Posts in: Half Block

Hello it’s Chelo — Keep Up With My Half Block Experience

Hello! My name is Chelo and I am majoring in Education Studies at Colorado College. I was provided with the opportunity to create a blog about the course titled Topics in Environmental Social Sciences: State of the Rockies: Conserving Local Landscapes taught by Tyler Cornelius. I will start off by explaining how I ended up taking this course.

Three weeks ago, I graduated from the Teaching and Research in Environmental Education (TREE) Semester program. TREE Semester is a 16-week residential program at the Catamount Center in Woodland Park, CO. Aside from teaching 5th graders and high school students Environmental Education (EE) in the outdoors, and living in a small learning community with eight other students, I also spent my time working on a professional portfolio to submit to the Colorado Association for Environmental Education (CAEE) in hopes of becoming a masters certified environmental educator. I have always had a passion for working with children and for learning science; however, before this semester I had not pursued anything related to science at CC. This fall I found myself deeply inspired by my studies and motivated to take on a career in Environmental Education. I recognized that in order to be a successful environmental educator and prepare my students to become environmentally responsible citizens in their private and public lives, I also needed to become more knowledgeable about environmental science and issues.
As I was searching for courses that would help introduce me to the Environmental Issues minor, this block caught my attention and triggered my enthusiasm. The course models experiential learning at it’s best and takes full advantage of the block plan and the geographical setting that CC has to offer.

Now, I am already three days into the class and couldn’t be more excited about the week ahead. Our classroom community (which already feels close and dialogic AND consists of two of my close friends from TREE) has spent the first few days learning about environmental history. Yesterday we went on a short field trip to Stratton Open Space, to practice our observation and deduction skills (I will explain this further in my next post!). Tomorrow I will have to take a break from moving into my off campus house, leaving my room stacked with boxes and suitcases, because at 7:30 AM we are hopping on a bus to the CC’s Baca campus located in The San Luis Valley.

I have been to Baca twice before and have had unforgettable experiences. The first time I went was with my First Year Experience (FYE) class. At the Baca campus my class was able to study philosophy in depth, bond with one another, and go on adventures. We visited the sand dunes and the hot springs. I returned to Baca my sophomore year for an education course titled Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in The San Luis Valley. For that course our class visited and volunteered at several rural schools in the area. Through interacting with the valley community, bonding with my CC peers, and forming a connection with the natural environment, Baca has become a special place for me.

For this half block we will be at Baca from Thursday morning until Saturday night. There is no service on the Baca Campus so who knows when I will be able to post about my next experience in the valley. Keep up with my blog for some stories, thoughts, and pictures. Feel free to comment or ask any questions that you might have about the course or about me. Thank you for reading my first blog post ever!

Under Press-ure

Excuse the pun in the title, but this post is about the time constraints of our class’s press project, and I couldn’t help but make the nod to David Bowie––may his soul soar epically through the farthest reaches of outer space.

"#1 rule of type setting: don't eat the type."

“#1 rule of type setting: don’t eat the type.”

Tomorrow is the last day of class (already!) so we’ll be taking as much time as necessary, presumably the entire morning, to print our book. For three hours this afternoon and three hours on Monday we’ve been setting our pages of type, putting the spreads in a desired order, choosing colors for paper and ink, and carving linoleum slabs for illustrations. Setting type is slow and relaxing. Also, one’s fingers tend to be covered in poisonous lead residue by the end.

Carving linoleum, on the other hand, has proven to be far more frustrating from my perspective. It took me two hours and three attempts to finish my first illustration last night. Tonight I spent another two hours filling my desk with gray shavings, but this time I was able to complete two images without making irreparable mistakes. So I suppose practice helps, and I’m rather content with how they look. However, my fingers have suffered much worse than a little metal grime in this case. My characteristic carelessness has brought about a few jabs from the carving tool, and while two of them were minor, a rather forceful one from this afternoon at the press gave me a profusely bleeding left thumb and a throbbing pain that didn’t subside until after dinner. No matter that Aaron warned us of the sharp dangers––I’m still incredibly prone to risk-taking and clumsiness.


