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RI Coastal Resources Management Council preserve, protect, develop, and restore coastal resources for all Rhode Islanders

Preparing for rising seas with CRMC in "Art Aquatic"

This summer, kids ages six to 12 are learning how to live in a world with rising seas, building floating cities and buildings as part of their time at the Rhode Island School of Design's summer camp program at Tillinghast Farm in Barrington.

RISD Summer Camp Program

Thanks to instructors Don Schabot and Patricia Huntington, the kids are preparing for the future while still having fun, and Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council's (CRMC) Janet Freedman, a coastal geologist, gave them pointers on the realities of sea level rise in Rhode Island in 2050 and beyond, something their generation will likely live to see.

Twenty-six kids from all over Rhode Island walked along the beach collecting shells, driftwood and other materials and waded through the water while Freedman talked to them about rising seas, the impacts on salt marshes like the one at RISD Beach and their value, and human impacts to marshes that would be magnified with sea level rise, on June 25 for the program called, "Art Aquatic."

"The students were excited about coming up with unique solutions to the issues of sea level rise and climate change,"Huntington said. "Most of their designs show an enthusiasm for living in a floating environment, and are not constrained by costs and feasibility. These artists shared ideas, collaborated on design decisions, and had a great time meeting the challenge of creating floating cities."

RISD Summer Camp Program

The RISD Continuing Education Department has several classes in the Young Artists Program, including this one, and there are classes held at the farm throughout the year - during winter, spring and summer vacations, as well as weekends. A catalog of courses can be found here: . Camps are also held on the RISD campus in Providence. Week-long classes are based on a specific theme, and course instructors plan a variety of artistic experiences, 2D and 3D, around that theme, according to Huntington, Freedman's sister.

Other classes, she said, have used storytelling and illustration, landscape design, fantasy architecture, exploration of a single art concept (such as a circle), and travels to other cultures. Huntington and her colleague Donald Chabot have been teaching the RISD summer classes for more than 20 years, but the Young Artists Program has been running for longer. The two instructors employ a "STEAM" approach to course design: science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

RISD Summer Camp Program

This isn't the first time Freedman has been the guest of honor at the summer camp at Tillinghast. Huntington has called on her sister's expertise a number of times when the week's focus is on a science theme, and this session, Freedman provided insight into changing Barrington coastlines, infrastructure impacts to infrastructure like roads, drinking water supply, and wastewater treatment facilities. And with a beach, salt marsh and picturesque setting for the classroom, learning comes naturally.

"It seems inevitable that our earth is changing and most likely quicker than we think. Our young students will see major changes to the coastline as they age and will have to come to grips with it and learn how to adjust living styles,” Chabot said. “Early education will hopefully help. I believe that creative people from the beginning of time have been those that used science and technology through the arts and have brought us to where we are today. I believe that the arts are at the center of learning."

There is a practical purpose behind the fun, according to Freedman.

"Teaching young kids about sea level rise is important because they will be the ones who have to deal with the impacts when they are adults," she said. "Taking a creative problem-solving approach early on will hopefully guide them in the future, and they will continue to look for attractive adaptation solutions."


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