A Graphic Novel: The Green Oaks Superjournal

Green Oaks Superjournal

An image from Julia Ohman's Green Oaks Superjournal

Julia Ohman, a 2012 Oakie who graduated from Knox College in June, has posted an online “graphic novel” describing her Green Oaks Term experience.

Green Oaks Superjournal – How We Found the Good Life: One Term at Green Oaks combines text and illustrations to delve into various aspects of the 10-week Green Oaks Term.

“It’s transformative, disorienting and an enormous amount of fun,” she wrote in an introduction. “The following pages were drawn and written throughout the term in an effort to document the little things we might forget. The big things, we’ll always remember.”

Read Julia’s work here.

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Green Oaks Reunion!

Green Oaks Term Reunion 2012: Barn Dance

The 2012 Green Oaks Term drew to a close with a celebratory reunion May 25-26 that brought together dozens of former “Oakies,” current Knox College students, and other friends of Green Oaks.

Events included a barn dance; a picnic-style dinner; the dedication of a new sculpture honoring Paul Shepard, director of Green Oaks from 1954 to 1964; the debut of a new prairie art installation by Knox College faculty member Tony Gant; and a tree-planting in memory of Anjalika Kapur ’06, who participated in the 2004 Green Oaks Term.

Knox College President Teresa Amott also recognized Green Oaks Term Director Jon Wagner for “10 years of dedication to the Green Oaks Term and all he’s done for Green Oaks,” presenting him with a framed photograph of Lake Sharvy.

Read more about the reunion here, and take a look at more photos from the gathering here.

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Video: Log Walking

This is a video made by Jesse Sindler ’13. He likes to go “log walking” and wanted to share that.

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Focusing on Space, Rather Than Time

This post was written by Steve Galdek ’12

The Green Oaks Term affords us all a lot of time to pursue interests outside of classwork that being on campus cannot. Although we take three classes as we would during a normal term on campus, they are all interconnected so we can really focus on place, rather than time.

Having more time to explore the prairie or woods, build something, or even read novels not required for class allows our minds to wander where we want them to without being directed by a textbook.

As a community, we are striving to take a break from the constant need to rush around from place to place like modern society demands. Instead, we are immersing ourselves out here — learning the biota (ecology), understanding how geology has shaped the land, learning how to function as a small community, and learning how to inspire creativity.

We are learning how to be ourselves so we can enter the world as leaders who see the world as a precious and ever-changing entity. Instead of separating ourselves from nature, we are placing ourselves into it.

I have personally decided to immerse myself into the Green Oaks Term as much as possible, even going so far as to stay out here for Flunk Day.

Instead of going into campus and participating in the activities as I normally would, I stayed behind and had a quiet day watching movies and walking around. Although I did not see my friends on campus, being out here for only a term is all too precious for me to leave it for any period of time.

I also decided to leave my computer behind, cancel my phone service temporarily, and temporarily deactivate my Facebook account. Having done this, I have felt more free than ever to go out and pursue my interests without having the constant feeling of being burdened by technologies that take away from experiencing the outdoors with an open mind.

Nothing is more satisfying than walking around with naught in my pockets but a pocketknife and vial of ethanol for collecting insects. I don’t even carry my wallet around anymore — there is no need to spend money on anything.

Other ways that I have been focusing on space is by using materials that I find around Green Oaks to do projects. I am currently in the process of making a quiver for arrows out of willow branches and a bow made out of an Osage orange tree branch. Not only do I take enjoyment out of making these things, I am also learning a lot about biology.

For instance, making a bow out of Osage is a very detailed process that involves looking closely at the growth rings and shaping it in such a way that will bring out the wood’s natural flexibility. Many people use modern bows made out of fiberglass without even knowing how or where it was made, and you can trust me when I say that you fully appreciate the integrity of such a device when you actually get your hands dirty making one.

Having so much more time — or at least a lack of worrying about it — has given me the chance to read many books. The Green Oaks collection is numerous in the breadth of books it contains, all pertaining to sustainability in their own unique way.

Thus far, I have read Biophilia, Anthill the Novel, Colter, Primitive Wilderness Living and Survival Skills, and I am re-reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. While these are not required for my classes, I find that they correlate well with the Green Oaks program.

