CTA Livingston surveyor Bornemann aids Thoreau-inspired high school design competition

By: CTA In The News
15 November 2017
Photo by Nate Howard, Livingston Enterprise: George Bornemann, a local surveyor and Livingston School District board member, center left, interviews, from left, Kenyon Jones and Lincoln Jeffery, both 16, about their modern day “Walden Pond” cabin.

From livingstonenterprise.com:

BUILDING ‘WALDEN’ | Students design own 21st-century version of Thoreau’s cabin

Project-based learning — where American literature meets shop class. Earlier this week, students of Park High School English teacher Natalie Storey displayed models they had made of tidy homesteads based on the famous tome of self-sufficiency, Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.” “Walden” was published in 1854 and is based on his experience of living simply in a small cabin in the woods next to Walden Pond.

The students set up their models in the PHS Library Tuesday afternoon. Adult judges, including other teachers and community members, roamed the room to quiz the students on their constructions. The judges’ written ratings and remarks would be a factor in the students’ grades, Storey said.

In the latest education trend of offering more hands-on learning, the students didn’t just read “Walden,” but were assigned the project of building their own cabin in the woods and asked to describe how they would live there, as simply and as self-contained — and built by their own labor — as possible. Storey’s assignment encouraged the students to think about, as Thoreau wrote, food, shelter, clothing and fuel, but also place, water and energy.

“Simply saying, ‘We will have solar panels’ isn’t enough,” the assignment states. As for food and water, the students were asked to consider what sort of crops their land might support, how they would preserve food for winter, and if they planned to hunt, how they would store the meat. The students, working in teams or individually, built, on plywood platforms of about three feet on each side, log cabins, chicken coops, and small credit card-sized pieces of wood to indicate the roof to the root cellar. Nearly every cabin had a rain barrel under a roof gutter. A couple of projects had solar panels, south-facing greenhouses and rooftop gardens or other plant material.

PHS junior Teagan Killorn, active in FFA, has taken several Industrial Arts classes, so building a little house came naturally to her. “It’s the first time I’ve built anything this small,” she said Tuesday in the school library. Killorn’s plan included a chicken coop and small enclosure for sheep. The sheep could provide wool and meat, she said. She had built a small storage shed on stilts to protect it from scavenging animals. She planned to raise chickens for eggs and meat, grow a garden, and keep bees. Her plot was built next to a small creek for water. Her tools list include a bow and arrows, a pressure cooker, and canning jars.

The purpose of building something in English class is to “make us think about what we’re reading,” Jayden Shuman, a junior, said.

Livingston School District board member George Bornemann was one of the judges. Bornemann is a surveyor [for CTA Architects Engineers], just as Thoreau sometimes made a living, and is also a frequent rereader of “Walden.” He asked some of the students what they were going to do for money. One young man said he would sell vegetables. “Thoreau had to go out and survey when he needed to make a few dollars,” Bornemann said. “You can’t be totally self-sustainable.”



“Thoreau has always been one of my favorite authors/philosophers. And few know that when he did need a couple dollars, he worked as a land surveyor. When evaluating the students’ projects, I gave the most weight to simplicity. The student who only wanted to live on one acre rather than twenty because they wouldn’t have as much upkeep and could earn the purchase price without having to work so long, scored higher than those that had big spreads, solar panels, and lots of other ‘luxuries.’

“The more possessions we have and the bigger houses in which we live, the longer we have to work and the less time we have to truly enjoy life. That was Thoreau’s philosophy and one I try to emulate — albeit with varying degrees of success!”

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    • Ken Richardson 1 year ago

      George is a good soul. Spending time with George is also good for our souls. He has been a champion of multiple good causes in Livingston and YNP. Great to hear his philosophy on life