Posted by: Stefan Anderson | March 7, 2014


Maya Dizack


~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS8 student Maya Dizack. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s learning goals. Maya is from Racine, Wisconsin where she attends The Prairie School.~


Conserve School Learning Goal: After successfully completing a Conserve School semester, a student Demonstrates the observational and reflective skills necessary to the development of a meaningful and lasting sense of place.

With eager faces my cohort entered the English room to the hit song Monster Mash. Because most of us had visited during a Prospective Student Day, we had pretty good assumptions of Jeff Rennicke’s, our English teacher, agenda. After some pre-class chatter Jeff  told us to put on our outdoor clothes and we then trekked towards the Black Trail. Without any instruction Jeff told us to keep quiet and walk in a single file to an unknown destination. As we approached our mystery destination, we spotted very goofy looking eyes tacked to trees and brush. Once we finally arrived at Jeff’s designated spot we did an exercise where we went through freak incidents (i.e. death by wolf or death by a vending machine) and paired them with their yearly statistics. It was astonishing to find that most wilderness based incidents were rarer than urban incidents, which allowed us to segway into our underlying topic; fear. As a whole, our class discussed and identified two types of fear – objective and subjective. We defined objective fear as a more instinctive based fear of the familiar which originated from paleolithic times. We concluded that this type of fear was derived from rational life threatening encounters in the wilderness. While on the contrary, subjective fear originated more from neolithic times as agriculture soon took away the familiarity of the wilderness. Subjective fears develop into more irrational fears such as demons or a fear of failure.

A few days after the class, in an one on one conversation Jeff asked me what my greatest fear was. The question had really stumped me. I knew that my greatest fear would most likely be a subjective one, but I really never had that much experience dealing with them. At the time, I told Jeff that my greatest fear was running out of time, however, looking back in retrospect I now know that my fear of time slipping  away is one fear out of many more.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go on a cross country ski trip into the Sylvania Wilderness and then howl for wolves at night led by teachers Robert Eady and Nancy Schwartz. Prior to the trip I had never explored the campus or cross country skied over the course of the last four weeks, however, without acknowledging this I felt pretty confident. Only when we began our journey into the woods did I realize how much of a challenge skiing at night and unconditioned was. Because of my slow pace, I was afraid of how I would effect my peers around me. I felt awful, since no matter how hard I tried to ski I could not achieve the pace I had projected. After a while, a gap between the skier in front of me and behind me had formed and neither were visible, so for most of the journey I felt alone. Skiing alone at night was an experience I will never forget. With only darkness to keep as company, thoughts begin to run wild. It seemed as if bits and pieces of English class began to haunt me. At some points of the journey I could have sworn I saw or heard something, but for the most part I was just plain uncomfortable. With sweat dripping down my back and cold air biting at my face, my muscles just flat out screamed at me. Not wanting to go on, I mentally urged the snow itself to just swallow me whole, so I would not have to make the journey back; but once we reached the middle of the lake, I completely forgot my regrets and wishes for rest. Our group finally had met up and quickly became silent. No one complained or fidgeted which indicated their attentiveness to their surroundings. Instead the group was dead silent; awestruck at the sight of the sky. It seemed as if every star in the night sky was visible. Finally Robert spoke, and the wolf howling commenced. The anticipation was almost tangible in the air immediately after the first howl, but only the wind responded. After several attempts at howling, there was no response from the wolves. However, there was not even a twinge of disappointment, since we were so amazed by the impeccable view. In the few moments of introspective silence I realized that a bond between the Sylvania Wilderness had just been developed. I suddenly became aware of why Lowenstine wanted to share his experience with the land so badly with future generations. It is absolutely true that you cannot protect something you do not love.

In all honesty it’s challenging facing different concepts, meeting new people, and seeing different sites. Calling a new place home is something everyone struggles with. Objective and subjective based fear pushes you to give up and turn back to where you originally came from. However, when you conquer that make or break moment you realize the payoff is far more worth the fear. By acknowledging and accepting fear as part of yourself; you ultimately form a deeper connection with wherever you are.

~Maya Dizack, Conserve School Semester 8

You can read more about the Wolf Howling activity from Nancy Schwartz’s teacher website. (Click Here)

More photos from the experiences Maya discusses in this entry.

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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