Can’t wait to see how it looks once printed.

We chose a deep reddish brown as the ink for our text, and Aaron showed us how to follow the Pantone swatchbook formula for mixing. It’s a painterly process, and if you know enough about mixing colors you can step away from the swatches and create your own.


56% red, 35% yellow, 8.5% black.

Once the ink was made, a few of my classmates began printing. They completed all 30 copies of our title page, dedication, and colophon, which is the page at the end that says where the book was published and when. It seemed like we accomplished a lot today, but we still have a great deal of work to do tomorrow. Thankfully Aaron keeps coffee brewed in the pot by the door.

I’m certainly interested in returning to the press under circumstances that are less time-sensitive. I would love to put even more effort into the content and design decisions. Paradoxically, I’m impatient with my own creativity, considering how difficult I find it to revisit and revise the things I make, and yet I don’t like to feel rushed. In terms of hanging out at the press, I hope to be able to choose an event or two from the college calendar many weeks in advance, and carefully design and print posters for them. The ones I’ve seen thus far are astonishingly eye-catching, and it’s evident how much work goes into each one.

Now for an unrelated note, regarding last night’s reading: If you’ve never heard of the book thief Stephen Blumberg, his story is fascinating. He stole approximately 286,000 books from university libraries across the nation in the 1970s and 80s––not to sell, like many book thiefs before him did, but to keep in his own private collection. His obsession with Victorian-era objects began when he was 12 years old and his behavioral tendencies were clearly influenced by his family’s mental health history (a topic that is very interesting and important to me). Even Colorado College’s Special Collections has seen the expert thieving hands of Blumberg! He made away with five books on the history of the American West, but only two were attributed to our library and eventually returned. To find out more about the bibliomaniac, click here.

Thanks for reading.

Why Art (When it’s Tedious)?

On Wednesday our time in Special Collections was spent carefully handling rare, ancient objects, like clay tablets from 2,000 BCE, or a leaflet of the Gutenburg Bible, to help us think about books’ beginnings. Yesterday, we time traveled to recent centuries, where the bird’s-eye view is quite different. Jessy covered the tables in books that bless the modern world with their novelty, artistry, bright colors, and overall intrigue––for example, one of my favorites: The Little Prince as a pop-up book!


I’ve considered getting this tattooed. (The Little Prince on Asteroid B-612)


Arguably the most majestic page.

We perused and admired, asked questions silently and aloud. Then we each sat down and explained an object of interest. I attempted to talk about the mysterious “Fire Dogs” by Ken Campbell, Caitlin sympathized with a sneezing bear in “Little Fur Family,” Nate held up the beastly novel rendition of “Where the Wild Things Are.”


Based on the screenplay.

Eventually the discussion moved to a book that once graced the display case on the library’s second floor, at the start of the school year. It looks like a composition notebook, but it’s made of fabric and every word is embroidered. It’s called “Common Threads,” and Texas-based artist Candace Hicks (check out her website here) sold it to our collection at a discounted price of $925. “Maybe, if you divide that cost by the number of hours she spent on it, she was making minimum wage,” said Jessy. Indeed, the book is so intricate and must have taken a very long time, especially considering the artist was just starting to refine her craft. My classmate John brought up the inevitable question: why would someone do something so incredibly tedious?

We entered into a philosophical discussion of why we play sports, why we make jewelry, why we wrote poetry, why we play musical instruments. If not seeking fame or fortune, why do we engage in repetitive, tedious activities that fall under the category of “art?” What is it that we’re looking for?

My contribution included a reflection on last semester, when I didn’t set aside enough time to be creative. By the time it was ending, I noticed more and more my deep-seated frustration concerning my artistic endeavors, or rather, the lack thereof. I dabble in many mediums and feel that I’m mediocre at lots of things––collage-making, poetry, playing the piano––instead of learnéd and talented in one area, which seems like it would be far more satisfying in the long run. I envy my roommate who has played jazz trombone from a young age, and my other roommate who draws consistently and seems to be on a path toward common themes in her drawings. My urgent goal is to find the medium I enjoy the most (it might even be radio production), and put in my “10,000 hours.” This is obviously quite tedious and will require a lot of patience. But if I’m not actively pursuing this goal, I start to feel restless and unfulfilled.

