Walden School’s Class of 2016 recently spent six days at Teton Science School in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Teton Science School was founded in 1967 as a non-profit educational organization with the goal of teaching students from all over the United States about natural and cultural history, while exploring the Greater Yellowstone Geo-ecosystem.

Walden students stayed in modern, dormitory-style buildings on the Jackson Campus. Each day, they traveled throughout the Jackson area to hike, ski, and snowshoe in Grand Teton National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest.

The students had hands-on experiences in field ecology, including animal tracking, wildlife observation, ecological field research, alpine ecology, field journaling and sketching, and leave-no-trace backcountry ethics.

We posed these questions to different students upon their return from the 2016 trip.

When you get to be an adult, what will you remember most vividly about your trip to Teton Science Schools?

“When I am 18 or 21 years old, I think I will remember setting the fire alarm off! We had a humidifier in our dorm room to help with the dry, mountain air. The moisture from the humidifier was supposed to help our coughs so we could sleep. Instead, the moisture set off the fire alarm!”

If you could change one thing about Teton Science School, what would you change?

“If I could change one thing about TSS, it would be better food.”

What is something that made your class trip to Teton Science School special?

“We really got to know people there. Everyone at TSS was really friendly.”

Of all the things you learned on your trip to the Tetons, what do you think will be the most useful when you are an adult?

“I believe the skill learned on the TSS trip that will be most useful is the in-depth mindfulness. At Walden, we touch on this topic, but we don’t exhibit it in depth. In the Tetons, we learned how to be in the moment and appreciate our surroundings. This is a necessary skill for the enjoyment of the trip. Mindfulness is a way that we can actually step back and see/appreciate what we are doing.”

At Walden School, the teachers are also your friends. Were your TSS instructors also good friends? Why do you think so?

“At TSS I only got to spend time with the instructors for six days. So I really didn’t get to know them like I know the Walden teachers, because I have known them for years.”

How would the world be different if animals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem could talk?

“I think the world would change for the better if GYE animals could talk because then the animals that have something un-explainable about them could explain the anomaly to us. Also, I learned a fact that some animals can live up to 270 years. So they might have seen history.”

If you could have some of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem animal adaptions, which ones would you want and what would you do?

“I think I want eagle eyes to see really far; wolf smell to track; and wings to fly. I think this would make the ultimate predator, other than humans. I would be able to survive the summer but in winter I think I would want an extra coat of feathers or fur to keep warm.”

What was the hardest thing about being a kid at Teton Science School?

“It was really hard watching a lot of the teachers having second servings of dessert and the kids only got one.”

Where is your favorite place in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem?

“Taggart Lake was my favorite place. It was really beautiful and we hiked it on snowshoes. It was a great place to get to know our TSS instructors on our second day.”

If you could travel back in time three years (to Third Grade) and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?

“Bring a lot more layers for the carriage ride at the end of the trip on the Elk Preserve. It was freezing!”

What five words do you think most describe Walden’s 6th Grade trip to the Tetons?

“If I could use five words to describe the trip TSS they would be: fun; cold; beautiful; calming; and awesome. All of us really enjoyed the trip and it was nice to be away from all the stress of applying to middle schools.”

When was a time during your Teton trip that you felt lucky?

“I felt lucky when I found a unicycle. And I felt lucky to have the GPS job while out in the woods.”

If you could make one environmental rule that everyone in the world had to follow, what rule would you make? Why?

“The rule that I would make would be to that you can not leave a trail behind. For example, if you are on a hike and have a granola bar, instead of burying that wrapper, put it in your backpack and throw it away later. Other examples include not destroying habitats.”

I Offer You Peace

December 3, 2015

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Do you ever sit under a tree just listening to the sounds of nature around you? For how long? A few minutes? An hour? A whole afternoon?

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In 2005, author Richard Louv in his book “Last Child In The Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder” hypothesized negative consequences to people and to society as we spend less time outdoors in the natural world. In 2007, the Society for Conservation Biology published research that draws a connection between children’s increasing consumption of electronic media and declining visits to National Parks.

