Beyond Academic Knowledge

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“Because siblings don’t let each other wander in the dark alone.” -Jolene Perry

I wish I could say that I’ve been so busy over the past few days I didn’t have time to write a blog! But in fact, it’s been a quiet week, with a lot of time in class and reading, and not much time adventuring. Indeed, it’s much more enjoyable writing (and reading) about nature and adventures than about classwork.

Nevertheless, my brother, Joshua drove up from New York to spice things up! We went to Boston and enjoyed a delicious Chinese dinner, walked around the mall for a bit, and then plopped on a comfy bed at the nearby Inn. It was great catching up with him, considering the fact that he’ll be departing for Israel in a few days, and I off to New Zealand in around a month, and it’ll be a while till we meet again.

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Photo Credits: Jenna Lilly

In my Leadership in a Dynamic Environment (LDE) class, we took a break from studying leadership tactics and cases and received our first of the many upcoming lessons on Nautical Science. For now, though, we learned some basic navigation skills such as longitude, latitude, legend keys, and how to use tools to determine position and distance. After our lesson, we were sent off to roll up our sleeves and put our newly acquired knowledge to practical use. Sure enough, we all found navigation to be much tougher than we thought! Our generation is definitely spoiled by GPS and phone apps that instantly give us our position and directions in a matter of seconds.

One of the biggest things I’m looking forward to while at sea (there’s countless things), is the opportunity to disconnect myself from ALL modern technology and live life through basic technologies such as hardcover books, basic maps, and even astronomy knowledge. Although I will have a laptop with me to type homework and research notes, I will have zero WiFi access so I will have to create files filled with any information that I may need to aid me with any projects that I will be completing while on ship.

This makes me think of my beloved grandfather, who passed away ten years ago. In wake of his death, my father flew out to New York to clean up and organize the things that he left behind. When he returned home, he brought with him hundreds of files that my grandfather had stored inside his desk drawer. They were filled with extremely detailed notes on almost every topic you could think of! One file specifically on his experience serving in World War II, another on chess, and even one on toothpaste! Because in his days, the Internet didn’t exist, he would have to walk all the way to the library every time he wanted get information on something. So, instead of wasting time and energy doing that, he’d just stay at the library for a few hours and write down notes on anything he thought he’d ever need. Seventy years later, here I am, about to employ the exact same strategy as he did for my WiFi-less sea journey!

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Today, during my Data Visualization & Communication (DVC) class, we discussed the different types of graphs that can be utilized to visualize a set of data. Then, we took a graph that attempted to display the concept of energy loss within the marine life food chain. For those who aren’t familiar with this concept — when a second level consumer eats a first level producer, it only retains 10% of the energy from the plant, and releases the remaining 90% through respiration and  excretion, and thus when the third level consumer eats said animal, it only gets 10% of its full energy potential. Again, the animal releases 90% of that 10%, and so on.. The moral of the story? If humans truly wanted to be energetically conscious eaters, we should opt to consume the animals that are lower in the food chain as they haven’t lost as much energy as the animals on the top.

However, the initial graph that we saw explained this concept very terribly, so my professor assigned my class to re-draw it in a completely new form in order to better explain the concept. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.

Well, the actual creation part was, but the discussion part prior to the creation took forever. Who’s our audience? Which type of graph? How to include/exclude information to best convey the concept? What animals to use as an example? Use the metric or customary system for measurement? And so on..

At the end of the project, we finally came to an agreement on the answers to the above questions, and turned in our final design. This activity truly exposed the backstage drama that occurs at almost every newspaper office, and gave us a new appreciation for the beautiful visualizations that we find all over books, magazines, and the Internet. Data visualization is no easy task!

Here’s to more challenging, educational tasks that teach us beyond just academic knowledge!

Till the next one….

Rachel

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3 thoughts on “Beyond Academic Knowledge

  1. I’m glad you kept your word after mentioning it to me in the class! I can imagine it will be tremendously unique experience for you! Good luck!

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