Posted by: csdailyblog | December 1, 2012

On Becoming an Informed Citizen



~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS5 student Maia Stack. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s 17 learning goals. Maia is from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin where she is a homeschool student.~

Conserve School Learning Goal: Will have taken a strong step forward on their educational path equal to or greater than the expected progression at their sending school.

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading” – Lao Tzu

“Action is the name for hope” – Janice Mirikitani

This year, I am privileged to be able to say that I will vote for our nation’s president. While something as simple as voting may not seem to be an honor as much as a right, voting in free and fair elections truly is a luxury when comparing our nation to many others: fraud runs rampant, one party smothers opposition, citizens don’t have the right to vote. This opportunity to take part in our democratic system is one that cannot be taken lightly. Sure, I may have my political bias, but to make a truly informed decision, I must look objectively at many different facets that underlie the two candidates’ positions.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” – Wayne Dyer

At Conserve School, my base knowledge and ability to be an informed citizen has increased dramatically in an area that I have heretofore neglected: the environment. Up until this point, I have never really understood our connection to the land, waters, and living things on our Earth. Here though, I am growing to notice those ties, and appreciate just how interdependent we all are. I think just being at Conserve would heighten anyone’s awareness of the natural environment. For me though it is the combination of natural surroundings and academic classes together that blows my mind – literally! The walls that define the edges of my mind are constantly being expanded as I learn. In terms of academics, the most important class I am taking here is APES, hands down.

AP Environmental Science

AP Environmental Science

AP Environmental Science (“APES” for short) is a constant adventure: we discover heretofore unknown facets of our Earth every day. While one day, we plunge into the depths of the ocean to view hydrothermal vents (the only known ecosystem on earth that doesn’t rely on the sun), another day we take a stroll in Central Park (learning about land use and urban planning). I can almost hear the insects living in the rainforest trees (in our study of biomes). I watch the mighty whale surfacing for a breath before diving down again. I marvel at how geothermal energy can heat an entire country (Iceland). I watch the ocean currents ebb and flow. However, for me, the adventure is not learning about the new environments per se (although I do love learning about the biomes!), but instead learning how they all fit together, woven in and out to form an interdependent fabric.

In each class, we listen to a lecture. From our seats, we learn about horrors that happened in Bhopal, India, Love Canal, and Chernobyl. We learn about the detrimental practices used to acquire shark fins, the dangers of nuclear energy, and the lack of precaution homeowners have when dealing with pesticides. There are also positive things we learn about, ways we can reduce our dependence on non-renewable energy, or prevent urban decay (when a city grows on the fringes, but the downtown center dies). Through APES, our awareness is expanded drastically. To me, the importance of classes, in learning, lies inherently in the broadening of perspective. By this model, APES could not be more stellar.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire” – William Yeats

While I think it can be pompous and judgmental to say that one era is more important than any other, I think that our generation is coming of age at a time of great change. I think in the future when we look back at the 21st century , the Arab Spring will seem to be just the beginning of a huge push from citizens. In America we are voting for a president that will guide us through the next four years. We are on the cusp of not only great political changes, but environmental ones as well. Our perspectives are still small enough that we aren’t looking at the broader consequences of our actions (the externalities), yet big enough that we feel content in our knowledge. That is scary – one should never feel “finished” learning. As William Yeats implies, education instills a passion for the world (and for learning) that is taken throughout a lifetime.

Watching the Presidential Debate

Watching the Presidential Debate

Our generation is going to have to deal with huge messes that we have made, are making, and are sure to make. I value classes like APES so much as a direct result – APES has revealed a whole “new world” to me – one that needs to be explored, appreciated, and protected. Andy, our teacher, is tooling us with information and broadening our perspectives to prepare us for the many opportunities that we will have to change the world. The broader perspective that I am gaining in APES can (and will) color my future decisions – like the one I have on November 6.

Thanks, Andy. I owe you one.

“Establishing lasting peace is the goal of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war” – Maria Montessori.

I want to add to that, however, an idea that peace is not just human to human, but also between human and natural environment.Then I agree with the quote completely.

~Maia Stack, Conserve School Semester 5


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