Without romanticizing history, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says, “free and unstructured play is healthy and – in fact – essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.”

Spring in the Northern Hemisphere is recognized as a time of re-birth and new beginnings in many cultures. From Pesach and Easter to Nowruz and Higan, images in nature represent these holidays connected to the spring equinox.

Submit your photos of time in nature with your family on our FB page or write to us in the comments below!

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
-Henry David Thoreau

Walden School hosted Neuropsychologist Dana Chidekel, PhD to talk with parents last night about raising children with Emotional Intelligence (EI). As parents recognize that the success and happiness to which they aspire for their children depends on their children’s ability to navigate successfully in the world with others, Dr. Dana focused on how parents influence their children’s brains.

“Parents, you must tolerate your child struggling. Develop resilience in your parenting and you will be okay,” said Dr. Dana. “There is empowerment in saying ‘no’ and your child’s creativity will not be squelched. Tolerate your own struggle and teach appropriate Emotional Intelligence to children as citizens of the world.” Along with an overview of how emotions are processed in the brain, Dr. Dana talked about setting healthy, loving boundaries to create a consistent environment for children AND parents.

Earlier in the afternoon, Dr. Dana gave a professional development lecture to faculty and staff.

Dr. Dana shared her definition of EI as an ability to use emotions as a guide for thinking and behavior. Her book, “Parents In Charge” highlights how parenting casts light on the parent’s childhood memories and experiences, and it explains the differences between the cultures of early childhood and adulthood. Vivid examples of the differences in how children and adults experience time, language, and consequences kept both audiences chuckling in recognition and relief.

For more information about Walden School Parent Education, please visit www.waldenschool.net/parenteducation

Watch this video to hear what life in Upper Core is really like:

Excerpted from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching:

“Mindfulness and contemplation fosters additional ways of knowing that complement the rational methods of traditional liberal arts education.  As Tobin Hart states, “Inviting the contemplative simply includes the natural human capacity for knowing through silence, looking inward, pondering deeply, beholding, witnessing the contents of our consciousness….  These approaches cultivate an inner technology of knowing….”  This cultivation is the aim of contemplative pedagogy, teaching that includes methods “designed to quiet and shift the habitual chatter of the mind to cultivate a capacity for deepened awareness, concentration, and insight.”  Such methods include guided meditation, journals, silence, music, art, poetry, dialogue, and questions.

“In the classroom, these forms of inquiry are not employed as religious practices but as pedagogical techniques for learning through refined attention or mindfulness.  Research confirms that these practices can offset the constant distractions of our multitasking, multimedia culture.  Thus, intentional teaching methods that integrate the ancient practice of mindfulness innovatively meet the particular needs of today’s students.”

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At Walden School, we cultivate a mindful approach to our work and we nurture our students’ capacity for reflective and deliberate awareness, attention, and understanding. This fall, Director of Studies Terra Toscano gave each classroom a copy of Rana DiOrio’s book “What Does It Mean To Be Present?” Teachers and students at all grade levels are reading this book together and opening dialogue about cultivating consciousness. Listening to one’s inner voice, making peaceful transitions between busy activities, and savoring little moments each day are all part of the practice of being present.

Pre-School Director Tina Riddle gives a concrete example of teaching mindfulness in the Pre-K program: “In mindful eating, children use all of their senses to experience their food. Mindfulness teaches them to be aware of their hunger level, helping them to gauge when to begin eating and when to stop eating. It is a healthy approach to eating which allows children to fully enjoy their food.”

Look for centering activities in a Walden classroom and at assembly; observe the silent breathing of a child before s/he begins the next job; read a Walden student’s journal if you are lucky enough to be asked. Walden School believes in the importance of nurturing a child’s natural wonder and we look for ways every day to connect with and focus on the learning that is happening right now with each child.

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