Posted by: csdailyblog | December 8, 2014

Sylvania Exploration

Christopher, Kaitlynn


~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS9 student Kaitlynn Christopher. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s learning goals. Kaitlynn is from Mexia, Texas where she attends Wortham High School.~

Sylvania Exploration

Conserve School Learning Goal: After successfully completing a Conserve School semester, a student appreciates and experiences the wonder of nature; values fundamental, life-long connections with nature; and expresses those connections in creative ways.

In English and History class we get to do numerous things out in nature and in the wild. One of the most notable things though was going to Sylvania and being Thomas Moran for a day [See note below]. I got to sit on the soft ground as snowflakes swirled around me and draw. I drew for at least an hour, not even bothered by the slight numbness in my hands. We then had to write a testimony about why we think it should be protected, I’d like to share with you what I wrote. It shows how much I enjoyed being there and everything beautiful about it.

Sylvania by Kaitlynn as Thomas Moran

Good morning my name is Thomas Moran and I’d like to thank the committee for letting me testify. Sylvania has so much mystery and beauty that it can’t be contained in one simply painting or photograph. It needs to be explored by the people of today’s world, people who need serenity, beauty and peace and that can only be done by protecting this wonderful place. In our travels we stumbled upon many beautiful and surreal things but one of the most astounding was a large yellow birch tree that stood almost alone. It stood above all the other trees, no leaves to cover its bareness, nothing to make it picture perfect but it was exquisite in its own way. Something that can’t be reproduced in a factories.

We also came across a bog in our travels, hidden away from the rest, tucked down in a shallow valley containing bountiful amounts of life. Its shallow waters held thousands of tiny organisms and its vast trees held birds of all sorts. The sun gleamed off the water causing a perfect mirror reflection of whatever was above it. It was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen and I don’t know of many places that uphold such beauty. So with that said, I strongly think Sylvania should stay a place of mystery and beauty and that it should be protected for future generations to explore and learn from. Thank you for listening and giving me this time and opportunity to speak. I will now be turning in my testimony and am willing to answer any further questions the committee has.

~Kaitlynn Christopher, Conserve School Semester 9

[Note: Here is a description of this class activity from Kaitlynn’s English Teacher, Jeff Rennicke. You can find this description as well as information about other class activities on his teacher page

In 1871, both Thomas Moran (a landscape painter) and W.H. Jackson (an early b&w photographer) were asked to accompany the Hayden Expedition into the Yellowstone region of Montana. Because of years of tall tales and seemingly unbelievable stories, proof was needed to verify the geologic and scenic wonders of the region before Congress would act to protect the area. With the paintings of Moran, the photographs of Jackson, and some eloquent writings by Gustavus Doane from an earlier expedition, Congress would be persuaded to protect the world’s first national park. In this exercise, History teacher Michael Salat and I combine classes and along with the help of Grad Fellows Rebecca and Katie, we hike deep into the Sylvania Wilderness. There, the students work in groups of three sketching, photographing, and trying to capture in words the beauties and importances of the landscape, mimicing the work of Moran, Jackson, and Doane. It gives the students a chance to experience firsthand some of the joys and frustrations that these early artists went through in trying to bring home the wonders of Yellowstone and set the stage for our national park and wilderness systems of today. Later, after returning, the students will prepare testimony to be given in front of a mock Congressional committee in an attempt to use their artistry as well as their public speaking voices to argue in support of protecting the wild place they visited this week.

This is one of the many interdisciplinary and active assignments that Conserve School students undertake.]

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.

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