~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS7 student Maddie Hodkiewicz. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s learning goals. Maddie is from Rice Lake, Wisconsin where she attends Rice Lake High School.~
The Outdoors as a Classroom
Conserve School Learning Goal: Will have taken a strong step forward on their educational path equal to or greater than the expected progression in their sending school.
Remembering what I learn in school has always been a problem for me. Like a lot of teenagers, I was the kid who would respond with a “nothing” or an “I don’t remember” when my parents asked me what I did in school that day. School wasn’t something to be enthusiastic about! It was something to forget about as soon as the bell rang at three. But on the first day of classes at Conserve I knew things would be different. Suddenly, I wasn’t trapped behind a desk for hours a day, zoning out, letting information pass right through me. Suddenly, I was out in a voyageur canoe, reading papers for history class. I was outside in the summer breeze learning about Wilderness Areas under trees by the lake. These very first adventures into the outdoor classroom were certainly not the last.
Throughout the semester I would find myself outside for countless class periods. I know that I will never forget Earnest Shackleton as long as I live because of how I learned about him. Reading excerpts about Shackleton’s incredible adventures, how the cold effects your body, and what it truly is to freeze as we ourselves were walking through the crisp winter air. All of this was embellished with a round of snow soccer, smashing through fresh ice in boats, and pulling sleds just as Shackleton and his men had, only further cementing in my mind the lessons of Shackleton.
Field Instruction classes have also been very different from my regular high school classes in the best way. Instead of playing typical gym class games purely for the sake of some exercise, we are learning life skills while also being physically and mentally active. A recent lesson involved learning about major types of lichen. Instead of listening to a rambling presentation about fruticose lichen that would inevitably fly over my head, we went outside and identified lichen right off of the trees.
As the semester draws to a close, I am making sure not to take anything for granted, especially the classes we have outside. I know that upon my return to regular old high school my outdoor classroom will be virtually gone for seven hours a day. But when the bell rings at three, I will be leaving one classroom and entering another. I have learned that the outdoors is always a place to learn, even if you aren’t technically in class. This realization is very important for me on my educational path. I realized that my learning didn’t stop when I left the classroom. Rather, it became more valuable. Classes spent in the climbing tree, in kayaks, in canoes, on mountain bikes, setting up tents, fox walking, hiking into Sylvania, and rock climbing are classes that I love to talk about. Now whenever I am asked what I did that day, I definitely do not respond with a “nothing.”
~Maddie Hodkiewicz, Conserve School Semester 7
More photos from Sara’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.