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Academics >  Curriculum Overview >  Electives > 


Students have the option of taking one or two electives in addition to required courses. Elective options may differ from semester to semester. Current electives include the following:

Drawn to Nature
This course explores inner and outer landscapes. Initially students learn basic drawing strategies and then practice them throughout the semester. An essential part of the class is to keep and develop an illustrated nature journal. Through the reflective process of considering this wild and startling Northwoods environment as well as the Conserve School campus, students practice drawing, painting and calligraphy as they document their lives in this place where they live. Basic design elements of line, value, color, shape, pattern and texture are covered while exploring a variety of drawing and painting media. Subject matter stem from the natural world and projects encompass botanical illustration to landscape. During this exciting class students learn to observe and see more clearly in order to draw and to discover more about themselves and the Northernwoods and all that lies before them.
Earth Art
This course focuses on creating art with and within the natural world. Students venture outside during any season to interact with the weather and the landscape and discover more about their own relationship to that world. While much of the class will take place outside, some activities will go on in the art room. The class will be a grand adventure in building with nature, printmaking, cordage making, weaving, and recycling cast-off objects while looking at how indigenous cultures around the world make toys and useful tools from recycled materials. Prepare to examine the world and come to understand your own connection to that ‘terra firma’ while you develop your resourcefulness! 
Nature Photography 
In this course we will look at the power of photography from its creation to today – its role in nature art, the environmental movement, adventure, as well as developing a personal sense of place. The goals of this course include introducing the students to the increasingly important body of work known as Nature Photography in America and around the world. Students will study the history of photography, the mechanics of how a camera operates, the work of influential photographers from historic times to the present, the power of photography in the environmental movement, as well as artistic components such as composition, depth of field, and more. It will challenge students to study both how humans see and how cameras record an image, and give them the tools to convert their vision into a photograph. Each student will build a personal portfolio of photographs – from environmental portraits to macro work to wildlife photography – for display and critique and study the business of publishing and exhibiting photography.

Leadership and Teamwork  
This class will examine noteworthy historical and contemporary examples of leadership and teamwork in challenging environments. We will study teams and leaders admired for their courage and ultimate success when faced with their “moment of truth,” for example, mountaineering legend Arlene Blum’s all-woman team, the first American group to summit Annapurna, as well as teams and leaders remembered for their tragic failures. This class poses the question, “What does it takes to excel as a leader or team member in a high stakes setting -- environmental conflicts, political transformation, outdoor expeditions, and other high-pressure, high-uncertainty situations?”  Examples of topics addressed include: in-the-field decision-making, team morale building, the importance of communication, the merits of planning versus spontaneity, and balancing courage and exhilaration with caution and safety.  Students should expect to spend significant portions of the class outdoors on the Conserve School campus. 
Online courses    
In order to fulfill a sending school requirement or pursue an academic interest not addressed by Conserve School’s program, students may be allowed to enroll in one online course while attending Conserve School. Time will be set aside in one elective block for a student to work on their online course, leaving room for only one other elective course. Conserve School will not place the online course on the Conserve School transcript. Families are expected to cover the cost of the online course. The online school should report the student’s grade directly to the sending school. Families should be sure to discuss the online course with the sending school counselor prior to enrolling the student in the course, in order to make sure that the sending school will accept the online school’s credits.
Online courses are independent and they require a great deal of self-discipline and academic motivation. Conserve School does not provide instruction for online courses, and only provides limited support for online courses. Our experience has shown that even high-performing students can struggle with the online format. Students at Conserve School typically want to spend as much time as possible out-of-doors, taking advantage of extracurricular opportunities, so in this setting an online course can be particularly difficult to focus on. As such, we recommend that students work with parents and their school counselor to consider other options for meeting a specific academic requirement, such as taking a class before or after they attend Conserve, or in summer school.

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