WILDER Compound Workshop Series Promotes Sustainability

For two weeks now, groups of a dozen or more students have gathered in 601 Tully, a center for engaged art and research in Syracuse’s Westside neighborhood.  Ranging anywhere from freshmen in high school to graduating seniors enrolled at Syracuse University, the students are part of a workshop hosted by SU Showcase called the WILDER Compound.

The WILDER Compound, which stands for Wildly Interdependent Living + Design Education for Resilience, was dreamed up by Brooklyn-based Designer Jill Allyn Peterson in conjunction with Modern Primitive Exchange Project Director Ethany Uttech and Canary Project co-founders Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris.

Wilder42 The project consists of 6 Saturday afternoon workshops that are meant to encourage students to cultivate self-reliance and sustainable living. Through the workshops students are learning community organizing and web design, repair old bikes, create bike-powered phone chargers, build an earth oven, construct a geodesic dome, and grow their own food.

In their first meeting on February 8th, students learned about community organizing and web design by creating their own collaborative website to document the workshop series. Check it out here. This way, students can not only document the work that they’re doing, but they can also show the world what they’re up to. Special-guest and community organizer Molly Rose Kaufman of Orange, NJ also joined the workshop for the day to lead a few activities and a discussion about how to be successful community organizers.

In their second meeting on February 22nd, students were joined by local Mello Velo Bicycle Shop owners Steve and Sara Morris for a tutorial on bike repair and maintenance. From tuning up the brakes to changing a flat tire, the WILDER Compound-goers got their hands dirty and learned a few tricks of the trade. The group celebrated their new skills by taking their new-and-improved bikes for a spin around the block.

Next on the agenda is the construction of bike-powered phone chargers on March 1, followed by the construction of an earth oven on March 22, the construction of a geodesic dome on April 5 and a tutorial on growing your own food on April 19.

One of the coolest parts about the series is that it draws students from 15 different majors—Philosophy, Photography, Chemical Engineering, Architecture, Writing, Geography, Sociology, Advertising, Information Studies, Biology/Public Health, Environmental Engineering, International Relations, Film, Industrial Design and Policy Studies.

Alexander Vélez, a sophomore studying Philosophy and International Relations at SU, highlighted how much appreciates the diversity of student majors and interests in the class: “I have learned a lot of different ways of doing things from the other students.” He also went on to discuss how the project has helped him gain skills that he hopes to use in Bolivia this summer where he will be an intern at a legal think tank.

The workshop series will culminate its work on May 3rd with a party at Southwest Community Farm where they will cut the ribbon on the greenhouse dome, cook locally grown food in the earth oven they constructed, decorate bicycles and host live music and entertainment.

Moving forward, there have been lots of ideas thrown around about how the students can carry on the legacy of this workshop after the series comes to a close. One idea is to install a stationary bike in the Schine Student Center that would allow students to charge their phones with one of the bike-powered phone chargers constructed through the workshop. Another option is getting a “bike-share” program up and running on campus using the bikes they repaired.

Regardless, it’s clear that these students are just getting started and with 4 more workshops in the works, who knows what they’ll come up with next.

For more information on the WILDER Compound series, contact Ethany Uttech at eauttech@gmail.com.

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