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“Most buildings,” Lydia Doleman says, “are built from processed materials that don’t come from the surrounding environment.” Doleman, a natural builder, and non-profit startup founder came to campus this past week to teach Service Learning leaders about the uses and benefits of natural building techniques.

Cob building, a methodology that sources materials directly from the surrounding environment, also has the benefit of directly connecting the builder to the local environment.

To demonstrate this, Lydia had Service Learning leaders gather and use natural materials to make a Winchendon logo out of soil, sand, and straw. The process was arduous and required several hours of labor, mixing and adding, and, ultimately, applying the material.

According to Lydia, the Cob construction methodology is a positive solution that lies at the intersection of environmental justice and other social issues. This helps Service Learning leaders because it involves them first hand in a process that asks them to do more than follow directions. To make this big muddy logo, they needed to work together, they needed to get their hands dirty, but they also needed to think about the basic materials they were working with, and how those things interact with each other.

At the Winchendon School, all students engage in what we call ‘Service Learning’, a community and knowledge-based approach to community service. Unlike Community Service, Service Learning revolves around understanding the root causes of a social problem and attempting to find permanent solutions. Our Service Learning program also gives many of our students a leadership opportunity, in that each Service Learning class is lead by a student leader that manages the class’s schedule and upcoming field trips.

Examples of Service-Learning groups at The Winchendon School include Veteran’s Outreach, a class that looks for ways to help veterans returning from foreign conflicts to reintegrate into civilian life, and Advocacy for Animals, which is concerned with the ethical treatment of pets and factory farm production.

Bradley B. ‘21, one of the leaders of the Veteran’s Outreach Service Learning group, had this to say: “It’s a bit of a leap of faith. When I’m in the classroom leading it feels like I have that responsibility on my shoulders. I’m responsible for me and fifteen other students and what they do and how they help out in the community.” to learn more about Bradley’s Service Learning experience, check out this video below.

Lydia Doleman is the founder of and Flying Hammer Productions. From her website: “Flying Hammer Productions is an Oregon based natural building company focused on infusing the urban fabric with natural materials and empowering people to create their own healthy, natural and beautiful spaces. Locally owned and operated, with 13 years construction experience in the straw bale and natural building field, we offer a wide range of services.”

You can find her at: