Megan Camp ’75
It’s been a very special day being here back at Applewild. I hope that for all of you, you don’t wait as many years as I did to come back. I am just in awe of all of you who have received awards today, and for all of you who haven’t received awards today, it is so apparent all of the work you have done here at Applewild School. It was also a pleasure to meet with alumni whom I haven’t seen for many years, and to see faculty, both new faculty whom I had never met, as well as faculty who were here at the time that I was at Applewild from 1971-1975. It was especially an honor to be able to see the Crocker’s again, from two generations of the Crocker’s, Mrs. Bullock, and of course, Mrs. Laverack. I feel very privileged, which I’m sure all of you do as well, to have attended this institution, where students have the opportunity to thrive in an educational community that values the ideals that are described in Applewild’s mission statement, best summed up, “A Belief in the Future”. It’s this belief that children need to be educated in a caring environment in order to ensure a better future for all. These are the values and characteristics in Applewild’s mission. And I can also say that these are the guiding principles that are behind the values of the organization Shelburne Farms that I feel as well honored and humbled to work for.
After I graduated from Applewild I went on to Lawrence Academy, and then went on to the University of Vermont to design a major, because there wasn’t one that existed at that time, in environmental education. When I was at the University of Vermont I found out that I was very privileged, because I was a student who was on financial aid, and was able to participate in the federal work study program. The greatest gift of the work study program was that I discovered that one was able to work in the community for local non profit organizations while going to school. So while I was there I had the opportunity to work for the Green Mountain Audubon Nature Center for three years. In my senior year, I decided that I should broaden my horizons and work, get an exposure to the different environmental organizations, like Shelburne Farms that was just seven miles down the road from the university, and that was twenty two years ago today! I started my thesis looking at Shelburne Farms education programs, asking the question, “What is it that would improve the effectiveness of the programs at Shelburne Farms?” and I’m still asking that question today although I did complete my thesis!
Kim already told you about Shelburne Farms, so I won’t take the time to describe it. It’s a pretty complex place to describe. The best way of getting to know the organization is by visiting it and I extend an invitation to anyone of the Applewild family, if you ever find yourself up in Vermont, which is not a bad place to be, on the shores of Lake Champlain, please come and visit us at Shelburne Farms. The mission of Shelburne Farms is, as Kim said, to cultivate a conservation ethic and to do that by teaching and learning about the stewardship of agricultural and animal resources. The primary program behind Shelburne Farms is environmental education. So, many of you might ask, “What is environmental education?” Environmental education is more than teaching about the environment. And I must say, that I heard a rumor that Mr. Harmon was here, or that he was maybe going to come to this event. I don’t know, is he out there anywhere? Mr. Harmon was the first environmental education teacher that I ever had, before I even knew that that was the word, by the experiences that I gained at Shelburne Farms. Because it was more than teaching about the environment. I think it was called ecology studies at Applewild back then. Because environmental education is also about people. Environmental education stresses the exploration of attitudes and values and the development of knowledge and skills so that people can take an active part in decision making in the world. And environmental education isn’t a subject that you learn about; it isn’t content specific, like Latin or French or history. It’s actually integrated into all of the different disciplines. Really the best way to think about it is that it’s like a ladder, an educational process, somewhat like a hierarchy, made up of five elements, a hierarchy from the very simple concepts that we start at a younger age to the more complex concepts and subjects later on. The five ladders of environmental education are: awareness from the beginning, knowledge, attitude, skills, and then, ultimately ending up with participation. As part of my work I’ve had the opportunity to work with teachers from all over the world, by traveling as was mentioned earlier to central/eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. And one of the most effective exercise that I’ve ever conducted with teachers had been for teachers to draw a map of their lives, and in that map to illustrate the important people, places and experiences that helped shape one’s life, thinking about, “What was it that I learned in school? What is that enduring understanding? What is it that I remember, and how did I learn?” and by reflecting back upon that teachers are able to incorporate that in their own instruction. So I’ve done this exercise with teachers, asking them to reflect upon their earliest childhood memories to maybe something that happened the day before yesterday, and to draw along it the people, places and experiences in their lives that influenced them in positive and special ways. And no mater what group you’re working with, whether they’re from the most remote part of Siberia or the urban center of Tokyo, you begin to see a pattern on these maps. And the pattern on these maps, sort of a concentration of activities, happen in the early years of school and the middle years of schools, the years that I was at Applewild. So, I did an interesting exercise, and I went back and I looked at my own personal map that I had to dig out from one of my folders and I looked at the years between 1971 and 1975.
