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a saturday morning

froggies315's picture

We planned to have our shared experience with the freshmen on Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, they didn’t show up.  Instead of going on the geological ramble, Sara, Emma, and I lay on the lawn outside of English House, looked up at the trees, and talked about eating cookies and pizza and Thanksgiving dinner.  It was nice.  Saturday was a beautiful day.  The ground was cold and a little damp, but it didn’t matter because the sun was shining so brightly.  Sara noticed the bulbs on the Tulip tree branches; they look like pearls.  A hawk flew through the sky.  There were three men raking/leaf blowing the leaves off the grass.  

Around 11:15, Emily and Sarah’s group walked by, and we decided to join them for the Morris Woods part of their ramble.  We started with identifying the privet, viburnum, and spice bush.  I’m really glad that we learned to identify these plants by their smell.  I don’t use my nose enough.  Then we found a vine to swing on.  After we swung on it for a little bit, it broke and came crashing down to the ground.  Everyone laughed.  On the way up to the cemetery, we found a chunk of a tree that had been stabbed into the ground.  It was beautiful.  Parts of it were rotted, and parts of it looked like it had been freshly split.  At the top it looked like it had been burnt.  We decided that it was hit by lightning, and later (maybe during Sandy?) it fell from the tree and pierced the earth.  I tried to push it out of the ground, but it wouldn’t budge.  Next, we hung out around the cemetery.  I’ve always been a little disturbed by cemeteries, so I didn’t last long.  I wandered over to a pile of mud and saw some deer tracks.  The freshmen, noting the fences all around the woods, asked how the deer got in.  I don’t know.  It’s a good question.  Then we looped around the other side of the cemetery and walked out of the woods.  It was a nice way to spend a Saturday morning.  

I’m sorry that we didn’t get to go on the geological part of this ramble.  As we were saying goodbye, I remembered a book from way back in the depths of my childhood.  It’s called Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall.  It’s a great book with tremendous illustrations.  Over Thanksgiving, I will go rock hunting with my little cousins and siblings in honor of the geological ramble/because it is awesome.



ekthorp's picture

Unlike Sara and Aliza, I was

Unlike Sara and Aliza, I was not as happy with the unexpected beginning of our ramble. I had rushed here from breakfast, anticipating a long day with many obligations. In order to wait for our partners, I had to give up several of my previous plans for the rest of the day. I was willing to reschedule for later in the day if our collaborators did not show up in time, but it meant giving up several commitments I had already made. Once I gave up any kind of pretension of obligation, though, I immediately felt an immense relief. I suddenly did not really care if our counterparts showed up or not; I was hanging out on a beautifully sunny day with two wonderful women I was beginning to understand better. It was even better when Emily and Sarah showed up; I was able to get to know both of them better by unexpectedly joining their group. I feel like classroom environments, even one as informal and untraditional as ours, fosters a sense of formalism that is distant from one’s realistic identities.  This walk gave me a chance to see some of my classmates in a completely different context, reframing the way I encounter them inside and outside of class.

            I was much more appreciative of our experiential exploration into Morris Woods once I re-experienced it with both students from another class and my own. Similarly to Sara and Aliza, I enjoyed sharing my olfactory information about Privet, Viburnum, and Spice Bush with our group. It was interesting, though, because those of us who knew this information outnumbered those we were teaching it to. This abundance of shared nature knowledge was solidified in my mind by sharing it with those in our group that didn’t know it. It also provided a pretty solid foundation for those of us who did, and allowed us to go explore the practical applications of knowing nature. We got to test out a tree’s tenacity- turns out three time’s a charm. Aliza and I both swung on the branch, and when I went, I felt an exhilaration from doing something so utterly organic, an activity simulated and represented by society very often- through zip-lines and cartoons - but, at least for me, never actually experienced with any level of originality. Swinging on that vine, even though it did eventually lead to Sara’s fall, was incredibly liberating and just plain fun.

We also got to go beyond our class limits by exploring beyond the friendship bench. This might have been more favorite part of the entire event. As we walked toward an abandoned graveyard, we passed a gigantic shard of a tree. Like Aliza said, it was charred, as if it had been struck by lightening and stuck into the ground. It reminded me of a sculpture from Wharton Escherick, it was so excellently protruding from the earth. Sarah from the other groupdis covered a couple other similar situations nearby, but none of these branches could compare to this magnificent magnified splinter stabbing into the earth.  It was definitely my favorite discovery of the day. I didn’t even mind that my knee was hurting, my rescheduled plans, or the absentee freshmen. I was content to be where I was, exploring Morris words with some lovely ladies on a crisp, almost-warm autumn day. 

sara.gladwin's picture

the beauty of the unexpected

I really enjoyed our saturday morning. Something about being continually surprised made it a better ramble then I could have asked for.

I'm usually very wary of damp ground, mostly because I hate walking around with damp clothes. However, I'm also a great follower. Watching Aliza plop herself down in the grass unconcerned, I decided maybe I could sit down too. Until this moment, I hadn't realized that although I had gotten damp from the grass, I barely noticed during our ramble. I became absorbed in Morris Woods, in teaching others and being re-taught. I was pleasently surprised when I realized how much I remembered from our biological tour. I found myself reciting things I didn't even know I remembered. I was especially surprised that I remembered which side had more native plants and what percentage each side had and why. I've never had a brain for science or numbers. In the past, I've spent long, frustrating hours desperately trying to memorize biology notes for an exam only to manage just above a C. So the ease at which I found myself knowing about the plants in Morris Woods took my aback. While I know walking through Morris Woods and identitifying different plants isn't all there is to biology, I had to wonder if I've been learning the "wrong" way all along.... maybe part of the reason none of those biological "facts" would stick is because to me, they weren't real. They were just words on a paper, and not even looking at pictures made a difference in the way I understood them. It was the engagement of all my senses, being able to touch, hear, see, and smell what I was learning that made the difference. I learned through experience. There is nothing about classroom desks, the walls, the chalkboards, that is appealing to the learner in me. I learned more in an hour and a half in the woods then I ever learned in any biology class I've ever taken, high school and college combined. Walking through a second time, I learned new lessons, mainly some "common sense" lessons. I learned that sneakers, not slip-on shoes, are probably the best choice for walking in the woods. I learned that if two people have swung on a vine that isn't that strong, it probably isn't a good idea to test that strength a third time, or to swing with the most amount of momentum possible. That vine will probably break while you're in the air, you most likely will lose a shoe, you will come crashing down along with your brief euphoria. You will also probably later find (and feel!) an ugly bruise on your ass. Despite all these things, I think the seconds in which I thought I was flying was worth it.

Even though I did not get to do the geological tour, I was very happy with our saturday morning exploration. It made me wish that more classes at Bryn Mawr required projects that were restorative to students, that made you feel like it wasn't just work that had to get done, but something that you wanted to do and engaged a deeper part of you than just the academic side....the kind of learning can't be measured by a grade or given a value because it's too personal.

froggies315's picture

I wonder if what made our

I wonder if what made our ramble restorative was that it was surprising.  Our ramble wasn't restorative while we were planning for it, it was a pain.  Juggling competing schedules is on everyone's list of least favorite things to do at school.  Our ramble turned restorative.  It surprised us that the freshmen bailed, it surprised us that the other group rolled through, it surprised us that the vine crashed down to the ground, it surprised us to find a huge chunk of tree piercing the earth, it surprised us that we remembered so much...Now, I'm wondering if a teacher can assign a project that is restorative.  The words assign and restore seem largely incompatible to me.  Can you order someone to restore?