Veganism Experiment

In December of last year, I decided to go vegan for winter break. I had recently eaten too much steak and it made me feel sicker than I had ever felt before. I figured that maybe going vegan was a necessary change, because it was a new experience and it would help me to be more aware. I was also hoping to get rid of some of the cloudy headedness I was experiencing. I had been vegetarian before, but I had never cut all animal products out of my diet. Ultimately, it was a lot easier than I expected.

 

Immediately I could tell the difference. I was much more aware of what I was eating and when, because I had never restricted myself from so many things. I didn’t regret my decision however. I was committed to my cause. I think this stemmed from the fact that I was just trying it out so I didn’t feel any long term commitment. Another effect that I noticed was that when I ate something, I could immediately tell how it made me feel. There was no energy in me from other animals so my body was able to react quicker. This pushed me to be sure that I had a balanced diet, because when I didn’t, I was aware of how I felt and why. For a while, I fell into a routine of eating almost the same thing every day. No more eggs and milk meant minimal baked goods, no omelettes, and I could only eat cereal if I used almost milk. No meat meant I had to make my sandwiches out of something else, and eat a lot more beans. I soon recognised that I had to work to diversify my diet. So, I began cooking regularly, trying out different combinations of ingredients and spices. I got to practice a skill that will be useful for my whole life, and I made it so that my family didn’t have to worry about changing their diets as well. I also did feel less cloudy. It could be the placebo effect, but either way it worked.

 

I didn’t miss animal products at all, and still don’t. I even began to develop an aversion to anything that wasn’t plant-based. One day at school, a girl was eating eggs next to me and the smell made me feel sick. Another day, I ate a caramel before I knew it had cream in it, and once it was fully dissolved there was a lingering taste like bitter milk. It also made my mouth feel a bit slippery. I used to love those candies and I had never tasted that flavour before. Apparently the reason for that is animal products are extremely rich. They cause your taste buds to become used to strong flavours, so when you stop eating them, other things begin to have more flavour. I appreciate the newfound depth of taste I have, and the cooking skills I’ve gained from this experiment, and I like the way a plant based diet makes me feel. So, I think I will stay largely vegan for a while yet.

Advertisements

SLT Narrative 2017

This SLT, I was involved in the Vulnerable Pollinator project. We had the objectives of learning more about pollinators, specifically bees, raising awareness, planting small trees and shrubs for better nutrition/ living conditions, and overall contributing to the wellbe(e)ing of our pollinators. During this term, we had five community partners. We met with Bill Mares, the president of the Vermont Beekeeper’s Association, who is a longtime beekeeper himself and we got to see his apiary. This was the most contact we had with actual living bees throughout the entire term, so it was very valuable and provided a firsthand perspective on the insects we were attempting to help. We also were able to get a presentation by Samantha Alger and Alex Burnham, two UVM phD candidates who are studying diseases in the honeybee population, and also spearheading the National Bee Survey in Vermont. They talked about challenges bees are facing right now and gave us a good overview of the reasons why bees are dying so much more quickly now than they were 100 years ago. As well as these partners, we also worked with two farmers from different farms in the area to help cultivate healthy habitats and food systems for pollinators, as well as to create our final project, a recycled beehive that will serve as an informational display. One was named Jon Turner, a former marine who found solace in agriculture and owns Wild Roots Farm in Bristol, Vermont. The other was John Hayden, a multilingual lacrosse aficionado who runs The Farm Between in Jeffersonville. Even though this term was short and we may not have made a huge lasting impact on the state of the bee population, we still accomplished some great things. Namely, we showed our community partners, members of other SLT groups, and everyone who came to the final exhibition that this generation is interested in and cares about what is going on with our farming systems and our environment as a whole. We also created a lasting display of our knowledge that will be housed at The Farm Between so everyone who goes there will be able to take away the same knowledge we did as a result of this project.

