Dr. Emily Pawley, History

American Environmental History

Emily Pawley used insights gained from Valley and Ridge to revise one of her core courses, HIST 206, American Environmental History. In environmental history, the landscape itself becomes an artifact to be studied, bearing the layered marks of past social and natural change in buildings, infrastructure, and collections of organisms. Spanning multiple centuries and cultures, the town of Carlisle is a particularly rich and valuable artifact. Valley and Ridge provided Pawley with tools necessary to make this artifact available to her students, both by revealing new levels of regional knowledge, including geology and local natural history, and by suggesting new pedagogical techniques for making the experience of observing landscape meaningful to students.

Following the workshop, Pawley has expanded her “Carlisle as a Primary Source” unit, to a series of experiential learning opportunities spanning the semester, including hunts for weeds brought by the earliest settlers, sketches of the remnants of old energy regimes like the Carlisle Livery Stables and the remains of the train station, examinations of the ways that social power shapes the physical layout of the town of Carlisle, and guided tours of the Dickinson gardens explaining the philosophy behind the native plantings, the historic herb garden, and the food gardens. Inspired by Valley and Ridge she has worked to connect the classroom more closely to students’ outdoor experience by gathering and assigning eighteenth and nineteenth century travelers’ accounts of Carlisle, by finding methodological texts that can help student reflect on landscape analysis, and by developing short writing assignments that will allow students to bring their insights back into the classroom. Following this course, students will be able to take the mental tools developed to other places, to use landscapes as lenses through which they can examine, critique, and appreciate their regions and the societies that produced them.