The question still stands: why do human beings care so much to use their creativity? Why do we feel this intense need to use our hands? Even after reading up on the brilliant observations science has made on this subject, there’s a philosophical curiosity that can’t be satiated. So much is happening in the brain all at once when art is being made, or music being played, and we’ll never fully understand our own minds, so the mystery will go unsolved.

It was refreshing to look at books, and not just artists’ books, through this lens; naturally, writing of any kind is applicable to a conversation about creativity and expression. Even though we’ll never fully know why we feel the urge to write, at least we can rest assured that the urge will be there.



That Special Something

Where on campus can you find an illustration of the charismatic and extinct dodo bird, drawn by the hand of someone who lived among them? The answer, of course, is Special Collections. Even considering the last five months I’ve spent working there, pulling and re-shelving materials from its four chambers—the CC room, Colorado room, Special Editions room, and the vault—I still consider it a treat to have an entire class period, such as today’s, dedicated to a close look at a handful of items. I intend to become as familiar as possible with the collection during my four years, and this morning was another big step in that direction. Not to mention, now I’ve seen a predictably accurate sketch of the dodo bird (while on the previous page is a terrifying, seemingly inaccurate drawing of a flying squirrel).

In this half-block, our objective is to consider the nature of books as objects, rather than engaging in an intense scrutiny of their content, which is a necessary learning activity of your average course. Part of this consideration is the process of printing. Fortunately, the Press at Colorado College is a well-oiled machine (thanks to aficionado Aaron Cohick) that exposes to 21st century students the art of the letterpress. Yesterday we learned to set two sentences of type in preparation for our group printing project.


The printing room. (If you’ve ever wondered what’s behind the door next to Taylor Theatre, this is it!)


The classroom/prep space.


“I am here; I am happy.”

We have finalized our ideas for the mini-book we will print next week; my two-page spread will include poems and illustrations about banned books and the role they’ve played in society. I’ll also be commenting on what censorship might look like in the future––think Fahrenheit 451 (one of my all-time favorites, by the way).

It turns out that “The History and Future of the Book” is somewhat of a misleading title. Whenever I say it to others after they ask me which class I’m taking, many of them think “the Book” refers to the Bible, when really we’re looking at all books, not just the one that’s been printed, bought, and sold the most. Thank goodness, because it’s quite fascinating to think about where books have their origins, how they function in today’s world, and what they might look like in 100 years (Kindles only? Not enough trees to make paper?).  Hopefully, the book my classmates and I produce will encourage its readers to think about the same ideas.

We All Hate Helens, We Hate All Helens


Last night we read Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, an interpretation of the life of Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, and of the twelve maids that are hung after the slaughter of the suitors. Atwood asks in her introduction, “What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?”

In class, we drew connections between the Helen/Penelope relationship of The Penelopiad and the Helen/Annie relationship in Bridesmaids.

  • In The Penelopiad, Helen calls her cousin, Penelope, “little duck” or “little ducky.” In Bridesmaids, Helen constantly refers to Annie as Lillian’s “childhood friend,” and calls her “cute” or “sweet.”
  • In The Penelopiad and Bridesmaids, Helen slyly draws attention to how she is prettier than Penelope/Annie, disguising it as a compliment or assurance. On page 154, Helen tells Penelope, “Divine beauty is such a burden. At least you’ve been spared that!” On the flight to Vegas, Helen tells Annie that having a little scotch is ok, that she does it all the time and is fine, “and I’m a lot smaller than you, so–” 
  • Star and Sandor pointed out a great one – on page 188, Helen tells Penelope, “We could do a trip to Las Vegas. Girls’s night out! But I forgot–that’s not your style.” Annie wanted to have the bachelorette party at Lillian’s family’s lake house.