 

This term had very few low points for me. I am largely an independent worker, so getting into a group setting was unfamiliar but a welcome and necessary change. Also, as someone who likes to know everything there is to know about the topic at hand, this was cool because I got to take charge of finding out new things about the topic that could actually be useful for the group, and in real life. I appreciated the depth of knowledge that our community partners brought to us and I know that I will keep it in mind as I move through my life and connect it to other ideas in the future. One highlight I can remember, although spread through a few different days, was the pure joy I felt while working outside with plants. Even though I try to get outside as much as I can, it usually isn’t with my classmates during school hours, and that felt special and new. Another significant experience I think we can all attest to, was one particular quote from Jon Turner. On the first day we went to his farm, he showed us his beehive that had just been upset by a bear. He ended up making an impromptu, passion fueled speech including the line “…so find your niche and protect it, and do what you can to save the world.” That spoke deeply to many members of our group.

 

I appreciated the group that we had, as I felt connected to many of the members, and it allowed me to get to know the others more and differently. Working with someone in a classroom is very different than working with them in the field and it was interesting to see how peoples skills and weaknesses translated. I think I personally was a valuable addition to this group. My skills in general are much more well-suited to working in a hands on environment, preferably outdoors. This project catered to both of those interests. Although I can be overly strong willed at times, I was able to bring a positive and consistently hardworking spirit to the group. I was invested in this project, and I am not one to shy away from hard hands on work. I tried triangulating at Wild Roots, practiced planting trees, and tackled designing a full side of the final beehive by myself. I also researched many different aspects of the presentation not only my own, so I had information to share.

 

I think I learned so much during this project because the work we were doing was directly related to an important cause that I care about. All of the research was necessary, whereas in some other projects a large portion is arbitrary. Also, there were obvious connections throughout the project. We got to think about pollinators in many different contexts and from many different perspectives so it made the entire pool of knowledge that we gained much more comprehensive, diverse, and of course, interesting. If I were to change one thing, I would work on making sure that there was a more definitive and well distributed schedule for the weeks. Also, I would have appreciated a little more say in the project that we actually ended up doing. Once we voted on doing a bee project, it felt like that was the end of the choice that we got. I realise that there are only so many partners we could work with, and that it might take a long time to come to a consensus, but I think a short discussion regarding the scale of the project we were hoping to take on, or the type of interactions we were hoping to have with community partners could have been useful. I am aware that some people expected we would be spending a lot more time actually working with bees and even though I am happy with how our project turned out, I feel as though maybe more communication was in order.

Spring Term Narrative 2017

First off, I just want to say this term has been crazy. I had an amazing internship, and I had a few projects that didn’t turn out quite as I expected. I gained maturity and competence in more than one field, and I learned more about what makes me tick, and how I can alter that to allow me to meet my goals.

 

I completed multiple learning plans this term, as my original project did not turn out the way I was expecting, and I ended up on a slightly different path than I usually would. I am not yet excellent at making plans and sticking to them. I prefer to start off doing something and see where it leads me. However, it is necessary to be able to finish tasks in a time based manner, which is something I struggled with this term. I tend to think of things in a very broad way, and often times the projects I come up with are not set in stone or easily evaluated by a community partner. For example, this term I had three project ideas. The first one was to bring a European film I was very interested in to the US. However, I did not foresee that it was going to take more time than I had, and the filmmakers were not prepared to take things so fast. After that, I had a project where I didn’t really write a plan. I simply started out head on. Once I had gotten into it, I decided to write up a plan, however it was a little delayed. This was the project relating to semester schools. In my defense, I was on a very short time frame as the admissions directors needed the applications done as soon as possible. The semester school project ended up being the most successful and influential project, as I got accepted and will be attending Maine Coast Semester at Chewonki in the fall! Finally, my project on making money also did not have a designated end point, as it is ongoing until I need to use the money to pay for my tuition to semester school. I did have clear goals for each project though. I made it into semester school, I know exactly how much money I need to make and I have more experience with finances and different potential options on how to create a lucrative business. However, I think I could work on figuring out my learning goal before I start the project. I often jump headlong into things without thinking about what I can learn, and maybe I would be able to accomplish something bigger or more helpful for the community in the grand scheme of things.

