Posted by: csdailyblog | November 9, 2010

Up a Tree for Education

Connor reads John Muir's essay on climbing up a tall pine in a windstorm.

Conserve School English Teacher Jeff Rennicke contributed this post and the accompanying photos.

In December of 1874, John Muir climbed a hundred feet high into a swaying pine to better experience the heart of a Sierra windstorm. He kept his lofty perch, high in the branches of the tree swaying “like a bobolink on a reed” for several hours while others cowered in their homes. It was, for Muir, a way to climb even closer to the raw beauty of wilderness, a chance not to be passed up “For on such occasions Nature has always something rare to show us.”

Recently, in Conserve’s “Wilderness Voices” English class, students climbed (although not so  high and in significantly less wind) into the branches of a white pine to read Muir’s essay and discuss the life of one of this nation’s most important wilderness voices. “It may seem odd to study English in a tree,” says English teacher Jeff Rennicke, “but it seems perfectly in keeping with our semester school’s philosophy of experiential education. The students feel the same roughness of the bark, hear the same sound of wind humming through the pine tree’s needles, feel the sway of the tree against their bodies, at the same time they are reading Muir’s memorable words. I hope that an experience like this will resonate more deeply with the students than simply sitting in a desk reading silently, that sometime years from now when they see a tree dancing in the wind they will think of Muir and his passion for the world of nature.”

Think of it as nature up a tree.

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