Star found a great still from Bridesmaids showing that the airlines that the bridesmaids took to Vegas was called Spartan Airlines. Helen is in her element, buying everyone’s ticket so they can “experience First Class at least once in their lives.”

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In The Penelopiad, Penelope tells us that the dead characters from these myths, such as Helen, Penelope, and Odysseus, can “have another try” at another life, being reborn into the modern world. Penelope explains, “Helen has had more than a few excursions. That’s what she calls them – ‘my little excursion'” (pg 187). Could Bridesmaids Helen be one of these excursions? Haunting.


Bachelorette Party

“It’s a lucky person who can read Pride and Prejudice and watch Bridesmaids in the same day. We are lucky.” – Lisa B. Hughes

On Monday night, we watched Bridesmaids (2011). Since the ladies in that film missed out on a rockin’ bachelorette party for Lillian, our “Setting The Table” group decided to throw one for our class.


If you have seen the movie, what do you think the Vegas bachelorette party would have been like, if Annie hadn’t had them all escorted back to Chicago? Was the flight in fact the bachelorette party? Becca had “a class of alcohol” and explored her sexuality with Rita, Megan invited “not a air marshall” man to have sex with her in the bathroom, and Helen got Annie to get drunk/drugged and do something stupid. A flight is a strange, liminal space, as is Vegas (are we in Paris? Egypt?).


Is there a Queen Bee in Bridesmaids? Who is it supposed to be? The bride? The maid of honor? Why is Helen such a Mean Girl? She doesn’t have a posse, she doesn’t even really have any friends. In Mean Girls, conflict between Regina and Cady begins when Regina “takes Aaron back.” Their female competition is over a man. Helen and Annie fight over a woman, Lillian. Does this change the methods of fighting?

Lisa explains that this is really a “sad breakup movie.” Does Annie and Lillian’s love and friendship die with Lil’s marriage? Is Annie really joking when she says “No I’m not [excited at the proposal]!”

7 5 6 8 9 3

(on Sunday we had brunch at Lisa’s house. She baked us a cake of rainbows and smiles)


Queen Bee

queenbeeWe spent all of class on Thursday dissecting the Queen Bee. Kate, Katherine, Andrew, and Ben (Glen Coco) led us in a discussion about the Queen Bee character in film, literature, and pop culture. We began with this quiz, which I recommend you also take:

my result:

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Bring it on. Lucy got Regina, Star got Blair, Andrew got Rizzo, and Lisa got A Bee (“No one could exist with out you youre always the center of attention and you deserve it. You are a great leader and endlessly loyal to your followers, which makes you a true gem”).

How many Queen Bees can you name? Here are some common qualities:

  • Power and influence over other women and men (but especially women)
  • Cunning, manipulative
  • Attractive
  • Wealthy

A real Queen Bee creates most, if not all the bees in her hive. There can never be two Queens in a hive, and an “old” Queen will fight the up and coming “new” Queen to the death. The Queen Bee doesn’t have a barbed stinger – she can sting over and over again. The worker bees feed the Queen royal jelly.

“I want royal jelly so bad.” – Lisa

Joan Crawford’s character in Queen Bee (1955) fits the role perfectly. She is powerful, beautiful, manipulative, and wealthy. One of the most interesting aspects of her character is the power in her female sexuality. Not only can she manipulate and control men with it, but she can also bring down the women of the Phillip’s house with the same power. She controls the other women’s sexuality (arranging and dressing Jen for her date with Ty) and can ruin them completely by sexually overpowering them and their men (Carol’s suicide).

List the Queen Bees you know. Here is my list:

  • Regina George (Mean Girls)
  • Eva (Queen Bee)
  • Rizzo (Grease)
  • Alison (Pretty Little Liars)
  • Taylor Vaughan (She’s All That)
  • Bianca Stratford (10 things I hate about you)
  • Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada
  • Josie (Josie and the Pussycats)
  • Tom Tom (13 Going On 30)

And which one are you?


