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.”

Walden Parents Dig In

September 18, 2015

Over the summer, the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street along the front of Walden School was replaced with Kurapia (Lippia nodiflora). This new low-water groundcover was developed for drought conditions and is tolerant of a range of soils and harsh conditions.

UC Davis completed a multi-year study of drought tolerant plants and Kurapia was one of the top three performers. Dark green with small, white, sterile flowers, the groundcover plugs spread their leaves to fill in next to each other, but the plant is non-invasive, because it does not re-seed.

Photos courtesy George Do.

Walden parents recently dug in to help the newly planted plugs by pulling weeds from the bed. Once the plugs have fully matured, weed invasion will be minimized. “Garden work is always a good way to start the day,” said one Walden parent. Teaching that we all have stewardship for the world in which we live is a cornerstone of Walden’s mission.

Several years ago, Walden dance teacher Daphne and her husband, John, replaced their traditional lawn with Phyla nodiflora, a close relative to the Lippia nodiflora planted at Walden. Daphne praised the plant, saying, “It’s a tough-as-nails, no-mow, drought tolerant ground cover, that unlike a lawn, is ornamented with pretty white flowers. Even if the plant dies back from drought or too much winter cold, it springs back from the rhizomes.”

World Water Day

March 26, 2015

World Water Day was Sunday, March 22, 2015.

http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday

At Walden School, we teach that we all have stewardship for the world in which we live. What has your family done to address the drought conditions in Pasadena?  Take this quiz and share your ideas in the comments below.

Rainwater Harvesting Tank in North Yard

Rainwater Harvesting Tank in North Yard

Rainwater Harvesting Tank Lesson Plan

Rainwater Harvesting Tank Lesson Plan

Big Help

March 21, 2015

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Walden School Director Matt Allio defines “altruism” as a feeling or behavior that shows a desire to help other people. “Big Help is both a symbolic and practical way to demonstrate altruism,” says Allio.  Starting at 8:30 a.m. in the Toby Hayward Community Room on a recent Saturday, Walden students and their families came together to: collect books, toiletries, and food for a local homeless shelter; make Get-Well cards for children in the hospital; fashion fleece blankets for preemies; decorate and plant pots with flowers for elderly shut-ins; create cat toys and send to local cat rescue shelter; and deliver flowers to our neighbors while picking up litter in the local streets and alleys around school.

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This annual event sponsors a variety of service projects in which all Walden families can participate. It’s not an all-day event, just some time in the morning for families to come together in support of others. Thank you to Walden School Parent Guild for organizing this day of service as a reminder that we all have responsibility for the world in which we live.

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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

Don’t Be Idle

November 6, 2014

Have you ever wondered how you can have a direct impact on reducing greenhouse gases?

According to the national inventory[1] that the U.S. prepares annually under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), transportation represented 27% of total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2011 (most recent year that stats were available at the time of writing this post).

Cars, trucks, commercial aircraft, and railroads, among other sources, all contribute to transportation end-use sector emissions. Within the sector, light-duty vehicles (including passenger cars and light-duty trucks) were by far the largest category, with 61% of GHG emissions.

Don't Be Idle Push Page GraphicWalden School’s Parent Guild Green Committee launched a “Don’t Be Idle” campaign which highlights a simple way to reduce greenhouse gases, conserve fuel, and save money: wait until 3:00 p.m. to start your car when waiting in the alley for afternoon pick-up after school.

Walden’s mission states that we all have stewardship for the world in which we live. With 230 sets of young lungs in the South Yard each afternoon during dismissal, turning off your car engine in the alley can prevent about 220 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted each year. Multiply by one hundred cars and Walden drivers can prevent 22,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions!

Resources available online:

http://www.thehinklecharitablefoundation.org

http://www.consumerenergycenter.org

http://www.stopthesoot.org

[1] Transportation Emissions of the United States

The Value of Camping

October 2, 2014

Have you ever wondered why thirty-eight million Americans went camping in 2012[*] for a total of 516.6 million days? What motivates modern urban dwellers to leave the comforts of home in exchange for rustic cabins and tents?

One study in New Zealand found that campers like to go back to basics. “They felt there was a lot more like-minded people around who were family oriented. It’s a real communal lifestyle, because it’s an environment in which you bump into people more,” University of Otago researcher Jonathan Ryan said.

The American Journal of Public Health released a study in 2004[†] which concluded that “Green outdoor settings appear to reduce ADHD symptoms in children across a wide range of individual, residential, and case characteristics.”

At Walden School, the Ponderers’ annual camping trip gives students in grades 4 through 6 the opportunity to spend time together in fresh air scented by trees and ocean breezes. Socializing in multi-age Ponderer groups, the Upper Core enjoys learning and bonding that contributes to healthy and happy peer relationships.

Camping activities are designed to be both physically and intellectually stimulating. Beyond the obvious benefit of exercising through hiking and swimming activities, Ponderers also experience challenges and have time for reflection that can reduce the stress of everyday, scheduled life in the 21st century. By working together to put up a tent, a sense of accomplishment and confidence is fostered. Taking turns to cook communal meals together also cultivates teamwork and trust.

And getting a good night’s sleep in a tent with your friends after a fun-filled day of camping endeavors feels really good! The Ponderers’ annual camping trip is experiential in nature, and provides opportunities for leadership and risk taking. In promoting environmental sustainability, the Ponderers demonstrate their shared commitment to the value of being responsible expeditioners.

Click here to watch a video of the 2014 Ponderers’ Camping Trip. 

[*] http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/research.camping.2013.pdf

[†] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448497/

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