A Shakespearean Twist

Doctoral candidate Ben Dittbrenner, who taught ESRM 426: Wildland Hydrology this winter, used the new SEFS buses for eight field trips throughout the quarter. Three different drivers helped shuttle the class to field sites, and one in particular, GregRobin Smith, really engaged with the students.

Ben had heard from another driver that GregRobin was also the president of the Washington Shakespeare Festival, so he asked him about it one day. They quickly struck up a conversation, and over the course of multiple field trips GregRobin became integrated into the class.

“He was cool from the start,” says Ben. “At the end of each class, we would have a round-up and get in circle to talk about what we observed out in the field. GregRobin would always hang out with us, and at some point we started talking about incorporating Shakespeare into the course.”

GregRobin eventually brought up an apt hydrology lesson from Shakespeare’s Henry V. In the play, the seriously outnumbered English face a decisive battle against the French, who on the day before the clash parade their horses around the battleground in a show of force. It had been raining for weeks, and the horses churned up the soil into a soggy mess. When the French charged the following day, they got bogged down in the muck, and the English archers picked them apart and ultimately won the battle.

“We had just finished talking about how water affects soils, and this was just a perfect real-world example,” says Ben. “So we made it into an extra credit question on the midterm, and the students were really into it.”

For the last field trip, in fact, the class decided to give GregRobin an award for being such a great contributor to the course experience. One of the students brought in a wood cookie, which she had sanded down, and they all voted on what it should read—“Certificate of Excellence in Shakespearean Hydrology”—before signing it.

In return, GregRobin awarded Ben a new title as the “Official Wildland Hydrology Advisor for the Washington Shakespeare Festival.”

Photo © Ben Dittbrenner.

2016_03_Bus Driver Honored

GregRobin, left, with Ben at the end of the quarter.