~This blog entry is brought to you from the electronic portfolio of CS11 student Maren A. Conserve School electronic portfolios connect student experiences to the school’s learning goals. Maren is from Green Bay, Wisconsin where she attends Green Bay East High School.~
We Proceed On
“I hope to push myself out of my comfort zone, become a stronger environmental steward, and form close relationships with the people and land around me.”
The time has come for us to reflect on the past 16 weeks, each of which has been filled with change, new experiences, realizations, memories, lessons, and blessings. I have most definitely been putting off writing this “Final Thoughts” entry because this just means we are that much closer to the end of this chapter in our lives. However, I am working on coming to terms with it, and am confident that new adventures are right around the corner for me, and the rest of my Conserve family.
As stated above, I walked into CS11 with a set of goals I hoped to accomplish during my time here. Long story short: I greatly surpassed these goals. Looking back at them, they all seem to be rather obvious to me considering each of these objectives ended up being part of my daily life here. I cannot recall a day where I didn’t feel myself being pushed out of my comfort zone to challenge and test myself. This is one thing I am most thankful for about my time here. Through these constant new experiences, I have witnessed so much self-growth. From my first backpacking trip, to a two-night solo, to testifying in front of my teachers and peers about the protection of Sylvania as designated wilderness area, I have noticed myself becoming more adventurous, outgoing, creative, and open-minded. The fact that I have had the opportunity to experience so many “firsts” throughout the semester is an endless blessing for me and I’m looking forward to applying the new skills I’ve learned to life in the real world.
Being an environmental steward is something I have always striven towards. One of the main reasons I came to Conserve in the first place was to learn more about stewardship in my own life, and advocating for environmental issues that I’m passionate about to others. My desire to live simply has only grown since I’ve gotten here. Thanks to my stewardship class and APES (Advanced Placement Environmental Studies), I have learned a lot about mindful consumerism and I’m looking forward to sharing this information with my family back home, so we can make some simple changes to our lifestyle. For example, I am more aware of where and how my food/clothes are produced, and these factors have greatly changed my outlook on shopping. In addition to my own lifestyle, I hope to help the people of my community make small changes to better the environment. My Taking Action Project was to create a composting system within my school so we can hopefully reduce the amount of food waste we produce in half. That is something I’m really looking forward to about returning home. On top of that, I have been contacting the superintendent of the Green Bay Public School System and we are now working together to provide every public school in our system with a composting system of their own. Though this part of the project is not fully developed, I am equally as excited to see how much progress we can make in our community as a whole.
My final objective in my set of goals was to form close relationships with the people and land around me. The word “close” does not begin to describe my connections with my surrounding here at Conserve. Though our campus is incredibly spacious, I feel at home while hiking, trail running, or exploring its many beauties. One tool that really helped me gain this intimate relationship with our campus has been my camera. The power of photography is something that I have experienced for the first time while at Conserve. With the help of my photography class, I have learned to pay attention to the small details in nature, be more in tune with weather patterns, and appreciate natural beauty so much more. I have also learned to thrive off of the feeling of being powerless compared to Mother Nature. Her spontaneity inspires me to continue photographing, even when beauty isn’t the most evident. I never knew how important of a factor photography would be to me, and I’m lucky to have Jeff Rennicke as a teacher to instill this passion in me. This is another tool I will most definitely be bringing home with me. In addition to the amazing campus we live on, I am surrounded by the most beautiful collection of humans a person could ask for. My friends have taught me to enjoy life fully, and have inspired me with their genuine hearts. My classmates as a whole have offered endless support and love. The teaching fellows have taught me about life and how to make my future a little less scary. My teachers have provided me with knowledge, passion, and ambition. Thanks to these people, my semester has been more than I could have ever hoped for. One of the hardest parts of leaving this amazing place will be having to leave my 62 brothers and sisters. Though social media makes it possible to keep in touch fairly well, and road trips are always a fun time, it will be hard to no longer live with the people that make me so happy. A close friend of mine shared a quote with me that I have found a lot of comfort in while thinking about leaving: “You will never feel completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.“(Miriam Adeney) Saying goodbye will be one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but getting to spend the past few months with these people has been the biggest blessing of my life. I am endlessly grateful for my Conserve family.
When thinking about the dreaded “F word” (the future), I am now much less frightened, and more than anything, excited about what’s to come. I have a few definite goals, but mostly just a big open mind about the next few steps in my life. I know for a fact that I will always prioritize my ability to conserve, protect, and appreciate our environment. Regardless of what career, or even college that I decide on, this will always be something that keeps me feeling fulfilled and content. Another one of my close friends shared some very helpful advice in response to me venting about finding the right career to pursue: “Recognize the topic that you are most passionate about. What fires you up? Base your career on the solution to that topic.” These few words have stuck with me all semester as the reassurance I need when worrying about the future. Though I don’t have the exact answer to everyone’s favorite question, “what do you want to do with your life,” I do know my future will focus on advocating for and educating people on environmental issues that I am passionate about. I am excited to see what kind of change I can make throughout my time on earth. Lastly, thanks to Exploration Week, I have discovered a new passion of mine is now backpacking. This is something I strongly hope to pursue when my time at Conserve is through, and have been looking into different guided backpacking trips that I could potentially participate in this summer. Through backpacking and photography, I know my love of the outdoors will never die. I hope to continue to challenge myself in both of these areas when I return home.
Though I still can’t fully wrap my head around the fact that Conserve is coming to an end, I am a better person because of it. CS11 is ready to go make some changes in our world. I’m anxious to see what amazing things we all go out and do. It’s time for us to “proceed on” (as Lewis and Clark so often stated they had to do) and use what we’ve learned here to improve the world for ourselves and for generations to come.
Thanks for all the memories CS11! Make it a great one everybody, bye for now!
~Maren A., Conserve School Semester 11
Here are some additional photos taken by Maren during her 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.