There is a popular surf/climbing documentary, 180 Degrees South (available on Netflix), that follows a surfer/climber on a journey to climb Mt. Fitzroy in Patagonia. In the film, the creators imply that Patagonia may just be one of the last wild places on earth. At one point in the film, their journey takes them to a village in Chile where the local people are protesting a government decision to build a large dam. The dam would have huge environmental impacts on the peoples everyday lives and on the land that they call home. The people organize large protests and they speak about the environmental problems constructing the dam would cause. When speaking about the local’s and their connection to the land, the narrator says, “To protect a place, you must love it. To love a place, you must first know it.”
This quote is something that our Outdoor Program embodies. Our students are not at the point in their lives where we need to burden them with the environmental problems of the earth. Environmental Science in the Outdoor Program is not a doom and gloom program that expresses sea level rise, global warming and an increase in dangerous hurricanes, as a dark future. Rather, we try each day to build strong connections with our students and the earth around them. An example of this can be seen when a student spends time sitting by a lake listens to the funny noises a bird makes, in hopes of understanding what the bird is saying. Below is a “Sit Spot” writing done by one of our students while at the park. A “Sit Spot” writing occurs when a student visits his or her special location in the park each week for 20 minutes. “Sit Spot” time is a time to slow down, observe, listen and record what one sees and hears. For 20 minutes, our students are able to enjoy a connection with nature, one that is solely theirs. Here is an example of a “Sit Spot” writing from one of our students in the Outdoor Program:
Sit Spot 4-8-14
When I look around my sit spot I hear, a bird making a weird noise that I’ve never heard.
I hear, other birds making different noises.
I hear, tracks in the distance.
I hear, loud frogs croaking.
I hear, cars passing by the park.
I hear, other fishermen across the lake.
When I sit in my sit spot I see,
a duck walking near me.
I see, cars passing by.
I see, birds in the trees making noises.
I see fishermen across the lake.
I see, the ugly cloudy gray sky.
I see, ducks and geese in the water.
I see, a fishing line caught in a tree.
I see, the frogs.
The environmental problems we face can be incredibly overwhelming and can leave us feeling like there is nothing we can do. I take ease in the fact that our students are learning to “know it”, they will soon “love it” and that will empower them to “protect it”. I believe what our students are doing is good for the Earth. I hope that we are all doing what we can to harness this power and empower this generation of young people, who will know the Earth well enough to care for it.