Posted by: Phil DeLong | October 22, 2015

Going Solo

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Last week, every CS11 student participated in a solo camping experience, spending more than 40 hours and two nights camped alone on our Lowenwood campus. The solo experience is highly anticipated by students, yet challenges them to fully disconnect from the many distractions that fill our everyday lives, and embrace the “unknowns” of solitude, darkness, and extreme quiet. In some respects, students have been preparing all semester for the experience, learning and practicing camping skills in Outdoor Skills class and during Exploration Week, practicing keen observation during hours spent exploring the campus, and exploring the wonders of the dark during a night-time science class.

The solo experience began after Wednesday lunch, with students packing their food into bear vaults, before adding it to the packs that they prepared in the days before the event. Staff members then led students, in groups of six to 11, to their individual campsites on campus, to make camp, get settled, and begin their time alone. Staff members checked on students several times each day, without making direct contact, using either a system of bandanas tied to a tree near the campsite, or leaving notes for each other. In the event of urgent need, students had with them their cell phones, secured in a sealed and taped envelope, so that they could reach a staff member.

Over the course of the two-night experience, students read, worked on art projects, slept, journaled, and tended to the chores of camp, all the while practicing reflection. Student Morgan, in her e-portfolio, reflects on the value of her experience:

I can honestly say that I have never been actually and completely alone for such a long period of time until this experience. And, it was absolutely magical. Don’t get me wrong; I love people, socializing, and laughing with others, without a doubt. However, there is just something awe-inspiring when you get the opportunity to spend time with only yourself and the outdoors. The reflection time that I accomplished was a feat that could not have been done without the truest form of solitude. I was able to fully complete a Conserve School learning goal by observing my surroundings down to the smallest detail, and gaining a magnificent appreciation for the world around me because of those observations.

To my surprise, I never found myself bored. I found pleasure in things that I normally would not, and I filled my time with simple actions that brought a smile to my face. I journaled quite a bit. and I am extremely pleased with myself for doing so. I believe journaling is so important, and solos just reinforced this belief. I also did some artistic work whilst swaying in my hammock, which was unbelievably peaceful.
All in all, I am so overjoyed by the opportunity to participate in solos. Without this experience, I would have never developed my truest sense of self. It was truly a beautiful adventure, and it certainly will not be the last.
Phil DeLong
Director of Enrollment and Student Support
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