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