Wilderness Voices teacher, Jeff, began his classes on Monday and Tuesday by engaging his student’s imagination through dramatic music and a powerful slide show of the wonders of the wilderness. He asked his students to recall a time when they felt insignificant next to these wonders. Perhaps you have felt it too? You have probably been outside on a dark night and looked up to see a sky glistening with distant stars. Or maybe you felt an incredible sense of awe when you examined the intricate pattern of a spider’s web. Or perhaps you have felt the deep darkness of the forest press in all around you while huddling around a campfire one night. These experiences and many others may cause feelings of insignificance and fear to well up in our minds as we contemplate what creatures might be lurking in the mysterious wilderness. Over the last few weeks, students in Jeff’s class have been wrestling with this question: How has human fear of the wilderness influenced the environment?
As a part of their studies students will be making a “Field Guide to Wilderness Demons” in which they will provide drawings, descriptions, measurements, and behavior traits for three fantastic wilderness creatures (such as trolls, elves, and centaurs) whose suspected presence has helped to shape human understanding of wilderness. The student’s field guides will also examine the role that St. Francis of Assisi, Petrarch, Kuo Hsi, and the Bible have played in advancing or dismissing the idea of the wilderness as a dwelling place of demons.
After the assignment had been introduced the class headed down to the art room to meet with Nancy, one of our art teachers, who showed the students some of the many art supplies that they had available to use. Art supplies included large sheets of paper that could be cut and bound into a notebook or folded accordion style into a concertina style book, water color paints, colored pencils, markers, and glue and scissors for collages. Then Jeff turned the students loose to work with a reminder that the project is “a work of the imagination. We provide the supplies and time, and you provide the imagination.”
~ Graduate Fellow Heather