~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS9 student Sarah Burch. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s learning goals. Sarah is from Washington, D.C. where she attends Woodrow Wilson High School.~
Conserve School Learning Goal: After successfully completing a Conserve School semester, a student demonstrates improved skills in the principles and practices of teamwork and leadership.
In October in the Northwoods, one does not generally wake up and expect clear blue skies and 65 degree weather, but when I left Elaine (Elaine House) for brunch last Saturday (October 25), that was exactly what I found. After eating too much yogurt as always, my friends and I laid around the LAB (Lowenstine Academic Building) trying to find something to do. A few of us hadn’t been out in kayaks yet, and so five of us eventually set off for the LRC (Lowenwood Recreation Center) and launched out on Big Don (Big Donahue Lake). We headed for the casino spot, and after a tough paddle across the lake in about 20 mph winds, we finally pulled up on shore. We explored a bit and then plopped down on the ground strewn with pine needles overlooking the wavy lake. Swapping stories for an hour or two, we laughed and joked until finally the shade of the trees had chilled us enough to head back for home. Getting back on the water, we realized that the wind had picked up a little, but didn’t really care as we lounged in the sun, snapping pictures and tossing our feet up on the decks of our boats.
As we drifted through the lake, someone leaned over to grab the edge of someone else’s kayak, but it was a little too much of a stretch. We all watched, slightly shocked, as he slowly flipped over and swam out of his kayak. Immediately, I laughed, as he floundered around in the water and made someone else take his phone, putting the real priorities first. But the seriousness of the situation quickly dawned on all of us, and the wind was starting to gust hard. The swimmer had tried a couple of times to get back in his boat, but in his haste had only succeeded in filling it up to the point where it was no longer able to be emptied. We all started to think about how long he had been in the water, and about the hypothermia video we had just watched in science. At that moment, we all finally clicked. We worked together and delegated tasks to each person, assigning one person to tow our unfortunate friend back to shore, two to go and alert the gradfellow on duty, and me to stay with the boat and wait for someone to come through with a tow rope.
I watched my friends get progressively smaller as they paddled to shore, struggling to keep my grip on the kayak that was all but fully submerged, as I was buffeted by winds and increasingly large whitecaps. Slightly worried and completely alone, I reflected on what had just happened and how we had all handled it. I realized how I, possessing extensive kayaking experience, could have quickly fixed the situation, but because I wasn’t assertive or focused enough, it made no difference. I learned that I sometimes need to step up as a leader even when something doesn’t seem that serious, because often it can make a huge difference in the end. But what really made the experience stand out to me was the way that my small group of friends had efficiently and effectively worked together to fix what had happened. The teamwork that we exhibited gave me confidence in the relationships and communication that we have with each other, and brought to my attention once again what a unique and remarkable group of people CS9 is.
~Sarah Burch, Conserve School Semester 9
A few more photos from Sarah’s time 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 students accepted to this amazing semester school receive full scholarship support.