Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

A taste of adventure

Betsey Dyer

Professor of Biology Betsey Dyer sniffs some edible greenery at her childhood farm in Rehoboth, Mass.

In the spring 2010 issue of the Quarterly, I wrote a story about “The Complete Amateur Naturalist” First Year Seminar, which was taught by Professor of Biology Betsey Dyer, in collaboration with Professor of Religion Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus. As part of my fact gathering, I eagerly accompanied the class and professors on a field trip to the Rehoboth farm where Dyer grew up.

It wasn’t enough for students to discuss and read about eating off the land in the classroom. Dyer and Brumberg-Kraus, two well-known campus foodies, wanted them to experience it. So Wheaton.

Orange mushroom

Orange mushroom

On a lovely day in September, reporter’s notebook in hand, I followed the group around the farm as they learned about various edible flowers and plants, including a really strange-looking orange mushroom growing from the side of a tree. (Brumberg-Kraus would later use one of those in a stew after a student discovered one on campus.)

At one point, as the group was sampling some sort of greenery from the ground and I was observing from my objective writer’s distance, Dyer suggested that I eat what they were eating. And faster than I could say, “Are you kidding me? No way,” she had popped the green whatever into my mouth! From what I remember (I’ve been trying to forget), she had a vague smile of satisfaction on her face as I munched in disbelief.

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Letters to the editor

Autism story shows contrast to earlier days

Congratulations on your article about autism in the winter Quarterly. It is truly amazing to see how many media stories there are now about autism spectrum disorders, something few people knew of back in 1974 when I was hired to teach a class of 3-year-old autistic children.

I answered an ad in the local Westchester County newspaper looking for a teacher in this field. When I read the ad, I thought it said “artistic” children. Since I had majored in art at Wheaton and had a master’s degree in elementary education, I thought I’d apply. Little did I know what I was getting into. I had four children in my first class, all nonverbal, severely autistic, self-abusive, spinning, no social skills, etc., and it was quite something to deal with.

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