~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS7 student Olivia Nofzinger. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s learning goals. Olivia is from St. Paul, Minnesota where she attends Central High School. At the beginning of the semester Olivia set the following goal for herself, “While at Conserve School, I hope to take full advantage of the academic opportunities here in order to learn more about environmental science while gaining a deeper sense of place through exploring the unique coniferous forest found in this area.” ~
Looking back at my goal from the beginning of the semester, I feel that I was largely successful in accomplishing it. The academic opportunities here were just as amazing as I had hoped they would be (except better) and were only a fraction of what made this semester so unforgettable. Furthermore, I feel that I did “take full advantage” of these opportunities by really showing up and making an effort to be an active member of my classes.
The teachers here are of the highest quality that I have found anywhere, and they made the classes very engaging by integrating applicable activities and by creating lessons on really interesting subjects that I came here to learn about. In this way I learned a lot about the environmental sciences, much more than I would have learned anywhere else.
In the pursuit of my goal, I learned a great number of things. Through group work I began to realize in earnest how important it is that everyone learns together. Through my participation in class, which increased over the semester, I learned about how much more I can learn by truly engaging myself mentally and emotionally and by being energetic. Participation isn’t exactly emphasized at my sending school, so this was a new thing for me.
When I came here, I didn’t have many distinctive goals for myself, I only knew that I wanted to learn. I found that one of the most important things for learning is paying close attention: listening to people, slowing down, and looking closely. Over time, it became apparent that the real goal was learning to be truly present, which will probably be a lifelong goal for me.
One of the things that most surprised me during the semester was the extent to which my academic and personal life can become one. Because my classes were fascinating and because I was learning about things that were applicable to my setting, I learned both inside and outside of school. The learning was continuous and the knowledge was perfectly integrated into my daily life. This is definitely something I will look for in future academic experiences.
I’ve had an amazing time at Conserve school and doing other activities that involved environmental education. I think it may be one of the main things that have impacted who I am today. Every day, as I walked into the LAB, I would look up at the high ceilings and the skylight and wonder how, by what amazing turn of luck, I had ended up here. Every day, walking through the woods or enjoying class, I would feel so grateful to just be where I was.
Frankly, it troubles me that the student population here is so homogeneous. We are all unique in many ways, but not so far as socio-economic or racial status goes. Furthermore, it troubles me that so many kids will grow up without ever experiencing something like I have experienced. The vast majority of kids at my high school have never set up a tent or peed outside or seen the Milky Way. Most kids would be more successful at identifying a drug detection dog than a wolf.
I think the purpose of the work in the early part of my life will be to right this unequal distribution of luck. I’d like to work in environmental outreach in the future, hopefully reaching inner-city kids who wouldn’t otherwise get to learn in this way. It was not so long ago that I was just like them, with a strictly human-centered view of the world. But when I first was introduced to the realm of outdoor recreation, I was completely hooked. Since then, I have found myself in new and fascinating parts of the world, marveling at natural beauties. I feel strongly about protecting these areas and have taken some action in doing so, but intend to do more in the future. I furthermore feel that it’s inevitable that I will end up spending a lot of time in the wilderness over my lifetime. In these ways, my semester has strengthened my convictions.
~Olivia Nofzinger, Conserve School Semester 7
Conserve School provides a semester-long immersion for high school students in environmental studies and outdoor activities that deepens their love of nature, reinforces their commitment to conservation, and equips them to take meaningful action as environmental stewards. Thanks to the generosity of Conserve School’s friends and its founder James Lowenstine all accepted students receive significant scholarship support.