Because we have so much wild land to roam around in, going on a simple walk may uncover species that we do not know much about.

Instead of letting those things that I do not know about slip on by without putting much thought into it, I try to understand everything that I see.

With the help of Jim Mountjoy, for instance, I identify those species and read about them. That is a quality that I am most proud of in myself — seeking to understand everything that I utilize or am a part of.

Steve Galdek '12

Steve Galdek, in foreground, studies plants on the prairie with other Green Oaks Term students and faculty.

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Our Community

At Green Oaks, the students do all of their own cooking, dishes, cleaning, and household chores. Three groups, of four students each, rotate weekly through a cycle of cooking, cleaning, and dishes.

I thought it would be nice to be able to share with people outside our community a little about what it’s like to be in our community. So I asked the dishes crew to tell me what their favorite part of living in a community is and to name one thing that surprised them about Green Oaks.

Here’s what they said:

Alyssa Kennamer ’14 — Everyone here has such gumption to get things done. It’s tremendous to be able to work together with such a capable, inquisitive, fun-lovin’ bunch of college kids. Oh, and goofy — the silliness here can make any gritty chore like sweeping floors a real dream sweep.

I’ve always valued family dinners as an integral part of communal living. So I’m always itchin’ to hear the –DONG!– of the triangle (or Jim’s wolf howl) that signals DINNERTIME.

It’s a great part of the day, where everyone is together — sharing both food and the day’s adventures. Our family dinners are also steeped with traditions (already), whether it’s waiting for everyone to be served before eating or our after-dinner talent portion.

Hannah Totchtrop ’14 — I was really impressed with how well we have all bonded. Within a few short weeks, our entire group has gotten close enough to tell jokes and share secrets.

I am so happy to be at Green Oaks with the group of people that ended up being here.

Julia Ohman ’12 — My favorite thing about being in a community like Green Oaks is there’s always someone to collaborate with — on drawings, meals, building projects, whatever you want to do, you have a partner, or many.

I’m most surprised that I’m going to leave Green Oaks and college with 16 new close friends I barely knew or had never seen before three months ago.

Jamie Ruml ’14 — I’ve enjoyed the ability to engage richly with others that comes from living in a small community, as well as the sense of personal responsibility.

I’m surprised and enthralled by how much opportunity is afforded for reflection within the context of an involved academic experience.

In reading through all of their responses, it becomes very apparent that a huge part of this experience that we are having is the development of connections between people, work, and play.

Honestly, it becomes really hard to tell if you’re working or playing because usually whatever you’re doing is fun and enriching because you’re sharing it with at least one friend.

Today, Jesse Sindler ’13 and I sat in the rain for a couple of hours, lashing sticks together in an attempt to build a geodesic dome at the site I selected for my art project. It may have been rainy and a little cold, but the two of us working hard together building something was a really rewarding experience.

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Day Trip: Fulton County, Illinois

Today, we took a day trip to Fulton County, where visited the Dickson Mounds Museum, Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, and Oak Hill Cemetery.

At the Dickson Mounds Museum, resident anthropologist Alan Harn, who has been researching the history of Native Americans in the area for over 50 years, treated us to a wonderful tour. Not only was he uniquely qualified to comment on practically every topic in the museum, but as someone who grew up only a few miles away from the sites he excavated, he was able to weave a fascinating story for us about what it means to be connected to one specific place.

Dickson Mounds Museum

Touring Dickson Mounds Museum with Alan Harn

A true raconteur, Alan fascinated us with stories of the people that had lived in the area – all the way from pre-European contact right up to his own life history. He also let us take a look “behind the scenes” at where he does his research, as well as into the museum’s extensive collections of artifacts in storage.

We also stopped by the Oak Hill Cemetery, setting of poet Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. The collection of poems provides fictionalized histories for persons entombed in the cemetery.

Each “Oakie” picked a favorite poem to read in front of the respective gravestone that served as Masters’ inspiration. Though more somber than Alan’s vivacious stories, the experience was yet another way of understanding how people respond to place.

Oak Hill Cemetery

Reading Edgar Lee Masters' poems at Oak Hill Cemetery

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