 

On the topic of community, I also had an internship this term. I worked at Crow’s Path, an outdoor learning center for elementary age kids. It was different than anything I had experienced before in many ways. I never got to have school outdoors, and I had never worked with kids in a leadership position either, aside from the occasional babysitting gig. Even though I have been interested in the outdoors for many years, I never quite reached the level of immersive learning that I participated in during my LTI. For the first several weeks, I was so in awe of being in the woods and watching all of these new activities take place that it was hard to step into that mentor role. However, during my midpoint meeting Sophie gave me some suggestions that helped me to push myself into a role I had never taken on. I learned how to be mature and responsible, and how to take care of myself and others in nature. I also gained a lot of practice being in the outdoors. This is especially useful as I am very interested in backpacking and outdoor education in general. Although I know that there are always areas in which I can improve, I definitely believe that this was a valuable internship for me to have. As well as having an amazing and sometimes super silly time, I now have useful skills and good connections that will last far beyond my sophomore year.

 

 

Connections are one of the most important parts of life to me and I am very interested in each individual in BP. Ever since the beginning of fall term, I think most of us have connected well. However, as time has worn on, I know that is has been easy to get tired of seeing the same people every single day. I have experienced this. I am quick to stop giving people the benefit of the doubt when I get tired of them and I know that it is not always deserving. Nevertheless, I try to bring positivity and enthusiasm to our group every day. I have a strong work ethic, and I hope that people who witness me in a work environment are able to use me as a role model. However, I also have a strong will. I prefer to do things my own way, without always paying close regard to rules, guidelines, or plans. Sometimes I will put my own needs before those of others in the group, and not always realise what kind of influence I have. This has caused some issues in the past, but I try to be upfront about what it is that I need. I know that if I am going to be in a self directed learning program, I really do have to direct my own learning and use whatever means I have in my power to succeed at the goals I put in place for myself. Although I am trying to reach my own goals, I also try to speak up for the group when I recognise that something is not working for more than one member of BP. Next term is Service Learning Term, so I hope that the group working skills I have developed so far will be useful, and I hope that I will be able to use techniques that I learn there to contribute positively to the community at Chewonki in fall term of 2017.

 

My goals for next term include working well in a group, creating a meaningful change for bees, and working with partners who are obviously passionate about what it is that they’re doing. I hope that I can learn even more about what it is that I want to pursue in the future and I hope that SLT will allow me to spend more time in nature and explore different aspects of the natural world.

Explore Week Reflection 2017

January 16th – 20th

Every year between Fall and Spring term, the BP students take a week to explore something they might not otherwise try in the form of a group project. There were three different options, but I was part of the group called Wilderness Expedition.

This workshop was focussed on allowing students to spend time outside in the woods, learning wilderness skills such as tracking, first aid, packing, and route planning. I wanted to do this to connect with the environment, to exercise, and to let go of all the thoughts in my head for a bit. I believe that people don’t spend enough time in nature. I truly believe getting outside can solve some of the world’s problems. Stress, hate, depression, self centeredness, cloudy thinking, even general unhealthiness can all be eased with the help of nature. We as humans are meant to be outside and free, not cooped up in boxes of our own creation. During the week, we travelled to two different areas for snowshoeing, Bolton’s nordic trails and Mt Mansfield.

Our main instructor was Kevin, an avid environmentalist and mountaineer. Lundie, another BP advisor, accompanied us to the mountains. On the first day, we planned our trip. We began the morning with a demonstration of equipment that might be used on a mountaineering trip. Then we read a story by our inspiration, John Muir. It all felt very exciting and hands on. Since I am a naturally curious person, always looking to explore and try new things, I was instantly intrigued. A highlight was when Kevin lit a cotton ball covered in vaseline on fire to show us how easily it would burn in case of an emergency requiring heat. Afterwards, we made a list of the 10 essential things we would bring with us on a wilderness trip and compared it to the generally accepted one. Matt and Mason then went on to plan the routes we would take, while Hannah, Sam, and Savanah looked at animal tracks we might see on our journeys. Thomas and I researched typical first aid scenarios. Some of them included hypothermia or heat loss, frostbite, blisters and splints.

