Posted by: Nick Voss | August 30, 2013

Week 2: A Glimpse from the Students

As Conserve School’s classes gradually unfold, some big “ah-ha!” moments have already been occurring here in week two of the academic schedule. Conserve’s teachers are pouring their passion and expertise into the curriculum, while students have quickly taken up the role of sponges—soaking up all the information and wisdom they can. This week, some topics ranged from famous sculptor/environmentalist Andy Goldsworthy, Love Canal in Niagara Falls, the US Wilderness Preservation System, and more. Let’s take a moment to hear about Conserve academics from a few students …

The rainstorm from Sunday night lingered into Monday morning. Conserve student Alex thought this was an ideal setting for an Earth Art class with instructor Nancy Schwartz, during which students fashioned sculptures out of leaves, rocks, branches, and other natural items they found in the woods.

“I had been looking forward to this all week. I was super excited to go outside and unleash my creative side. Going out in the morning is so amazing: the rain from last night was still trickling down the trees and running off my arms or bouncing off my head. It was incredibly serene and relaxing. I’m working on a very delicate piece so it’s taught me all about concentrating and taking my time. I can’t wait until I get out there again!” -Alex

Alex hangs out in the gathering space before lunch.

Alex hangs out in the gathering space before lunch.

Max has Math first thing in the morning. Conserve utilizes the ALEKS program, a web-based assessment tool that customizes mathematical learning.

“In math we have been using the online system ALEKS to review math from last year. This online learning system is new to me. So far it has been great for helping me review old units and it has, to some degree, changed the way that I look at math. ALEKS makes math less intimidating because of its thorough explanations and the ability it gives you to move at your own pace.” -Max

Max catches a game of chess before lunch.

Max catches a game of chess before lunch.

English Teacher Jeff Rennicke led students to the shore of Black Oak Lake, where they sat at picnic tables and analyzed maps of the U.S. Wilderness Preservation System. Here Cody provides a glimpse of this activity…

“I enjoyed taking the time to scope out the different National Wildlife Preservation Systems found throughout the United States.  It taught us a lot about the wilderness that could be right in our back yard, and since we are so close to the Sylvania Wilderness, this works out quite well for a topic.  It was very striking to me that we have so many  wilderness areas in this country, but yet we only take the time to appreciate a few of them.  Thinking of them also made me curious: What do they look like? Could I ever go there? Has creating the wilderness area saved any animals that could be endangered?” -Cody

Cody at Conserve School's front entrance.

Cody at Conserve School’s front entrance.

The topic of Love Canal in Niagara Falls was covered in Andy Milbauer’s AP Environmental Science class. In the 1960s, a large chemical spill in this area endangered public health. Kristi shares these thoughts:

“This event was new to me, and I was greatly bothered by it. It evoked emotions of the negative sort and makes me curious about what other things of this kind have happened in our country. In the future, this will help me with the decision of buying a home. After all, the homes near Love Canal were later put back on the market for sale. If a home is large, relatively new and costs less than 200k$, it just could be on top of a huge chemical spill.” -Kristi

Krista admires the gathering space flora before lunch.

Kristi admires the gathering space flora before lunch.

History class was held on the water, with teacher Michael Salat, in a large voyageur canoe that holds up to 16 people. During a pause in paddling, students read their assignment, personal narratives on exploration, to one another. Becky describes the experience:

“Class in a canoe was awesome. We were reading stories we all wrote on exploration, so being in a canoe gave each one an adventurous flavor. We even saw bald eagles. It was a beautiful way to feel excited about history! This activity will not only make me sad to leave Conserve School, but having class outside so frequently will give me a deeper appreciation for nature. ” -Becky

Becky works on an assignment in a scenic atrium.

Becky works on an assignment in a scenic atrium.

We’re looking forward to more student reflections soon to come in their e-portfolios, a computer-based journal that students use as an outlet for reflections, insights, and revelations. Stay tuned!

-Nick Voss, Graduate Fellow

We had a visitor on campus, visible right from  the classroom windows! Can you spot  Mr. "Porky Pine" up in the Aspen?

We had a visitor on campus this week, visible right from the classroom windows! Can you spot Mr. “Porky Pine” up in the aspen?



  1. Came across this in my Facebook feed and it really caught my eye because of my previous experience writing for this blog. Awesome blog post! I love the perspective that you took. What a great idea. Nice work Nick!

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