Skinning Moose and other things I learned at an Ivy League College
For this week, I really wanted to reflect on the best class I've ever taken at Dartmouth; Environmental Studies 19, Encountering Forests. Through experiential learning and lab-like field trips to local areas, we were able to understand the link between traditional and indigenous ways of knowing about the environment and modern scientific practices. Among many other really cool projects, our class culminated with a podcast project -- my partner and I explored the intersection of Indigenous feminism and environmentalism and actually got to interview a couple of really interesting academics and writers about their personal experiences as Native women in the environmental field. While each assignment and part of the class was amazing, I thought I would share some pictures from our labs so that you could see what I got to do each week!
During our first lab class, we got to explore a local stream ecosystem to conduct a qualitative scientific sample of organisms. We did this to see if the impact of a large snow dump, just a few hundred feet from the stream, had an impact on the local organisms. We donned our large waders with waterproof pencils and paper in the middle of a snow flurry in what was probably the coldest but most beautiful lab I have ever done. After we conducted our study, we retired to the Dartmouth 'Sugar Shack' which is our very own maple syrup producing shack for some fresh warm syrup to warm us right up. Not all of our labs were strictly scientific, though.
The next week we went into the same stream ecosystem, but this time to the local forest to search for Black Ash trees. These are very important trees to the Abenaki tribe of the Northern Americas, and we actually had a famous master basket maker with us to teach us the cultural significance and importance of these trees that I use to just pass by without an afterthought. After helping us select a tree, we made sure to respect it and ask its permission before cutting it down to use for basket making! Geo (the basket maker) showed us the hours of hard work it takes to strip the bark used for any number of baskets, and ultimately we each got to use some of the bark to give our best shot at making the basket. I still have mine in my room today!
While I am happy to write about this class and we had reporters and photographers at almost every lab because of how cool the class was, it was really the intimate moments that I shared with the students that made it my favorite class at Dartmouth so far. The time we spent together carrying a moose hide to the Organic Farm to skin it so we could make a drum, the High Ropes course we completed together to build friendship and responsibility, or even just the snack breaks we took made me feel so much more connected to a class than I ever have before. There were only nine students in the class, but I still get to see my classmates all over campus and catch up on cool new classes we're taking and re-hash the cool experiences we shared together in ENVS 19. Although the class isn't offered anymore, the mastermind behind it (Nicholas Reo) is starting a new class that looks at modern and traditional food systems; I would definitely recommend taking it.