Posted by: Stefan Anderson | January 4, 2014

That Little Bit of Forest – Tierney McGonegal



~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS7 student Tierney McGonegal. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s learning goals. Tierney is from Wilton New Hampshire where she attends Academy for Science and Design, a charter school specializing in science, mathematics, engineering and design.~

That Little Bit of Forest

Conserve School Learning Goal #10– Demonstrates the observational and reflective skills necessary to the development of a meaningful and lasting sense of place.

Now that the end of the semester is nearing and is more in-sight than ever, I find myself looking back at the past 3 months of my life. Each day was so full of new eventful things that kept me up and on my feet ready for whatever happened next; each day held it’s own surprises and adventures.

Phenology Spot - Fall

Phenology Spot – Fall

Throughout my whole adventure here one thing specifically has stayed put and constant in a sense- my phenology spot. While it changed literally day-to-day I could count on it to be different every time I went.

Each student at the beginning of the semester chose a spot on campus that they wanted to observe for the following four months. They would from that point on go to their observation site once a week and record everything from sounds to weather and everything in between. Over time we would understand the changes our spot went through every year just by visiting weekly.

Near the beginning of the semester I have to say I would slack off a bit and not go every week- the idea of walking to some spot in the woods just to sit there and take notes did not sound appealing in the least. Slowly but surely I pushed myself to go and began looking forward to my visits. I started going once a week, occasionally more, with my camera and field journal by my side.

The first five to ten minutes of my visit would consist of me sitting on this perfect fallen tree, just listening. If I heard anything I wrote it down. After listening I recorded an estimated temperature, wind conditions, cloud coverage, foliage characteristics, date and time. Sometimes if I couldn’t figure out what a noise was I would pull out my camera and record the noise to try and find it later (this never actually worked, though). After jotting down some observations I would pull out my camera and walk around. I took pictures of anything and everything I found interesting.

Phenology Spot - Winter

Phenology Spot – Winter

Throughout the past three months of visiting my spot I came to appreciate it for what it was. I no longer could walk by without noticing the leaves on the trees or the sounds of the angry red squirrels and birds. It wasn’t just a place to take notes for school anymore; it was a place to go to when I needed to be alone or to reflect. Even over Thanksgiving Break I found myself at times feeling the need to visit that area of forest which was now 1,200 miles away. Without having been assigned this semester long project I never would have taken the time to watch the world around me, nor would I have found comfort in sitting in the woods just because I wanted to.

~Tierney McGonegal, Conserve School Semester 7

More photos from Tierney’s semester at Conserve School

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.


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