Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dinner in the Woods and An Adventure in the Woods!

After a year of planning, IslandWood's biggest annual fundraiser, Dinner in the Woods, was celebrated on Saturday. This was an all-hands-on-deck event, with every member of IslandWood's staff and almost all of the grads pitching in to help serve food, set-up, entertain the kids, check coats, photograph, schmooze, and clean-up. About 400 guests were ushered onto IslandWood's campus for the evening.
As they mingled before the banquet, many grads and other helpers presented them with trays of mouthwatering appetizers including such IslandWood originals as sunchoke fritters with onion jam drizzled with balsamic reduction and sour cream, rabbit empanadas, oyster shooters over a bed of smooth stones, and polenta squares with gorgonzola spread, sweet olive paste, and toasted sage leaves. The dining hall field was transformed the week before the event into a grand platform tent for the banquet (see video of the tent being built here) and decorated with elegant mint green table cloths and potted native plants available for the guests to bring home afterwards.

At around 6:30, the guests were seated and served a feast of roasted lamb, arctic char (a sustainably-raised fish with qualities of both salmon and halibut), asparagus, and a pilaf of ancient grains. As the foods delighted their taste buds, the guests bid on grandiose auction items like trips to Costa Rica and a custom glass sculpture by Preston Singletary, who also happened to be present at the dinner. A 5th grade student who had come to the School Overnight Program just a few weeks prior gave a brief speech about his experience, a teacher who has brought her classes to IslandWood for years told of its effect on her students, and a board member told about his perceptions of the program. After learning about all the remarkable things IslandWood does, the guests participated in Raise-the-Paddle, where they donated high sums out of the goodness of their hearts. This was incredible to see, knowing that each donation made was going to make it possible for more students to experience nature like never before. Dinner in the Woods was quite an extravaganza, and it was amazing to play a role in such an important part of IslandWood's future. Even though many of us worked late into the night clearing tables and cleaning the tent and kitchen, there was a sense of satisfaction and camaraderie that accompanied the feeling of a job well done for a good cause.

Today, Cohort E had a Natural History Super Monday session. While natural history courses at other schools might involve sitting in a classroom watching a powerpoint presentation or even walking around outside while the professor points out the leaf shapes of certain plant families, IslandWood's natural history classes are much more adventurous than that! Today, we tromped through the thick forest in a corner of IslandWood rarely seen by humans, down below the Teams Course.
We investigated new plants that are sprouting up with the warm spring sunshine like star flower, cascara, trillium, fringe cup, and spiny wood fern. We stared snails in the eye, or rather the tentacula, and swung from invasive ivy vines.
We crawled into the mouth of a glacial erratic shaped like a giant snapping turtle, and slid down slick muddy slopes. We discovered steep gullies, seas of stinging nettle, two coyote dens, deer bones, two western red-backed salamanders, a stalactite-like fungus, huge old-growth stumps, moss-draped big leaf maples, a dead shrew, all 7 kinds of ferns that grow at IslandWood, and a murky vernal pool.

Speaking of murky vernal pools...
Charlie decided to earn a quick twenty bucks from the rest of us by bellyflopping into one of them!

See what I mean by adventurous natural history classes?
I love IslandWood!

No comments: