Reading in Nature:
Sprawled on blankets and benches on the banks of the Charles River, Upper School English Teachers Dave Scrivner and Akemi Ueda, who organized the Reading in Nature workshop, enjoyed gentle breezes and the scent of grass as they opened their books and escaped into Victorian England, killer robot societies, or any number of other fictional worlds with the 13 student participants.
Mr. Scrivner believed the workshop eliminated the distractions that normally hinder students from reading and appreciating the outdoors, he said.
“I wanted to create an opportunity for students to have some unplugged non-tech time just to read outside of the home,” he said. “It’s very rare to have uninterrupted time to read, especially in nature.”
Mr. Scrivner said he hoped that setting students’ pastimes against a natural backdrop demonstrated to them they can incorporate the environment into their everyday lives.
“We live richer lives when we are in tune with nature,” he said. “So it’s something we should think of as an important part of our lives.”
Aparajita Srivastava ’25 said she felt the workshop built community. “I liked how it was communal reading,” she said. “We weren’t reading together, but we shared about what we were reading. It was very peaceful.”
Music filled the air near the woodshop as students carved into carrots, squashes, and an assortment of other vegetables. Modeled after the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra, attendees at the Vegetable Orchestra workshop used their creativity to craft makeshift instruments in this activity run by Upper School (US) Music Teacher Elliot Cless ’02.
“We obtained vegetables, made instruments out of vegetables, and then figured out how to perform music,” Mr. Cless said. “The activity was based around trying to enjoy the vibrancy, color, and sonic potential of vegetables.”
After creating their instruments, students headed up to the orchestra room, which was filled with microphones and recording equipment. With the help of Dr. Cless’s conducting and US Chorale Director Joel Sindelar’s vegetable-playing skills, the workshop attendees recorded a full song using only the instruments created in the session. Douglas Zhang ’23, a workshop attendee, had a lot of fun creating and using his vegetable instrument, he
“Since I play classical music, it was pretty cool to play and perform a wind instrument in such a unique way,” he said.
Mount Auburn Cemetery Walk:
During the Walking Meditation activity during Eco Bash, Upper School (US) Science Teacher Jake Nagy, US Spanish Teacher Margaret Caso, and US Science Teacher Amanda Borking took their students to Mount Auburn Cemetery. While strolling through the grounds, the students were able to mindfully think and reflect on their lives while being immersed in nature.
The lack of phones and the silence made it a welcome environment to relax during the chaotic school week, Natalie Gersen ’24 said.
After exploring the cemetery, the students found a good spot to spread out, close their eyes, and focus on their inner thoughts, Mr. Nagy said.
Mr. Nagy participated too and said, “Being in the moment gave me some much needed ease and a new perspective on my day.” The students were able to calm down after a long day and connect with the beautiful scenery.
Gardening soil, succulents, seeds, and perlite covered the table of room 275 in the Succulent and Herb Planting workshop. Leaders Lilly Carter and Alexandra Stellwagen (both ’22) encouraged workshop attendees to create their own potting mixtures–combinations of soil, perlite, vermiculite, sand, and rocks—while learning which ratios of soil and additives are best for the various types of plants.
“We’re rather succulent obsessed,” Alexandra said. “[Lilly asked], ‘are you interested in [running a workshop]?’ And I [said], ‘I would love to do something involving planting,’ and so this was born!”
In addition to planting, workshop attendees were also encouraged to decorate their own mason jar and plastic pot to take home at the end of the day.
Frankie Valverde ’23 said she found the workshop very relaxing. “I loved the happy mood that was apparent throughout the whole workshop. As someone who isn’t particularly gifted at drawing, decorating the mason jars and designing the layout of my succulent plants was a very fun way for me to express my creativity,” she said.
“I’m going to become a honey connoisseur!” one participant said after tasting the several types of honey offered at the Beekeeping! workshop led by Eli Waisburd ’22. The workshop served as an introduction to pollination methods and the role of bees in the environment.
“The workshop focused on introducing some of the basic information necessary to begin beekeeping with the goal of inspiring more people to get involved working with and protecting the pollinators that are essential to [the] wellbeing of ourselves and our planet,” Eli said.
After tasting honey, the 10 student participants learned how to build a beehive frame.
“I found it interesting [to learn about] all the parts of a beehive as well as learning that the type of flower [the bees interacted with] makes a difference in the taste of the honey,” Participant Lucas Sabatini ’24 said.
Writing by the River:
Taking inspiration from the Charles River, the Writing by the River workshop members crafted poems about swans, nature, the changing of seasons, and birdwatching. The first session, which included only four members, allowed for an intimate environment where students shared their poems after spending some time in silence by the water.
Upper School History and Social Sciences Teacher Matt Turnbull said part of the workshop’s appeal was its lack of an agenda and focus on peaceful reflection.
“This workshop was an opportunity to slow down and observe a small sliver of the landscape in a way that is different from when we are running, rowing, biking, or driving past,” he said. “I was lucky to have a group of students who were interested in writing and reflecting in a relaxed setting, which made it fun to share our poems.”
“I enjoyed how we were able to observe nature and think for ourselves what it meant for us at that moment. It’s not something we really ever have time to do with our busy schedules,” Cecelia Wilson ’23 said.
In the Commons, waffle irons and griddles heated up while students in the Sustainable Baking workshop learned about eco conscious shopping and where to find food products with less waste. After a presentation given by leaders Madeleine Brodeur, Alana Kramer Gómez and Sofia Khoury (all ’23), students prepared a pancake and waffle mix, cooked it, and topped their creations off with strawberries, bananas, chocolate chips, and syrup.
“I love to cook, and I thought it would be a great way to implement my knowledge as well as do something that I really like and lead people in this way,” Alana said.
For Geneva Burkitt ’24, the workshop allowed her to find the intersection between her enjoyment of food and her passion for the environment.
“I really like baking and I’m part of the Eco Reps, so [this workshop] was a great way to learn about how to be more sustainable and combine some of my passions,” she said.