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By Andrew Beckmen '19
Over the six days I spent in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks over Presidents Day weekend, I was able to immerse myself in an entirely foreign way of life. Even though I was just about four-and-a-half hours from the familiar halls of the Pingry Campus, I was exposed to a lifestyle so drastically different from my life in suburban New Jersey.
Although I originally signed up for Pingry's trip to the Adirondacks because of its recreational opportunities, I came away with so much more. The trip forced me to evaluate my own way of life from a totally new perspective. Entering the trip, I had such a limited view of what it means to "live sustainably." Recycling my water bottles? Turning off the sink while I brush my teeth? That was about all I knew. My time at the North Country School (NCS) provided me with an entirely new lens through which to view the world around me.
When we arrived, the students and faculty at NCS welcomed us with open arms. Although we knew nothing about how the school functioned, they were patient and willing to teach us how they live sustainable lives in the heart of the largest state park in America. Just hours after arriving, our group ventured to the barn for afternoon barn chores, which included tending to the chickens, sheep, goats, and horses. To say the least, I was petrified.
Before the trip, I had never really been around farm animals, much less cared for them. The first day of chores, I was hesitant to get involved, stepping back in order to let the more experienced NCS students finish the job. Yet, as the trip progressed, I became increasingly attached to the animals. On the last day, I asked to go back to the barn because I still had not captured the perfect photo of my favorite sheep.
By the end of the trip, I had acquired so much knowledge about topics from organic food to generating your own heat. However, no teacher ever lectured me about these topics as they would in a traditional classroom. I was forced to learn by doing: We learned about sustainable ways of eating by cooking with ingredients almost exclusively produced at NCS or local farms; we learned about generating heat by thoughtfully cutting down certain trees in the NCS forest for use in their biomass plant (where they burn wood to generate their heat). I found that it is so much easier (and more fun) to learn by doing, rather than listening.
Even though the trip taught me so much, it left me with many questions as well. What efforts should Pingry make to be more sustainable? Would every initiative at NCS be realistic for the Pingry Campus? What can I do at home to decrease my impact on the environment? This experience taught me how much you can learn by being in a new, possibly uncomfortable, situation. By challenging myself, I was able to learn and grow, while still having tons of fun.
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org