[Throughout the Spring ’18 semester, Social Media Ambassador Amanda has explored Montreal and its many hidden corners. Here she gives her best reasons as to why students should consider coming up here with the Champlain Abroad program]
Last Thursday SCI-155 Global Environmental Earth Science visited tropical rainforests, a forest full of butterflies, a hacienda, and many other ecosystems. How did we do this while in Montreal? Well, we went to the Montreal Botanical Garden!
Our first stop when we got there was the Insectarium where we saw many cool (and terrifying) insects. Not only did they have many preserved specimens, but they had some live ones as well. Most notably, they have an open vine on the top floor where ants are freely roaming around. This is something that people normally aren’t able to see so seeing ants interact with each other and move about an open space was really cool. Next we moved into the greenhouses. This was a truly beautiful space. We entered in the middle and to either side the building had rooms filled with different kinds of plants from different environments. We walked through environments ranging from a tropical rain forest, a temperate forest, an Asian garden with bonsai trees, a hacienda in the desert, a room full of cacti and plants from arid regions, and even more impressively a room full of butterflies.
Let me just open this blog post in a very honest way – I am a huge baby when it comes to insects. They are really small but absolutely horrifying, they have skeletons on the outside of their bodies, and some have more legs than I have fingers which is the most horrifying thing in the world. Whenever I see a bug or have an unfortunate interaction with one, I’m paranoid for the next five minutes about what may be crawling on me that I’m unaware of. When I volunteered for this blog post, I figured I could give myself a reason to enjoy what otherwise would be a very neutral experience for me, but what I found is that I didn’t really need an excuse, the experience was quite interesting.
After our SCI 155 class departed from the metro station and arrived at the Insectarium, which was a much smaller building than I expected. I remember thinking that there wouldn’t be many bugs on display because of lack of space, but then I promptly remembered how small bugs are. Once we were inside, I saw the corny graphics on the wall of their stick bug mascot, there to inform us about the wonders of insectoid life. There was a large dome-like room with stairs descending down to the displays. The factoids on the wall were interesting with some good nuggets of information about what certain bugs eat, how they defend themselves, adaptations they may develop depending on their environment, but I’m a visual learner. The wall graphics weren’t nearly as interesting as the legions of mostly dead insects in glass cases, all staring at me with their wicked eyes and antennae.
Environmental change is a “big” issue, in the sense that it’s something too expansive for me as an individual to influence or change. It’s important, yes, but how is a single person supposed to influence this issue? Do the efforts of little each person really count?
With that in mind, I went with my Environmental Science in Montreal (SCI 155) class to the Concordia Greenhouse, a collectively run and consensus-based nonprofit organization. Their main goal is to promote sustainable horticulture and education through workshops, open exhibits, and a welcoming atmosphere created by the horticulture. They allow other groups to use their space for the purpose of displaying or experimenting with new techniques of growing, adding to the educational diversity it has. The greenhouse itself holds dedicated growing rooms or communal spaces, where more plants can grow in a less controlled environment. The dedicated rooms either held projects by the greenhouse or those who rented it out and growing rooms for specific plants. They are a promoter of the idea of urban agriculture, which is the idea that the urban landscape can work with sustainable growing methods to maximize the usefulness and value of space in cities through rooftop gardens and other urban agricultural solutions, such as smaller-scale greenhouses.
After an unexpected heatwave that rivaled Florida, the weather finally cooled off enough to enjoy fully the outdoors. Without the boiling heat, a Friday trip to the Botanical Garden’s annual Garden of Lights was actually something to look forward to. While I’ve been to the famous Garden many times, I had never been there when the light festival was held. Needless to say, already a fan of the Garden, the event was something I anticipated.
The breeze was cool and the metro bearable as the group made their way from the academic center to the Garden with a noticeable mass of others. Many people streamed from the sidewalks and joined together on the walk to the gardens, and excitement that many felt could be shared by everyone.
When you are living within a city, such as Montreal, it can be overwhelming sometimes with all of the towering buildings and concrete. However, just a short walk from downtown is Mont Royal, the mountain that Montreal has built its base around. This park is filled with plenty of picnic spots, hiking trails, running trails, and other refreshing green spaces.
As the semester is coming to an end, the SCI 155 environmental science class here in Montreal decided to take a trip to Mont Royal for our final field trip. Throughout the semester, we have visited several museums and science exhibits, however, this is the first time that we were able to get hands on experience within the community. Our task for the day – clean up trash throughout the park.
As our fifth week in wintry Montreal came to an end, we escaped the cold during our Friday morning Environmental Earth science class and visited the Concordia Greenhouse. Just a short metro ride away, and located at Montreal’s second-largest English-language university, it is one of the only rooftop greenhouses in Montreal. The greenhouse creates a very warm and relaxing environment making it the perfect place for students to study and work on homework.
As part of our weekly labs in the Earth Science class here in Montreal, there are a number of ‘excursions’ to various sites throughout the city that help students better understand some of the concepts taught in class. This past Friday, we spent our morning exploring the Redpath Museum and all of its little intricacies. The Redpath Museum is a natural history museum located the center of the McGill University campus, and has been around for a number of years, cementing itself as a Montreal institution.
Laura demonstrating her slightly-better-than-average skating abilities. (Photo: Silas Baker)
Back in Burlington, receiving Facebook invites for RA events as a Junior isn’t as exciting as they were in the first year of college. Admittedly, while making paper cranes in the common room with some friends is stress relieving, it isn’t exactly something you’d look forward to all week (or maybe it is, if you’re really devoted to paper cranes). In Montreal, those Facebook invites are something to get excited about. From the pub crawl during Orientation Weekend to traveling to the top of Mont Royal, the RA’s and staff here have got it down. In such a busy city with so much to do, how can you pass up any opportunity?
Last weekend our RA’s Matt, Haley, and Natalie brought us up to Mont Royal Park, where the group Les amis de la montagne (The Friends of the Mountain) offers any winter activity you can think of. From snowshoeing or cross country skiing to ice skating, rentals for equipment is affordable and the park is open all day!
It wasn’t instantly evident how a SCI 155 outing to the Canadian Centre for Architecture would be related to global environmental earth science. When mentioning an architecture museum, I imagine most people think about the style of buildings, their historical background and the endeavors of the architect. However, we quickly found out that this wasn’t an ordinary architecture museum . . . if anything, this museum highlights how humans seem to be the architects of their own demise.