Posted by: csdailyblog | May 21, 2012

Paddling and Portaging through the Past

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We are very fortunate to have the Sylvania Wilderness right at our doorstep, expanding our outdoor classroom with another 18,000 acres of beautiful Northwoods lakes and forest. Last week during history and English class this outdoor classroom transported students back in time as they experienced firsthand the trials and victories that the Lewis and Clark expedition faced when portaging around the Great Falls of the Missouri River.

Students learned canoe strokes and portaging skills in Field instruction two days before the trip, and they put these skills into practice as they paddled and portaged between 5 lakes in the Sylvania Wilderness.  The trip took 4 hours.  Students felt the weight of that historical portage as they portaged 92 rods from Loon Lake into Deer Lake.  They experienced relief when they saw a glittering lake over a rise in the portage trail.  They delighted in a snack and a break from the hard work as they read an excerpt from Lewis and Clark’s journal about the 4th of July celebration and feast.  This is a typical day in class at Conserve School.  We learn through experiences and hands-on activities.

As the students paddled across their final lake they were challenged to consider what Wilderness might look like in the future.  They read an essay called “Through the looking glass: What value will we see in wilderness in 2064?” by Jeff Rose and Dan Dustin.   This essay and the discussion questions presented a challenge for student and instructor alike: How can I use my voice to play a part in ensuring that the wilderness that we travel through is the way that I want it to be?  It’s good to know that Conserve School holds a community of students, teachers, and staff who will work together to protect treasures like The Sylvania Wilderness, and that, at the end of the semester, these students will be taking with them the skills and mindset to make a difference in their home communities. 

~Graduate Fellow Heather

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