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That has been the experience I have had over the last four months with my English 12 classes and the Out of Eden Walk program [An initiative of Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education]. Sixty-eight high school seniors and I learned to slow down, walk and really take notice of things in a way that you can only do on foot.
Participating in the Out of Eden Learn walking party and curriculum on migration we walked, noticed, reflected, wrote and learned.
We participated with students in Indonesia, Canada, Texas, and Massachusetts. The experience was personal and different for every student, yet all agree that it gave them a profoundly different worldview.
One of my own slow walks took place along the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s Lake Superior coast. I marveled at the incredible beauty of the hundreds of smoothed stones along the beach. Before I knew it I was collecting the stones that attracted me the most. Each had it’s own beauty to marvel at, each sparkled or shined in its own special way. They reminded me of my students. Each senior that I have this year is special, beautiful, unique, in their own way. When my arms were too full to carry any more stones, I found a bag. When my bag was full, I found a larger bag. By the time I finished my walk, I could hardly carry the bag from the weight of all the stones I had collected.
I took the rocks home and painted the phrase, “Take a slow walk” on each one. I held onto the rocks until today, which happens to be my birthday. Instead of getting birthday presents, I gave each senior a present to remind them not to lose what they have gain by our Out of Eden Walk experience.
Yes, I know that I just keep adding more and more good work from these senior, but here is yet another. This particular piece of art under one of the bridges along the Indy Canal stimulated a lot of contemplation and discussion both during the field trip and after. I have even suggested that one of the students contact the artist and share her reflections. Here is a second poem that was written by another talented senior at WHS.
I see the pleasant light ahead of me, I walk in blind, cold, and scared.
I brought my memories and left the pain.
Across the grass so green, the greenest grass I’ve ever seen,
I jumped and skipped and bounce on air, it was like there was nothing there.
A sky of blue, not a cloud in sight, perpetual day and no dark nights
Every flower in full bloom, undefined colors of every hue.
The streams and rivers crystal clear, no rubbish or decay to be seen.
The sea is calm and turquoise blue, I long to test it, wouldn’t you?
The warmest rays cover me from my head to my feet.
A city built of alabaster walls, where translucent light eliminates the halls.
Amazing sights for me to see, I just wander in, there’s no entrance fee.
The celestial sun shines forever, it’s a perfect temperature all the time.
This ethereal plain is a pure delight, it’s my new home, my God given right.
There is nothing here to cause me fear, the Lord protects me as a whole.
An infinity of perfect peace, from the toils of earth I am now released.
I have landed on a higher realm, in perfect harmony to forever dwell.
So believe when I tell you, my dear friends, you cannot die, life never ends.
As a teacher I have seen a variety of outstanding responses from our Out of Eden Walk slow walk field trip to the Indy Canal. One of the young men in our senior class is a very sensitive and often quiet person who feels very strongly about the losses of members of his family who have served in the military. He has spoken to me often of these losses. I noticed that he spent much longer at each of the war memorials along the canal than most of his class. Here is his written reflection.
The Fallen Heroes
When taking a stroll on the way back to the bus I saw a memorial for every soldier killed in any major war that was from Indiana. I think the one that hit me the most was the names of the fallen whose lives were lost in Afghanistan. December 6 of last year I lost my cousin in Afghanistan during a bombing of his air base. This war has a very deep connection with me because not only did my cousin die in that’s war but one of my other cousins was stationed in Afghanistan 10 miles out of the city of Kabul and no more than 3 miles away from an active terrorist cell. My family has served in many wars fought by America. I lost two great-grandparents in WWII. One was killed by the Japanese and the other was killed by the Germans.
I don’t know the names of the men who all were on that piece of glass but I feel a connection through my family and I have deep respect and sorrow for the families of the fallen. If you want to see a real hero just take a walk and find war memorials. The men and women whose name is on that memorial fought and died to protect everything that they saw as sacred and holy. Real heroes don’t wear their name on the back of a jersey, but they wear their country’s flag on the side of their sleeve. Heroes are not only those who just served but also those who laid down their life for their country and all those who inhabit it.
