Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thought I'd share

I'm taking Forestry 400 this semester as a GE. I've lived in a forest all my life, and I figured I should know a little more, so I chose an 8:00 class about trees over a 10:00 class about some political something class. What I've found is that forestry is amazing. This is an informal paper I wrote (we write one every week). I wrote it in an hour, that's why parts might not make sense. But I thought my ideas were cool, so here you go:

The origin of this reflection dates back to one of the first classes this semester, when we discussed “What is nature?” and John Locke’s “state of nature.” A few days after that, in my foundations of music education class, we were discussing philosophy in general and the instructor asked, “Who was the philosopher whose ideas were the basis of the Declaration of Independence?”

After a few seconds of awkward silence I mumbled, “John Locke?” My peers looked at me like I was crazy for knowing such a thing. I thought I was crazy, too. Where did I get that? How in the world would I remember something like that?

When I figured it out (days later) I discussed it with the instructor mentioning that I had just learned about different definitions of nature in my other class. He said, “Oh, a cross-curricular idea. Those come around maybe once every five or six years!” But when I thought about it a little more, I realized I don’t think it’s that rare. As I learn more about the structure of education in general it seems more and more apparent to me that many ideas I come across in all my classes, general or not, are related.

When I read this article, I was about halfway through when I made another connection. Old growth forests thrive on diversity. A disturbance can either wipe one out completely, or give it a new character. When it is given time, it grows more complex because different species make their homes in the canopy. Even as older trees die, the “complexity” and character of the entire area carries on.

That last idea forged another connection in me that hit very close to home. A high school band has to start from scratch. Nobody just has a bunch of instruments and starts a music program. The program at first relies on the school obtaining a small amount of essential instruments, several eager individual students who wish to express themselves musically, and an instructor or two to help the entity “grow.” More and more music and equipment is obtained, and the cross-section of students interested in the program grows more diverse, but now that first group of kids has graduated. Even though the first generation has gone away, the school now has a nice seedling band which will soon grow more complex. The younger students have to take over the band and build their skills (develop biodiversity in their canopy) while the older students have left behind their influence and legacy (what is now a lot of snags on the forest floor).

Unfortunately, a high school band also faces disturbances. Some influencial official decides that music is not an important thing to learn about and cuts artistic classes for schools, or the director leaves his job for bigger and better persuits, or the feeder schools just didn’t spin out a lot of interest this year. Which also makes me wonder: which of those distubances would be considered “natural?” The third one? If a human-created structure like a music program is so similar to a “naturally” created structure like an old growth forest, is humanity really so unnatural?

I hope I’ve made another cross-curricular connection.

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