Environmental Almanac | Students reflect on outdoor experience

Environmental Almanac | Students reflect on outdoor experience

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my work at the University of Illinois is teaching a one-credit-hour course that runs during the first half of the fall semester.

The course provides students who are new to the Earth, Society and Environmental Sustainability major an introduction to the variety of work done by faculty in the departments of Geology, Atmospheric Sciences, and Geography and Geographic Information Science.

This year, the class culminated with an early October weekend trip to Baraboo, Wis., where we had three destinations: The Aldo Leopold Foundation, Devil's Lake State Park and the International Crane Foundation.

Special thanks to my colleague Jonathan Tomkin, who contributed enormously to the success of the trip by providing geological expertise and driving.

Following are excerpts from students' written reflections on the trip:

"I think what made this trip truly special was the fact that we came prepared. We had learned about the rocks beneath our feet and how Leopold and his family saw the very land we hiked through. To seek the similarities and differences across the decades through not only Leopold's words but also the family's photographs we were shown, made me look at my surroundings through different lenses."

— Irene Chan

"I learned on this trip that part of the magic of being in nature is that everyone is in the same place, but no one has the same experience. One person may be fascinated by ripples on a rock, but another may chase after an osprey that is flying over the lake. Someone could be at the park for a wedding, and someone else may be celebrating a child's birthday. No matter what, everyone will be able to get something out of spending time in nature."

— Grace Gudwien

"What blew my mind the most was the change and success in the restoration started by the Leopold family. As students studying sustainability, I think we were able to appreciate the development fully because we had seen it with our own eyes."

— Mahica Iyer

"There is not a better way of getting people to protect the environment than having them establish a personal connection with it. Each and every trip I take outdoors, I grow and learn more about both nature and myself."

— Cristian Piton

"The overall big highlight of the trip for me was the Devil's Lake hike; I have been hiking before, but not like this. There was a positive team energy where we all motivated and supported one another to keep going. Even other people who were not part of our group told us we were doing a great job and gave us smiles, making the experience even better."

— Lily Rozenstrauch

"The International Crane Foundation (ICF) was by far my favorite part of the trip. It was amazing to see all 15 species of cranes at the same site and to hear about all the different ways ICF is protecting birds in their natural habitat. I especially love the way they attend to local human needs as they strive to protect cranes."

— Brooke Witkins

"The field trip to Baraboo was an opportunity for me to recognize the importance of making something out of nothing and taking action in conservation instead of pondering of what it could be. The fear of getting it wrong shouldn't stop me from trying."

— Jackie Shon

Rob Kanter is a clinical associate professor with the UI School of Earth, Society and Environment. You can reach him via email at rkanter@illinois.edu.