~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS8 student Jake Jung. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s learning goals. Jake is from Green Bay, Wisconsin where he is homeschooled.~
Prints and Partiality
Conserve School Learning Goal: After completing a semester at Conserve School, a student appreciates and experiences the wonder of nature; values fundamental, life-long connections with nature; and expresses those connections in creative ways.
This past week cohorts A and C gathered together in the Community Room to learn the skill of tracking. Under the guidance of Robert Eady, one of the science teachers, and a handful of Graduate Fellows, we studied the different characteristics of animal tracks, such as gait, pace and stride. After a few minutes of leaping, pronking and hopping around the room (in order to cement the different movements in our brain), we were divided into groups and sent out into Conserve School’s Lowenwood campus. Tasked with finding and deciphering footmarks, my fellow trackers and I stomped through the snow pushing toward the section of the woods which we had been assigned.
A few minutes into our adventure, our eyes fell upon some interesting markings a few yards from the trail. Animated, we trudged over to investigate. The small causeway created by the tracks gave the culprit away: A porcupine! Most of us, having never seen one of these balls of spines in the wild before, began to enthusiastically follow the tracks. Through a thicket and around some trees we chased. Then, quite unexpectedly, the trail ended at the base of a pine tree. Our vision slowly crept upwards, until we saw it: an eight pound lump of bristles, slowly climbing the tree! Literally jumping up and down with excitement, we began to jot down our notes and snap photographs, ecstatic at our finding.
That three hour period of tromping through the beauty of Lowenwood was an exhilarating experience. The calm thrills of following those paw prints offered a fantastic opportunity for some reflection on my own, and humanity’s relationship with nature. The reasoning, I think, for why we humans do what we do can be boiled down to one word: Love. Every person on earth loves. We can’t help it’s a part of who we are. The problems we face in the world aren’t caused by a lack of love, but by our preferences over what to love. We love ourselves, more than we love each other. We love taking the easy way out, rather than doing what is right. I consider this plight to be the root of many of the environmental problems we face today.
Many of us, especially me, have become out of touch with the earth. In our age of air conditioning and electronic comfort, we have distanced ourselves from the beauty, peace and fruit of nature. This distance has injured our relationship with nature, and the resulting fall out has led to many of its current anthropogenic abuses. One of keys aspects of love is caring. When you truly love something, you do whatever it takes to help it and build it up. The last thought in your mind is do harm. Our lack of love for the environment has led to a lack of caring. This paucity is very apparent when you look at the ecological problems we face today: Pollution, over fishing, deforestation, and the list goes on. We no longer love nature, and our actions reflect it.
The question we need to ask now is how to mend our relationship with nature. How can we love again? My time at Conserve School, especially my tracking adventure has offered me some insight on this issue. Being in the outdoors, exploring, sledding, skiing, tracking and the like has really instilled in me a love for nature. The joys of gliding through Lowenwood on a brisk afternoon and trudging through a crisp white blanket of snow can do wonders to an indifferent heart and I am certain that such outdoor experiences can have the same effect on everyone.
So, let’s get back to loving nature again: I hear that the trails are beautiful today.
~Jake Jung, Conserve School Semester 8
A variety of photos from the lesson on tracking.
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.