Saturday, May 16, 2009

Through their lens

My students this past week from Westside School took such great photos with our team camera that I can't resist posting them here. I've found that this is a telling and fascinating way to see IslandWood from their point of view. And they usually take better pictures than the adults do! In this first picture, Julia was describing what an alder tree felt like--skinny, smooth, pale. At each new nature discovery, the kids gathered around to wonder at it, poke it, dare each other to lick it (for the banana slugs anyway).

There are only two teaching weeks left until summer, and we grads are all in a mad dash to do original work on our independent study project (ISP), compile teaching portfolios about our year here, and complete classwork for Seminar in Sustainability, Non-Profit Administration, and Social Studies Methods. But the weather is so nice! It's hard to stay inside and type. It helps me to remember what the point of all this hard work is.

My ISP is all about asking high schoolers who went to IslandWood in elementary school what they remember of their overnight outdoor school experience. I'm not sure how earth-shattering my research will be, but I do know that the six conversations I've had with teenagers so far have informed me tons about how to guide them on their explorations of this place and of themselves. They don't tend to remember their instructors all that well, but they vividly remember things that were completely new to them. They remember their feelings pretty well: fear, excitement, anger, fun, peacefulness. They liked feeling independent and having the freedom to explore. And in many cases, they didn't realize what the experience meant to them until they hit high school. It seems that when they can finally start making their own choices, experiences like IslandWood's sit in the back of their mind whispering, "get outside!"

All these insights encourage me to keep looking at the world with the fresh, eager eyes of a kid. It helps me to be a better teacher, but it also reminds me to always consider the point of view of all those--friend, stranger, human, plant, or animal--around me for a more rich experience with the world. Thanks again, super cool IW kids!