Living Inter-Textually: Where are the walls in this classroom?

Alzar School | 31.01.13

Our second day on campus, we spent outdoor activity discovering our 100acre campus on snowshoes. We shouted war cries as we raced each other through the snowpack, practiced communication skills with a mobile game of “telephone,” and trekked to an Alzar School sacred spot – one of the only fir trees on campus, adorned with last semester’s ceremonial baubles. We circled up and paid tribute to the great Walt Whitman by “sounding our barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world.”

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This semester in English, we will be tromping our boots through “Journeys in Place,” exploring what we can learn from ourselves from being out of place, as well as beginning to forge a connection to our new environments. Already, students are developing their individual annotation strategies, learning how to participate in a Harkness discussion as a community member rather than an individual, and navigating the balance between new technological tools and the great white wilderness outside.

Yesterday we discussed Barry Lopez’s essay “The Rediscovery of North America.” One of his central arguments proclaims the solution to human-induced environmental crises: creating a “sense of place.” He defines this cultivation of an intimacy with one’s natural surroundings with the Spanish term “la querencia: a place on the ground where one feels secure, a place from which one’s strength of character is drawn” (Lopez, 14). In our first unit, we have undertaken Lopez’ challenge.

Students have chosen a piece of land on campus to call their Querencia. They will visit the site ritually, performing observational studies, writing narratives, and simply finding some designated personal space and time in this often challenging transition to Alzar School rigor.

Already students have impressed me with their textual insights and ability to synthesize disparate experiences into a coherent whole. I can’t wait to hear what else they encounter in their independent forays into the wilderness between the pages and between the trees.

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Our second night of the winter expedition, we sipped hot chocolate in the cozy cabin under dripping gloves set out to dry. We discussed the purpose of wilderness and pondered Henry David Thoreau’s experiment at Walden Pond. He wrote, “I went to the woods to live deliberately.” And so we follow in Thoreau’s tracks.

Digging into text and snow, we strive to connect to our environment and contribute to our community through the words of the great Sam Goff: We try for ourselves, and try for each other.

Ellie Moore

English Teacher

Introductory Spanish Teacher

Chief Medical Coordinator