On the second day we hiked around a short distance on the trails at Bolton. It was like the getting into it day. People hadn’t built up their stamina or mental fortitude yet. We didn’t know what clothes it would take to stay warm or what equipment we would need for sure yet. It was cold and we found a lodge to explore. After a while we stopped for lunch under some trees and took off our snowshoes and listened to a story about grizzlies read by my lovely friend Matt and then we ran around laughing and tackled each other into the snow for a bit before heading back. The day at Mount Mansfield we headed out at a brisker pace. We had to break every so often, maybe every ten or fifteen minutes to drink or take off a layer. Snow hiking is harder than you might expect. We didn’t complain though, the teachers remarked on that. We lost the trail briefly a couple of times, and we played a game about tracking, and another about predators and prey before heading on our way. After a long while, we made it to the first rocky outcropping where we could see the view. It was stunning. Looking out from the side of a mountain for the first time always takes my breath away and makes me want to jump off just a little bit. We headed on. One or two more outlooks passed by and we eventually stopped for lunch. Eventually we reached the top of where we were going to make it that day, and we took part in a medical simulation. Matt had “fallen off a small cliff into a stream”, “hurt his ankle” and “gotten his legs wet”. We took off his shoes and snowpants and rolled him into a tarp and sleeping bag burrito. We also practiced lighting the tiny stove. The sun was going down so Matt put his pants and shoes back and we headed out. We basically slid all the way down the mountain on our feet and our butts depending on the pitch and the depth of the snow. At the bottom, we did a silent walk out. I often expect more from things like that. I didn’t realise anything integral to how I would live life in the future. But, maybe my expectations were too high. I did get a lot out of this trip, I just need more time, more similar experiences. At any rate, it was fun to be outside with my peers, especially those in the other advisory who I don’t get to spend much time with. I am always drawn to adventuresome experiences and this time was no different. I can say with absolute sincerity that I thoroughly enjoyed this experience.

I am naturally an outdoorsy person, always searching for new things and places to explore. Wilderness learning provides a base of interest that I can use to spur me forward. Unlike a classroom approach, there are always multiple sources of information and ways to get to it in the outdoors. Also, a physical component makes it much easier to focus on the learning at hand. We didn’t just research first aid, we held a mock injury scenario to practice our skills. We didn’t just read about tracking, we played games that allowed us to look for tracks and identify them. And, we actually hiked the routes that we planned. There is only so much that can be accomplished by reading before a point is reached where the skill must actually be practiced. Also, it causes the knowledge to stick better. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to practice first aid in a real setting, I feel like I could recall the information to do it again if needed. Additionally, it gave me experience to help decide whether medicine is something I am interested in pursuing in the future.

The proficiency I addressed during this week was “integrate knowledge from a variety of sources to set goals and make informed decisions”. Since this week was largely focussed on planning and then completing our plans, I think this is accurate. We used a book by John Muir, the internet, multiple books that Kevin owned, maps, previous experiences, and Kevin’s own knowledge base to help us decide where to go for our expeditions and how to approach the scenarios we came across while in the elements. We had to decide how far to hike before turning back the way we came, what types of clothing to wear, what to bring with us and how to use it in case of an emergency. Although we didn’t hike as far as we were hoping to on either day, we definitely learned a lot about how to brave the cold in search of adventure.

Fall Term Narrative 2016

It’s hard to believe that half the year is almost over. So much has happened and I am endlessly grateful for all my new experiences that have happened as a result of Big Picture. I live for experiences. I put adventure seeker as the first descriptor on my portfolio website’s home page, and there is one quote I’ve found that relates my mind to my time in Big Picture. “Cease thinking of education as the preparation for life, but rather life itself.” I have never been as engaged sitting in a classroom as I have being out in the world and doing things. The simplicity of learning in the most basic way is not enough to keep me as engaged as I want to be. This is why I appreciate Big Picture learning because it allows me to learn things through the course of doing things, and as a result, learn them better than I otherwise would.

 

Also I have found that I absolutely love the community of Big Picture. I believe that there is a specific type of person who decides to join BP. There is a lot of variety, but we are all ready and willing to step outside the norm and take things into our own hands. And these are the people who intrigue me the most.

