Place of Meaning Speeches

Alzar School | 20.02.15

As their culminating assignment for our first unit on Querencia: Sense of Place, students write a speech in which they tie their own experience with an author’s sense of wilderness, nature, or place. Students must answer the prompt:

“In what way does your view of your querencia differ from or echo any past author’s point of view of wilderness/place/nature?” and “Have you built a sense of place in your querencia? Is it important to build a sense of place?”

The assignment is deliberately open-ended, encouraging students to think for themselves and draw a conclusion by analyzing the themes in authors like Annie Dillard and Henry David Thoreau and Barry Lopez, and then synthesizing the information into a coherent narrative. Some students found that yes, the place they chose on campus to visit a few times a week provided them with peace and a sense of self that they needed during a challenging transition to living at Alzar School.

Living in the mountains things seem like they never change. The mountains always have snow on them, the river is always moving somewhere and there is always silence whispering around you. It wasn’t until I saw my querencia for the first time that things looked different…When you find somewhere that has been apart of your life forever, but now seems like a new exciting adventure, I think it is then when you have found your querencia. – MBB

Others wrote that, in fact, they believed a sense of place is more of a state of mind, more of a confidence you carry with you, no matter where you are that helps support you through challenge.

Personally for me, it is somewhat painful being alone because I don’t want to distract myself from my normal life and refocus on my connection and responsibility to this world. Though it may not be the easiest state of mind to be in, Dillard “think[s] it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle it limp wherever it takes you” (Dillard, 2).This necessity that Dillard emphasizes can not be found when I am gossiping about an Instagram post or stressing about an upcoming test. – ES

Some defined their “sense of place” in their passions – music, dance, running. Others found nature to be a kind of emotional mirror, personifying their feelings in the moment:

The separated ice is where the new me represents itself, blank but gleaming with potential. Annie Dillard, in Living Like Weasels, eloquently states, “I come to Hollins Pond not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it” (Dillard 2)… I aspire to break free from my past, not to forget, but to move unhindered into the future. – AM

It was beautiful to see students share their original insights and individual truths with each other during our first Saturday class.  We wandered around campus delivering our Querencia Speeches in our respective locations to our community of friends.  Students stood with poise and projected their voices across the 100 acre woods. In a moment of Alzar School magic, one student’s speech delivery called a flock of tiny black birds to settle into an audience of branches.

It is important to me that while students develop their writing skills, they also develop confidence in their own voices and believe that they have something worth sharing with the world. Students will continue to develop their communication skills through designated leadership opportunities and Spanish language conversational challenges, and English class projects.

Watch a few sample querencia speeches from students of the Spring 2015 class below: