“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
This afternoon I observed a combined session of Conserve School’s core English and History classes – or rather, I observed a session of Congress! Students spent the afternoon debating and rewriting the Wilderness Act of 1964 in groups while English teacher Jeff Rennicke and history teacher Michael Salat guided them through the process. In the end, students voted on their favorite version of the bill and a member of the winning group was elected President of the United States. The history part of the class came in during a discussion of what else was happening in the country during the tumultuous 1960s, and the English came through in the word-smithing necessary to write a new draft of the bill, including a discussion of the meaning of the unusual word “untrammeled.” The debate about what should and shouldn’t be allowed in wilderness areas was especially engaging, as students considered whether activities like hunting and mountain biking are appropriate in designated wilderness. Even when our students stay inside the classroom, they are making connections with the school’s theme of environmental stewardship, and they concluded by electing our nation’s first female head of state!