~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS6 student Annie Woody. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s 17 learning goals. Annie is from Viroqua, Wisconsin where she attends Youth Initiative High School.~
The beginning of the CS6 semester swirled in on a beautiful, and snowy February 2nd, 2013. As I strode onto the Conserve School campus for the first time the snow was deep and my whole being was full of nerves. I was excited, nervous, and scared. The words of Jim Lowenstine lay carved in the entrance of the main building and I glanced at them but they did not mean much to me. Today as I walk past Jim’s words for around the three-hundredth time they mean the world to me.
“To the future young folks of Lowenwood:
I wish you all love, hope, happiness,
And a long and healthful life.
May your understanding of mankind
Be broadened through your association with
And, I am sure, your love of Lowenwood.
~Jim Lowenstine (5-13-1965)”
Jim Lowenstine, I have indeed fallen in love with Lowenwood. I remember so fondly the soft snowflakes we received every single day of winter, the White Pine branches bending with the weight of a fresh snow on its needles, the endless winter, the lick of ice cold water on my feet and hands as I fearlessly plunged them into the lakes during the late spring thaw, the itchy spring fever the enveloped myself and my classmates when the sun became strong enough to turn our cheeks pink and chap our lips, the crystal clear lakes that reflect the most beautiful skies that I have ever seen makes me all wonder, “Did you paint this for us Jim?” Such beauty within a place astonishes me and I am incredibly thankful to have been able to live for four months in a place that has stolen my heart. I am very thankful that I was able to leave my mark on Lowenwood by planting many small trees. Live long and strong beautiful White Pine’s and Hemlock’s.
My goals from the beginning of the semester are as follows:
“While I am at Conserve school I wish to enjoy myself completely and walk away with many mistakes, but no regrets. I want to connect with the interesting and compassionate people I am surrounded by and leave with a web of friendships and possibilities. I want to explore myself and find my boundaries, learn more about who I am, who I want to become, and how I want to begin after high school. I want to gain a greater understanding of our environment and by greater understanding, grow a stronger bond with nature.”
Looking back at the beginning of the semester I am enthralled with the changes I have gone through. Going through and reading each of my entries on my E-portfolio showed me how much I have grown. In all honesty I have exceeded my goals I had for myself. I enjoyed myself to the utter-most core of my being, connected with all of the students and staff, explored my boundaries and therefore learned who I am, I know who I want to become, and what my plans are after high school. I have gained a greater understanding of the land and have created an everlasting love for nature. I have truly impressed myself. It is okay to be happy with how you have grown! I have no regrets from this semester but I have racked up a few mistakes. My mistakes are my lessons I have learned. And I do not regret learning in the slightest.
I feel like I have missed so much nature. I first realized this two weeks ago while I was sitting on the causeway with a group of students dear to my heart with our legs dangling into the bog. It was night time and the frogs were chanting, chirping, and charming. We were facing the bog watching Lowenwood’s first thunder storm roll in over the great White Pines. The moon was just beginning to rise illuminating the great storm clouds looming above us. The air was thick and balmy and smelled Christmas trees and oranges. I had goosebumps on my legs from the sweet breeze blowing across the bog. A sprinkle of rain began to drop on my face and I leaned back onto my hands and tipped my head back to feel as many of mother Earth’s kisses on my cheeks as possible. This was the exact moment that I realized how much of nature I have missed my whole life. It was an extremely powerful realization of who I was and who I have become.
I never want to go back to where I was before I came to Conserve School. I cannot imagine myself existing without her sanctuary. No more Saturday nights inside a house watching movies with friends. Instead I will be outside showing my loved ones the beauty that resides in mother nature. Camping, sleeping under the stars, hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking, and horseback riding are all activities that I cannot wait to explore with my loved ones and continue to do for the rest of my life.
The little things in life have always made the happiest. An honest compliment, a hug from a loved one, a heart-to-heart with a friend, and a great laugh with your family at meal time. Perhaps the most influential piece I have learned about myself here at Conserve School is that nature is the little thing that makes me happy.
Through the knowledge presented to me by my teachers Michael Salat, Jeff Rennicke, Arjen Krijgsman, Kathleen O’Connor, Robert Eady, Andrew Milbauer, and Nancy Schwartz I realized that nature is a big deal and that nature must be protected. Right now as a society we have put nature on the back burner. I will not stand back and watch our forests and delicate ecosystems be plundered for all of its natural resources.
I know in my heart that my career path will lead me to protecting the Earth. I do not yet know what career my larger goal of protecting the environment will ensue. My knowledge, enthusiasm, power, influence, and passion will lead me where I need to go to help pursue my wish to protect the environment.
“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny
matters compared to what lives within us.”
~Henry David Thoreau
These next few generations will be a fight for our world. A world that is vast and beautiful full of creatures big and small. In this fight I will be at the front graciously representing the words of nature silently whispering… “I am here too.” I want to help preserve the worlds prairies, ravines, mountains, creeks, rivers, and oceans for future generations to enjoy. I want to be an environmental steward of the world.
As for college I know that I will attend someday. Next year I will complete my senior year at my sending school Youth Initiative High School and apply for a couple different colleges. I will then take a gap year after that. I do not want to attend college until I am sure of my career path. Once I decide on a career path if I end up changing my mind that is okay. I will ride with the bumps and curves. I want to go to a small school where I am appreciated for my curious, thoughtful, exuberant, passionate, loving, sincere, and broad way of thinking. I plan on participating in a volunteer program in a different country. Although the program is undetermined at the moment I know that I will someday hopefully participate in the Peace Corps.
“It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to
look further than you can see.”
I know that I will attend college one day because I can never absorb enough knowledge and I want to be a powerful force in protecting mother Earth. I will never stop learning because of the web of professional and personal connection I have created throughout my life. Relationships and struggles will help me continue to learn but I will always need to stimulate my incredibly intellectual mind. Knowledge is a piece of me and it defines who I am.
The words of Jim Lowenstine will echo across my mind as I take my first step off of Lowenwood, as I decide on a college to pursue the growth of my knowledge and make a career choice, travel through the world exploring the wonders unknown to myself, fight for the protection of our natural world, choose a resting ground for a family, raise and nourish my own children, and as I pass on into a different world.
Life is an extraordinary gift to have and I am taking mine in full stride. Since coming to Conserve School I love life even more and wake up every single day with a smile on my face and a love for learning and exploring strapped to my back. Upon leaving Conserve I will become an even greater explorer. As the world opens itself up to me and I “leave with a web of friendships and possibilities” I feel hopeful, experienced, loving, and intrepid.
“The greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as
long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart.”
I am proud of…
My transformation. Who I was. Who I am today. Who I am to become.
~Annie Woody, Conserve School Semester 6
More photos from Annie’s semester at Conserve School.