On Wednesdays We Wear Pink

MEANGIRLS-0195 copy

“I’m sorry that people are so jealous of me…but I can’t help it that I’m popular.”

Welcome to our Half-Block course, “Queen Bees, Wannabees, and Mean Girls,” taught by self-proclaimed “Wannabee” but suspiciously Queen Bee-ish Professor Lisa B. Hughes.


You are undoubtably familiar with Mean Girls (2004), or if you’re not, someone you know is. It enriches our vocabulary, is being made into a musical, and causes me to dig through my house to find something pink for Wednesday. But Tina Fey didn’t create the first genius mean girl characters; these have been around for thousands of years.

In our first three days, we have compared Mean Girls to Machiavelli’s The Prince, examined girl power and competition in ancient Greek myths, and watched Joan Crawford wreak havoc in Queen Bee (1955).


Who are some iconic or memorable pop-culture girl groups or duos?

  • Arachne and Athena,
  • Penelope and Helen,
  • Elizabeth Bennett and Miss Caroline Bingley,
  • The Plastics
  • Charlie’s Angels
  • Lorelai and Rory
  • Lucy and Ethel…..the list goes on

How many are all seamless friends? Where do conflicts come from? Can girls be friends? Where do the conflicts in Mean Girls come from? How are they solved?

What is Girl World? Who makes the rules?

  • Those rules are even real. – They were real that time I wore a vest!
  • “Eating with the plastics was like leaving regular world and entering girl world” – “I know how this could be settled in the animal world, but this was girl world, and in girl world all the fighting had to be sneaky.”

Which is better, to bake a cake of rainbow and smiles, or to break the crown and give everyone a piece of it?

Is Brutus just as cute as Caesar?

How has female sexuality been portrayed over the years? How is it alike or different in Queen Bee and Mean Girls?

Are you a Queen Bee, a Wannabee, or a Mean Girl?

“And don’t be wrong” (John Tucker Must Die).


Personal Financial Planning


I don’t usually blog, but I feel morally obligated to promote the half block I am currently in, Personal Financial Planning, and what better way to tackle promotion than through the written word? I want everyone to know how smitten I am with this class. Normally I find myself enrolled in humanities classes—specifically English—but my mother is a financial planner, and I figured I might as well make an attempt at understanding her lingo. Also I figured it probably behooves me to learn a little bit about what it will look like when I become financially dependent (AHH!!!).

I cannot be more satisfied with this class, which, if I didn’t mention already (I checked and I didn’t), cost $0 to enroll in. I have not learned one thing in this lecture hall-style class (indeed, there are nearly 90 students!), read one term in my textbook, that I haven’t found useful—nay, necessary—in benefiting me in the future. On Friday, we had a CC-alum-turned-insurance-agent come talk to us. You’d think being talked at for three hours would become tiresome, but the entire presentation was interactive and I now know that if I hit a deer on the road, I am to tell my insurance agent, quote, that “the deer hit me.”

Of course, I still feel way over my head about this whole Me Eventually Becoming a Real Person Thing, but Friday in particular helped assuage some of that fear. According to my textbook, if George Washington invested just $1 from his presidential salary, his heirs would be multimillionaires today. So, I guess it helps to plan ahead, which is what this class is very, very good at encouraging me to do.

On top of being taught how to plan ahead, I’m learning a lot about things that won’t just affect me now, but later, too. I have a driver license and as suspected, I tend to drive to locations and back, so it helps to know about auto insurance. Do you know what GAP insurance is? No, it’s not when you don’t wear your retainer at night. It stands for Guaranteed Auto Protection and it covers the difference between the actual cash value of a vehicle and the balance still owed on the financing. Don’t worry, I had no idea either.

I believe my professor, Jim Parco, when he casually mentions how many faculty have expressed interest in taking this course. So, if you can, sign up for this class next year. There is no class limit and it can only be taken pass/fail, so no need to fret over a grade. Seriously, do it. After all, in the words of Parco, “Life is about choices.”