I took to heart these names because if you were to look at how society has progressed since they sacrificed their own life so that we could hold the freedom we have in the United States. I too feel the necessity to stand to the call and join my brothers and sisters in arms and defend, protect, and uphold the constitution of the United States against all threats. I will stand even when it seems that no one else will with me. I have deep roots in fighting for this country’s freedom and I hope to fulfill what my family has done before me and what I hope my family will do after me. I appreciate and pray for the fallen that their souls may be at peace. I believe that above all else freedom must be held onto. I will take up my country’s flag and stand alongside my brothers and sisters in arms and make sure that’s the sacrifices of the fallen not go in vain.
Today was a great teacher day. The senior’s reflection pieces from out slow walk on the Indy Canal. This was one of the simplest and most rewarding field trips I have ever taken students on. The seniors were so glad to be getting out of school for the day and as one student said, “doing something as a class together” that even the cold gray weather didn’t seem to bother any of them. Today they turned in essays, poetry, pamphlets, presentations, and drawings in response to our day out. Here are just of few of their submissions:
As I cruised down the edge of the canal I realized instantly that this was no
normal walk. There was much more to see then just trees and grass. It was rather chilly
that day, I kept looking up at the dark gloomy sky. I was imagining hearing the deranged
laugh of Mr. Hyde from Van Helsing and watching him climb the side of the building with
his fat cigar sticking out of his lips.
Later on during the walk, I was extremely distracted by this mammoth statue. I
kept thinking to myself what the heck would these things be like if they were still alive
today and where would they live. Then I started thinking about if I lived with some crazy
tribe back in the ice age. I couldn’t see myself ever hunting a mammoth I’m pretty sure it
would squish me, not to mention the psychotic sabertooth tigers that roamed the earth
back then too.
It was only a matter of time before I got distracted by something else and my
mind starts wandering again. It wasn’t even 5 minutes and I was distracted again! There
was this weird twisted up horn instrument. When I realized how abstract and different
this musical instrument was it made me think about that weird Maroon 5 album cover. I
also thought of a cartoon man in a top hat playing that horn bouncing around like he
was on fire playing jazz music. I have a wild imagination so many things were running through my head at the time. I really wasn’t sure how I felt about the piece of artwork,
all I knew was that horn was really weird looking and I liked it.
Then a giant catfish painted on the side of the wall on the bottom of the bridge
caught my eye. His mouth was wide open like he was about to eat something big. Of
course, my mind started wandering like crazy again. The first thing that ran through my
mind was what if he was going to eat me. Surely if I was in a real lake I wouldn’t be
eaten by a giant catfish like that. I got on my phone and googled the worlds biggest
catfish in Indiana to make sure that there wasn’t any monster catfish lurking in the
depths that the DNR or a fisherman caught and may be released. All I could think about
was fishing the next 15 minutes.
Yes, I will admit it I have a pretty crazy mind. Going on that walk definitely made
the gears turn in my head. I was in my own little world throughout the whole trip. To me
it wasn’t just a walk it was an adventure, and I can’t thank my awesome English teacher
enough for taking me and my class on that amazing adventure.
Aqua in Indy
What is one of the most common things you see when you visit a canal? Shops, houses, restaurants, people. But, what about the water? Everything is centered around the water. That’s what makes the canal. It’s the canal’s heart, lungs, life. If the canal was never dug and the water was never allowed to flow, half of those places wouldn’t be able to have a place there. It’s all centered around the water.
The Indianapolis Canal has tons of building around it all with porches so, people could enjoy the view. Everyone who has visited the canal has gazed across the water. Rather it was for a brief moment or to study the art on the other support wall for the bridge overhead. But, have you or anyone, for that matter, ever studied the water? I know it sounds like a dumb, stupid question but, really think about it. Most of the people I saw was the runners and I know they didn’t take time to gaze into the water. Most of the students were taking to their friends and look all around above the water. Few of the students walked along the ever edge of the cement, but they were more worried about not falling in. The only time anyone ever mentions the water was to look at the ducks or the two buoys that was floating in the middle of the canal for no reason. I’m sure they noticed other things about the water but, no one gave any voice to the sights.
