Posted by: Stefan Anderson | May 11, 2014

A Curious Perspective



~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS8 student Marina Henke. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s learning goals. Marina is from St. Louis, Missouri where she attends Clayton High School.~

A Curious Perspective

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.

SONY DSCTwo weeks ago we all went home for spring break. The majority of us left Friday afternoon, and hour by hour I watched the campus empty out. It was an odd sensation, seeing everybody leave. I went back to Saint Louis, where the dogwood and magnolia trees were budding and the whole city smelled like spring. This was a pretty sharp contrast from the winter that is still brewing in the Northwoods.

Spring break was great in many ways, but walking around the inner loop the first day we got back, I realized I have never felt more relieved to return to any one place.

After break ended, every-one is carrying themselves a bit differently. During break, many of us had visited our sending schools and fallen back into our old routine of “normal” life. Of course, now it doesn’t seem very normal. Normal is going to school in a forest and running around outside in hiking boots. Normal definitely isn’t starting the school day inside and not going outside until the final bell.

Spring Break was a bit of a wake-up call for just how much I’ve changed.

Of all of the changes that I noticed, some were more significant than others. I seem to have lost a tolerance for loud crowds and learned to deeply appreciate quiet places. I am less inclined to sit in my room and catch up on missed TV shows, and I decided that eating breakfast on my back-porch was far more rewarding than sitting inside. But above all of these miniscule preferences, I noticed myself walking with a slightly different purpose.

I am more curious.

I wanted to know what kind of trees were in my local forests and why weather was happening the way it was. I found myself amazed at how little I knew about the land around me. I’ve lived in the same house for sixteen years, and I’m not sure if I could name all of the trees we have in my backyard.

It wasn’t that I was never given a chance to learn these types of things. I just never felt moved to pursue, or much less retain, any of this knowledge. I consider myself a curious person, but not so much the let-me-grab-my-field-guide-so-we-can-identify-this-unusual-lichen type. For all of middle school and high school I struggled with building excitement for any hands on field work. I really wanted to love it, but I never found myself just dying to know more.

My enjoyment of nature usually comes from a less analytical and more reflective side. Somewhere along the lines I built a wall between me and science. I thought I could understand the forest without knowing what kind of trees there were.

During the flight back to Saint Louis I nabbed a great window seat. I attempted to shove aside my fear of flying and really look out the window. At this point in the flight we were flying across rural Illinois. We were crossing over a huge expanse of farm fields and immediately one thought popped into my mind: This town is built on a flood plain, I wonder if they realize that.

One after another, real true sciency questions entered my mind.

How are these fields irrigated?

What kind of trees are we passing over now?

This may seem like a trivial thing to reflect about. But I guarantee you all…

this is a big deal.

Temp MarinaAfter dinner on Wednesday, I decided to visit my phenology spot. I have an area on the shore of Lake Elaine that is densely covered with trees and marshy plants. It’s been cloudy and rainy for about a week now, and there were huge streams of fog shifting all across the lake.

I crouched down and smelled the bog-reeds. I literally ran over to a pine to figure out what kind it was. Walking past a down tree I wanted to know why there were shavings of bark all along the forest floor. The crazy thing was that this all came naturally. I didn’t have to think that it was time to learn some science.

I know I’ve touched on this several times in my E-portfolio, but I find that a common goal through my experience here is establishing a sense of place.

The more I ground myself in Lowenwood the more I take out of every day. Having a sense of place comes from being curious. Science is a really crucial part of this curiosity, and I think for a long time I resisted to the idea of really becoming enthralled with science.

Well, things are certainly changing.

~Marina Henke, Conserve School Semester 8

More photos from Marina’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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