant Association (2011), GardenComm (2018) and the American Horticultural Society (2018); a Zone Horticulture Commendation from the Garden Club of America (2018); the Iowa Author Award for Special Interest Writing (2013), the youngest Iowan to be recognized in the history of the awards program; and a fellowship from the Chanticleer Foundation (2015) for his curatorial and plant exploration work at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.

Norris, working with SGA and HerbicideFree Grinnell, designed the new prairie area south of the Harris Center that was planted in the summer of 2021. He continues to serve as a consultant to the College on native species landscaping.

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