November, 2005 Archive

Assignment

Friday, November 18th, 2005

Preparing for my next quarter’s class, Ecolit: Reading and Writing the Landscape, I modified the Journal writing requirement to include a weblog option. At least twice a week students must write an entry. I must follow suit.

I’ve been going to Nature Explorers with my grandson Ian every Thursday morning. Its a program for kids up to age 8 and their parents and grandparents, part of the Coyote Road School in San Luis Obispo. The school focuses on outdoor education and nature study with an emphasis on tracking that derives from the educational philosophy of Tom Brown’s Tracker School.

We’ve been to Bishop’s Peak, Reservoir Canyon, Cuesta Park, Laguna Lake, the Sand Spit and Morro Bay Estuary, a few of the hundred wonderful natural preserves within 20 minutes of home. All the kids are enthralled with these sessions, especially Ian, and the adults seem to enjoy them with just as much enthusiasm. There’s alot of philosophy and expertise that goes into the program, but each excursion feels casual and slow paced and leaves plenty of time for adventure and pure fooling around.

Alot of what goes on is similar to what happens in my University classes, although less information is conveyed. As a student rather than a teacher, however, I find myself marvelling at the knowledge of wildlife, vegetation, and Indian lore drawn upon by Dave and Evan, the leaders, especially the kind of reading of the landscape they do with the kids by studying the inscriptions left by animals in tracks, scats, and bones.

Each session has ended with some unscripted but dramatic sighting–yesterday, the last of the quarter, it was a peregrine falcon mobbed by a merlin–the two raptors noisily squabbling overhead at the Morro Bay Marina in the estuary. The week before it was discovery of the skeletal remains of a seal or a sea lion on the Sandspit. The week before, a kestrel sitting in the sun for his portrait at Laguna Lake.

Most of the students and parents attending Coyote Road classes are being home-schooled. I remember that one of the most well informed and talented writers in my ecolit class two years ago was home-schooled in North County. A full generation below me, the Coyote Road parents and instructors seem to have resurrected or retained the spirit of the sixties and seventies whose demise I’ve mourned since returning from exile in Canada in 1979. But at Tuesday night’s general meeting of the Sierra Club, I saw more traces in the presentation about his Environmental Studies curriculum by a Paso Robles High School Teacher, Mark DeMaggio.