• Outdoor Skills
Adventure and Science
Rebecca R. & Paul K.

This story was a joint effort written about a combined lesson by Outdoor Skills Teacher, Rebecca Rand, and Science Teaching Fellow and CS3 (Fall 2011) alum, Paul Karpinski.

One of the unique and powerful features of Conserve School's flexible class schedule is the ability to hybridize class blocks to offer interdisciplinary lessons. Outdoor Skills class and AP Environmental Science class take advantage of this scheduling ability a few times each semester with a combined curriculum in the afternoon that runs 4 hours long, allowing for extended adventures and learning. 

This December, after returning to a transformed campus under almost a foot of fresh snow, CS19 students had the opportunity to explore the Sylvania Wilderness Area as part of a hybrid lesson. The afternoon emphasized the unique relationship between adventure and science. Outdoor skills were necessary to get into the field and collect scientific data. Students were given a map, and a compass, and challenged to blaze a trail into the Sylvania Wilderness Area to access Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) stands for sampling.

After arriving at the destination, students took a moment to take in the beauty of the sweeping, dark green hemlock stand surrounding them. They began sampling for the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae), a small aphid-like insect native to Asia, introduced to the eastern United States many years ago. Since first observed in 1951 near Richmond, Virginia, the insect has spread rapidly across the eastern United States and has begun to affect many hemlock stands.

Note: The HWA (Hemlock Wooly Adelgid) is quite the prolific invader due to its ability to reproduce asexually; it can produce around 200 eggs per ovisac. These wooly ovisacs found on the underside of the branches at the base of the needles where they later hatch “crawlers,” which will begin to feed on the tree’s stored starches. 

Using the same methods used by the U.S. Forest Service, the students spent around 20-30 minutes surveying the stands for these small wooly masses.

After sampling for HWA, students sat along the edge of Florence Lake and reflected on their Conserve School experience. It was a moment of gratitude, intention, and awe. They took in the silence and stillness of the winter wilderness and then began the hike back to Conserve School. 

Nearing the Sylvania-Conserve property border, students became acutely aware that this might be their last steps in the Sylvania Wilderness during their Conserve School experience. They requested to take a two-minute moment for mindfulness. They dropped their packs, flopped down in the snow, and looked up towards the old, mighty trees that shadowed the sky. It was a moment so silent, and still, one could hear the snow falling on one's jacket — a moment for perspective and gratitude. With one last smile at the Sylvania Wilderness Area, students picked themselves up and hiked back over the border to Lowenwood (Conserve School's land) - a place students have come to know as home.

Photos contributed by Bee Nayquonabe, CS19 (Fall 2019), Onamia, MN.