With the snow almost melted, students are seeing Lowenwood for the first time in a colorful pallet. The trails, garden, and grasses are now exposed and students are excited to interact with the land and wildlife in the spring season. May is an especially exciting month for CS16 students who are preparing for advanced placement exams, hammocking under the sun, and getting ready for camping on Exploration Week. It is also a time for preparation and care.
This week our Stewardship Coordinator, Jean Haack, received 60,000 bees in the mail. Their arrival signifies a busy time for the hives and a busy time for the hands and minds of 60 Conserve School students. Students' and staffs' to-do lists are always long in May. Starting off the month, the bees were transferred to the hives and checked for mites. The hives stand next to the garden and after six months under snow needs care. Now the to-do list includes: plant seeds, transplant seedlings, weed the garden beds, secure the hoop houses, identify and remove invasive species... and on it goes.
The role of an environmental steward changes with the seasons and now that the land including the garden, trails, and wildlife habitats requires our attention we place our efforts towards care. To further promote our roles as environmental stewards, CS16 participated in a full day dedicated to developing an environmental stewardship project on "Stewardship Activity Day."
Designating a day around stewardship and service fulfills our interests to be outdoors, give back to others, and leave a lasting impact on the world around us. The Conserve School learning goal, "After a semester a student: demonstrates a commitment and responsibility to community, and is inspired to value and take part in service to others," frames Stewardship Activity Day as a day to serve the Conserve School community.
Stewardship Activity Day has taken a number of different forms over the years. However, the intention and goal to give back to the community is still embodied throughout the day. This semester students have been working on a group project with their Environmental Stewardship classes. Tim, Hannah, Rachael, Peter, Shelby and Emma, the Environmental Stewardship teachers, facilitated these projects but essentially provided students time in and outside of class to be self-organizing. Place-based education and hands-on projects are significant ways to engage in learning. CS16 students demonstrated the effectiveness of place-based education during Stewardship Activity Day. Their energy levels were high and their excitement throughout the day brought joy to the community.
In preparation for Stewardship Activity Day, students used learning tools from earlier in the semester such as the social change wheel. They also reflected on different types of advocacy and leadership roles they tend to identify with most closely. As students recognize their own role in a group they were better able to contribute to team growth and project development. By the end of Stewardship Activity Day, students had implemented their project and created presentations on their project goals with video and PowerPoint. Their innovative efforts were phenomenal and each student should be proud of their accomplishments.
Class Taking Action Projects included: stewarding the commons, organizing a community kindness festival, cleaning the rock wall, updating and creating new geocaches on campus, developing a campus exploration scavenger hunt and building a cob oven in the garden. Each class used creativity and practicality to develop projects that were both a service to the land and the people who interact with Lowenwood, including current and future students, staff and visitors.
Stewarding the Commons
Students dedicated their morning to cleaning the commons, a place where people gather for bonfires, playing music, reading, hammocking, and working on class assignments. It's a great space for everyone to gather and enjoy time outside. However, this group of students noticed that the commons needed some attention as the fire pit was filling with ashes and the benches were wearing out from the weather. With shovels, the fire pit was cleaned out. Students also used electric sanders to spruce up the benches that surround the fire pit. Their work made the commons look more welcoming. This weekend students are invited to spend brunch picnicing in the commons!
Organizing a Community Kindness Festival
This group of students wanted to organize, host and invite the CS16 community to a Kindness Festival, with the intention of spreading joy and appreciation for the people that live and work at Conserve School. After learning of CS15's Kindness Festival, this class loved the idea and wanted to host a festival themselves to encourage community involvement and expand our friendships throughout the community. The CS16 Kindness Festival consisted of music, dogs to play with, homemade snacks, and gestures of kindness. Students also painted a tree on a wall in the gathering space as an interactive space to send and receive messages of kindness. This interactive display can be used by future semesters so that they may extend the courtesy of sharing compliments and appreciation. During the Kindness Festival, students danced, listened to music, played twister, ate cupcakes and chocolates, tie dyed and screen printed shirts, as well as wrote notes to staff and peers. What a beautiful day to spread kindness!
Cleaning the Rock Wall
The Lowenwood Recreation Center rock wall has been getting a lot of activity this semester. Students have been using the climbing wall at least once a week, creating new routes and encouraging one another to build skills and strength climbing. After three months of use, the wall has been coated in a fine layer of climbing grime and required some cleaning. This class wanted to provide the rockwall some love by cleaning the holds and wall for other semesters to use and appreciate the activity. Students belayed one another on the wall using buckets of water and vinegar to clean the surface with brushes. The students were able to end the day knowing that the wall is clean and safe for students' and staffs' use. Their work was very helpful to the Outdoor Skills teaching team who are responsible for maintaining the recreation building and our outdoor equipment. This project was a gesture of gratitude for both the sport of climbing as well as the people who use the rockwall.
Updating and Creating New Geocaches on Campus
Students learned about the eleven geocaches that are located on Lowenwood property this semester. Geocaching, an engaging activity to navigate and locate stored prizes and trinkets, is a fun way to get outside and work with others. This class wanted to assess the eleven geocaches to remove trash, fix boxes and add trinkets to empty boxes. With help from the Head of School, Stefan Anderson, students were able to learn more about the geocaches, their location, and how to create new locations. Students made a few more geocache location to add to the list. Honoring their Environmental Stewardship teacher, Shelby, the students decided to name their boxes "Shelbboxes". These boxes hold positive notes for whoever finds them! Students will be making a map with the geocache locations for current and future students to use and enjoy the outdoors.
Developing a Campus Exploration Scavenger Hunt
Students in this class wanted to encourage their peers and future Conserve School students to explore the parts of Lowenwood that are not frequented as often. This class sent out a survey to their peers to learn where on campus students would like to explore more. After the class received the results, they decided to identify six locations on campus to include in a campus-wide scavenger hunt. On Stewardship Activity Day, the class divided into groups to place scavenger hunt boxes in beautiful, yet underutilized, places on Lowenwood. Now students may find themselves along the shores of Lake Elaine, at the prayer bench, or at Iron Springs. At each location visitors may find watercolors, paper, and pencils to capture the location through art. Additionally, students are leaving a logbook for visitors to the location to write their name and semester. This project is essentially self-sustaining and students look forward to having students enjoy the scavenger hunt for years to come. Coordinates for each location have been recorded and a map is being developed for students to engage in the Campus Exploration Scavenger Hunt.
Building a Cob Oven in the Garden
This class worked well together, combining labor with creativity to build a pizza oven in the school garden. Students divided into groups during the morning to gather material such as hay, rocks, pebbles, and sand. Once the materials were gathered students started to develop a foundation by digging into the ground a three-foot pit until they hit clay. Then, they started to layer materials to create a solid foundation. Everyone was needed for this project as there were a number of steps required to make sure the oven was being built correctly. By the end of the day, their oven was built into a cob mound, just missing the final artistic touches. In the near future, CS16 will have the opportunity to use the pizza oven to make delicious food. This group of students stressed that the purpose of this project was to build something for future students and to have fun with a hands-on project.
Wonderful job, CS16!
In addition to the Environmental Stewardship teachers supporting their classes and being helpful mentors, a number of Conserve School staff joined in the activity day to provide additional support. Their help is appreciated and made the planning and implementation of projects successful.