by Nicole Dunham and Jan Dawe
Slowly, but also all too quickly, the days crept by to Saturday, October 17: the date of OneTree's much-anticipated first event in its new maker space--the old Lola Tilly Commons kitchen on the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) campus.
Over the past few months, UAF Facilities Services did the technical work to morph the kitchen into the OneTree Alaska STEM to STEAM Lab. Program staff aided the effort with flurries of cleaning and organizing; it was exciting and stressful in turns. On Saturday, not even the rain could dampen our spirits as we welcomed our core K-12 teachers, colleagues and volunteers to the Tilly.
There could have been no better person to lead the STEM to STEAM Lab's first workshop than Dr. John Zasada, one of the inspirations behind the creation of OneTree Alaska. John is well known to many in the Fairbanks community from his seventeen years of work as a research silviculturalist at the Institute of Northern Forestry. Towards the end of his career, John became interested in the utilization and beauty of birch bark. Journeying from his home in Minnesota, John brought his knowledge of birch bark weaving and much more to the group. We learned to make a bread basket that can be used to bake and serve bread in. Just a few hours after the workshop, Randy Smith Middle School teacher Chis Pastro emailed, "Please tell John Z. that I finished the basket and it is beautiful (even with its perfect imperfections)."
If you are interested in learning more about the entire process of working with birch bark, please watch this excellent video "John Zasada and the Art of Living with Birch Bark," put together by the International Wood Culture Society: