Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 New Thing 7. Free Cone Day

Last night I was downloading some pictures and realized I had recently done a blogworthy New Thing and it hadn't even registered.  Every community has its own local traditions that might be observed in other places, but not with the same meaning.  Here in Burlington, Vermont Free Cone Day (FCD) is one such event and, though I've lived here for a dozen years now, I'd never been.

The MDG independent study group hard at work: Alexsis, Ben, Amanda and Matt
 For the sake of any ice cream haters out there (for they would be the only people who don't know this), I'll recap: on April 12 Ben and Jerry's ice cream stores throughout the world open their doors to everyone and give free cones to anyone willing to wait in line for them.  For us Burlingtonians, this day has special significance, because our downtown is the birthplace of the Ben and Jerry's scoop shop and though the company got sold to Unilever some years ago (to our everlasting sadness), Ben and Jerry are still prominent Vermonters and supporters of the lefty politics that makes the political right wing of this country avoid our state like the plague.  Plus, on a good year April 12 is our first day of spring, since the one that the Weather Channel claims (March 21) is usually marked by some kind of blizzard here.

This year April 12 fell on a Tuesday, which is also the day of one of my favorite activities of this semester, my independent study meetings with Alexsis, Amanda, Ben and Matt.  Every once in a while a teacher gets lucky by having an astoundingly great group of students all in the same class. That happened to me in fall 2010 when I taught a new course on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for the first time.  As I've written elsewhere, and will be writing about again shortly, the interest of the class has blossomed into an amibitious book project, drawing in a lot of outstanding alumni, that we are pursuing together.  On Tuesdays I have been teaching two different independent studies with four of the students involved in the project.  Alexsis and Matt were not able to take the original class and so have been doing the readings from the course and meeting for the discussions.  Ben and Amanda were in the original class and signed on for an advanced topics version of the MDG experience.  All four of them have also been helping bring together the logistics of the project, which are about to get complicated in a hurry, because this summer, with major support from the office of the Saint Michael's College Academic Vice President, Karen Talentino, we are continuing with the writing and sending student teams to four countries to gather information.  That project will be its own post, but for now, I'll just say it's a lot of work to pull together, and it's been great to have the support of the independent study team.

When we met on the twelth it was a beautiful and sunny late afternoon, and we quickly decided that we could just as easily discuss our aganda standing in line on Cherry Street as around a table in Alliot Hall.  So, we crammed into my car, headed downtown and loaded up on ice cream.  Oh, and learned a new truism -- nothing says Millennium Development Goals like Ben and Jerry's.
MDGs + free Ben and Jerry's + warm spring day = the Perfect Independent Study Class

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