 

The semester was harder than I expected. There is a different kind of thinking you have to do to be in BP. But it was also some of the most rewarding time that I have experienced. Since I’m taking two classes in addition to doing Big Picture, my situation is a little different than those of most. It is something that has been hard to learn how to deal with, but I have learned. I have never been great at time management, but Big Picture has altered that. I still am not the best at planning how much time I’ll need for things, but my procrastination habit has eased a little bit. This I know is because I no longer dread the work I’m doing. I am now much more able to come to an idea and make it happen. I actively seek out opportunities now. Since I have begun to be encouraged to take my natural path of exploration, I have moved towards actually taking it in most situations, rather than spending my time angry about not being able to do anything and thus doing even less than I would otherwise. I have done two of my required interviews, volunteer work, and a shadow day so far, and they have all been incredibly rewarding, might I even say the best days I have had in Big Picture so far. As long as I can remember, trips have always been my favourite part of school. I know there are some people whose comfort zone stays within the school, but I imagine my comfort zone to be as big as the world.

 

I reflect on my learning a decent amount I think. I am naturally introspective, using every opportunity to know more about myself. Looking back through my journal I’ve made some significant breakthroughs about how to best approach my learning in this new situation. Multiple areas in my learning are different from those of most. I’ve learned a lot about how I think, including that my mind goes through a long period of consideration and then works extra hard when I fully have my idea. I also now know that it is alright for me to keep my projects on a smaller scale because I do so much extra stuff outside of school. Keeping a journal has been useful for me because sometimes when my discoveries don’t build on each other as much, I forget things that may be useful in the future. It is interesting to look back and see what I learned when, what I enjoyed, and notice foreshadowing that I didn’t see during the moment.

 

In terms of contributing to the school, I have been a student rep, attending lunch meetings every Monday to discuss upcoming events, and ways to approach situations that might need work or tweaking inside the BP community. I was on the Student Gathering planning committee, and a facilitator. While that was a bit emotionally draining for me, I think we all learned a lot about other learning opportunities in our area and I would love to see it happen again. I have done a bit of awareness raising for Big Picture in the MMU and also SB community. I am on MMU Dance Team, and sometimes I read quotes from the BP quote box. Also, not to toot my own horn, but I suggested grilled cheese lunch day.

 

Outside of school, I have been doing a fair bit. I did some volunteer work at the Vermont International Film Festival, where unfortunately I was not able to see any of the films but the people know me now and I will hopefully be back next year. I did an interview with Justin Crowther at the Burlington Record plant where I learned about the process of creating a record, and the benefits to working in Burlington. I also interviewed Dan Bolles and Jordan Adams from the Seven Days, from whom I learned about music journalism and the local Burlington music scene. I went to a shadow day at Crow’s Path, where I met kids and hiked on the cliffs overlooking lake Champlain. It was a highlight for sure. I very much enjoyed all the other places we went as part of Intro to CBL (the farm, election day polling, ronald mcdonald house, bca, generator, and vermont violins). It seems as though I am more curious about new possibilities than ever. I’ve also been dancing a lot. I’m in a dance adaptation of Oliver that will be performed in April, and am participating in the MMU Dance Team program. I am a cellist in Vermont Youth Philharmonia, and a “Barder” in Way of the Bard. I also take a ballet class on Thursdays and go to concerts whenever possible. So, there is a lot. However, I can count it all as school work, thanks to Big Picture.

 

In the future I hope to have an internship at Crow’s Path, and also pursue the dream of becoming a radio programmer. I want to have another outside shadow day. I also am planning on taking at least one college class but I recognise that it most likely won’t happen until next year. I still need to practice planning and prioritizing, and working even when I feel that I am not in a state of enough creativity. Another thing I could work on is wrapping everything up fully. I have always been prone to not completely finishing everything that I start. Since my brain sometimes moves faster than my fingers, I end up ahead of myself. So, I could stand to start on a smaller scale and build up rather than start on a large scale and work that much harder to condense things. I still have graduation requirements like the Science Fair, Research Paper, and STP in my future, and though they may be far off, I have an STP idea already. Stay tuned. It has to do with bringing a European movie to the United States, and it might be my final interview as well.