The Cannon River as a Living Laboratory

31 January 2024

With growing commitments to community, interdisciplinary, and sustainability, Carleton aims to enhance collective action across our work. We’ve set an institutional goal to support sustainability across the curriculum and deepen student experiential learning through living laboratory experiences on and off-campus. To strengthen our shared vision, we’re fostering cross-departmental and cross-organizational threads and initiatives.

To that end, the City of Northfield, Clean River Partners, and Carleton’s Humanities Center and Sustainability Office are hosting Cannon River Working Group meetings to share ideas and strategies for supporting riverfront development and climate action actively underway along the Cannon River. Following a preliminary meeting with a small group of faculty, staff, partners, and city representatives, we are excited to open up conversation to more folks interested in exploring education or collaborative connections with the Cannon Riverfront development. These meetings will be held in the Larson Room (236) in the Weitz on:

  • Tuesday, March 5, 2:30–4:30 p.m.
  • Monday, April 8, 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Specifically, we’re seeking input on connections and entries you can make:

  • Helping the community process changes in the built environment in, on, and next to the Cannon River in downtown Northfield.
  • Improving the sharing of student work examining or explaining city decisions and implementation opportunities (e.g., shorter format sharing of comps projects).
  • Exploring community science or monitoring efforts for water, climate, ecosystems, and human health and equity.
  • Engaging students in decisions most relevant to them such as recreational opportunities along the new rapids as the Ames Dam is reconstructed.
Ames Mill Dam on the Cannon River
Ames Mill Dam on the Cannon River that will be reconstructed into rapids along with other riverfront development.

These meetings don’t commit participants to specific actions, but collaborative interests will be made public and hold the potential to inform future education and or action efforts. For example, at Carleton there is expressed interest in common quests, such as riverfront development, that unites folks interested in working together in education or connecting with partners. Several attendees have expressed interest in exploring funding opportunities to innovate and provide support (resources and backbone structures) for collaborative activities.

Most of all, we hope to see folks who love the Cannon River and would like to find a way to support a sustainable, equitable, and just future in the work and action ahead.


Sarah Fortner, Director of Sustainability at Carleton  (

Baird Jarman, Director of the Humanities Center at Carleton

in collaboration with

Risi Karim, Assistant to the City Administrator, City of Northfield

Bruce Jacobson, Contractor to the City of Northfield

Jennifer Tonko, Executive Director, Clean River Partners