I just want to share a few of those stories with you. At the bottom, sort of the bottom rung of awareness, I remember when I nurtured my love of nature and the outdoors, walking, which I’m sure many of you still do today, from the main building, up the hill to Flat Rock, the smell of fall, the smell of spring as you make that daily ritual walk each day. The other thing that I remember is the special tradition of raking leaves all morning, and then heading off as a whole school for Mountain Day at Mt. Wachusett.. I also grew an awareness not only of the natural world, but also of the social and political world as well, and I remember very clearly the debates, which is important as we think about our next presidential election, back in 1972, how we were invited to share our own thoughts and feelings, the beginnings of what I realized was democracy, in Mrs. Cook’s class and in Mr. Hamm’s class. The next rung, when I think about my knowledge, the knowledge that I gained at Applewild, knowledge, as you know isn’t just something that you memorize, but it’s really understanding something. When I think about the knowledge, which I am glad to see is recognized in an award today, I think most about Mr. hunt’s science class which sparked in me that enthusiasm, that curiosity to figure out how does the world work. And one of my favorite memories was all of the seventh graders, trooping out during the solar eclipse, out to what is now no longer there, the tennis courts, now that wonderful new building, and all of us guarding our eyes with photographic film so that we could watch the solar eclipse which was only going to happen just in this particular way in our lifetime. The other thing I remember very clearly about knowledge was understanding how the civic world works in Mrs. Woodward’s class where we actually had to set up a mock trial and learn about civil society, and how our Constitution worked and how the legal system worked. Next on that rung: attitudes, values and beliefs. Applewild was a very rich place for developing attitudes and values. What I remember is that they not only happened in the classroom, but out of the classroom as well. In the classroom, and once again, I’m glad to see Monsieur Clemens recognized today, I gained an appreciation of a different culture, as well as in Mr. Rabideau’s archaelogy and anthropology classes, with a great dig and our cultural fair and Mrs. Doe’s Latin days where we got to dress up in togas and think about what the world had once been like during that civilization. But in Mr. Clemens’ class not only did we learn to love the language of French but also the French culture. One of the skills that he taught be was to take the bold step to really immerse yourself in a culture, and by doing that to share the foods, the local and regional foods of that culture. I’ll never forget in seventh grade down in the lower level of the main building some of us dared to taste escargots, which is probably about as daring as trying the pate that we learned about earlier today! That has been very valuable and beneficial to have that multicultural lens in the work that I found myself in whether I was in Japan needing to try jellyfish and grasshoppers for the first time, or eating strange and exotic foods in other places in the world.
The other value that I want to share with you reminds me of Mr. Laverack and that is the value of community. Every day the upper school, as you do today, would gather for lunch and it was under Mr. Laverack’s leadership that we learned about the value of community, both in the classroom, but also in the hallway, on the sports field and in the lunch room. I’m involved in a project right now which is working with the Vermont public schools in trying to introduce fresh, local, more nutritious foods into the school system. Not everybody gets to eat the same lunches that you have here at Applewild School! One of the things that we found out by working on this project is that most children don’t eat a meal together with their family when they’re at home, a declining number of those, and that most children in this country don’t have time to even eat lunch which leads to bad habits and not getting the proper nutrition. I contract that to my experience her at Applewild where we all sat together every day for lunch and were brought together as a community. The last thing that I wanted to share is that my skills in these areas which would ultimately lead to participation, was a very special experience which will reflect upon all of you or those of you who are getting ready to move on to a life after Applewild. I remember Hoover Sutton in the last few weeks of school, made a special point to pull every ninth grader aside and spent time with that student to have them reflect upon what was it that they actually contributed to the community at Applewild. That gift that Mr. Sutton gave to all of us students here at Applewild, was to know that we could really make a difference, that we had a gift to give. That’s what I feel today receiving this award, to share in this very prestigious Laverack Award, and I hope that you can all feel the same about the appreciation that I do as you think back upon your Applewild years.