I really just looked down or across the water whole time. I looked up from the water to look the art, the runners, and to make sure I was still with the group. I would get lost in a trance by staring at the water. It was like the water said “It’s alright. Walk this way. You know I’m calm and peaceful. Come and take a swim, I’m warming than the air you’re walking in.” Just when I was a couple of steps from the edged, I would remember that I didn’t have a change of clothes with me, or that Mr. Fahey would give a detention or even expel me from school, or I see a “no swimming” sign that would snap me back into reality. As we walked I would notice little ripples forming across that water as the wind pushed on the water. But, it didn’t happen all the time. Mostly it was in a wide open space, like where first arrived at the canal. Or underneath a bridge where there was so much wind that the bridge forced it down onto the water. It was like the bridge made the wind put it’s legs down and dance across the river until it was free to float back up. Looking at them reminded me of how hard the wind was blowing and how cold it was. The wind was also pushing leaves across the canal. It made my mind go back to the movies that had a cricket riding in a leaf like a boat. I saw red one, yellow ones, and orange ones. To past time as we waited for the restaurant open, I watched a leaf makes its journey across the canal. It took about three to four minutes. I also saw these wire bracket things in the middle of the canal. I don’t know anything about them. I couldn’t read and walk at the same time. I would for sure fell in if I did. But, they remind me of a speed game. First one to the next one, in a peddle boats, wins. My favorite part was seeing the ducks. I love how gracefully they are on the water. The way they swim, dive to get food, and the way they stick together. I think its neat when they lift off the water and flap their wings.
When I looked down into the water, first saw my reflection. But once my eyes zoomed paced it, I noticed a pipe. But, it wasn’t just one long pipe. It had algae grown all over it and it had sunken leaves resting on it and the wall next to it. I have no idea what it was for. I don’t really understand why there would be a pipe in the canal anyway. I wish I could have seen the bottom center of the canal. You never know what people might through into a body of water. What I thought was really weird was that there was no fish. I thought that they might want fish to keep the algae down, fewer chemicals. But, I guess that people might place other fish that they have risen into the canal and destroy the ecosystem. It would be a downsized scale of the issues they are having with the Great Lakes. There really wasn’t much under the water’s surface.
If there was no water in the canal, then not many people would visit the canal. Most of the time if there’s no public’s interest then things don’t get protected. Just think about the effect on the economy in that area if the canal didn’t have the sparkling water running through it. The water gives the place a natural beauty, something art can’t do. The water pulls everything together and in. Even runner run by it and push everyone in that gets in their way. Water just has a beauty that you just have to look for. And anyone can find it if they just take the time to do so.
Field Trip Reflection
During the field trip to the Indy Canal, I experienced a lot of things that I typically wouldn’t have if I had decided not to go, like some people in my class. I really enjoyed walking with my class, even though it was really cold. I had never been to the Indy Canal so I guess I was more observant than usual. The artwork was obviously very eye catching but I really enjoyed just looking at the water. It was calm when the wind wasn’t blowing but started rippling when the wind did blow and made it seem as if the water was shivering and trying to get away from the cold. It was really cool to see the water change to the farther we walked. Some areas were lighter than others which made me feel like it was more shallow. I’m sure it was just the way the light was hitting it but that’s just what goes through my mind. I then wondered how cold the water was and how cool it would be if they kept it heated during the winter time so people could still use the paddle boats. It would kind of be like a reverse skating rink in a way. Another thing I noticed was that certain areas were muddier than others. The areas where they had the mulch type substance was drier than the bare areas which are probably due to the fact that the mulch absorbs the moisture. But I kept getting frustrated nonetheless because I had to walk in the mud at some points because there wasn’t enough room on the sidewalk. Which made me think about a book that I read as a kid. These are just a few things that go through my mind when I’m in a new place. I try to associate my old experiences with my new ones. Overall if I hadn’t have gone on this field trip, I wouldn’t have these new experiences. They’re probably no use to anyone but that’s fine, I enjoyed it.
Purdue OWL on Active versus Passive Voice
Take the most updated draft of your current writing assignment and look for “viral words” that can weaken your writing.
- are, was, were, been, be, being
- have, had, has
- get, got
- do, did
- just, really, very, like, a lot, so
Before proofreading your final draft for submission cut your viral words by half.
Use the following link to get access to the shared google drive folder for your draft.