Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Leopold's Land Ethic

When we moved to Wisconsin four years ago it was a chance for me to practice what I preach: I became a beginning Land Scout and started a field book to document the new land around me. Summer gave way to fall and fall slid into real winter. Then glorious spring and summer again. Several seasonal cycles later and I've just this month finished my first Wisconsin field book (shown at the end of this post).

I didn't know it when I made the Land Scouts, but much of what the group values and practices comes from American biologist Aldo Leopold. In particular, Leopold's "land ethic" is the root of modern environmental ethics and wildlife conservation. Much of his formative work took place in Wisconsin and he is a beloved adopted son of the state. Even today the Aldo Leopold Foundation carries on Leopold's work through robust programming and educational opportunities.

Testing out newly bound field books on campus.
Last week the Land Scouts came full circle when I got to partner with with middle schoolers at Aldo Leopold Community School in Green Bay as part of their Exploratory Week. How cool to get to work at a progressive public school named in honor of the man whose work left such an important legacy of land stewardship! A group of ten 4th - 8th graders and language arts teacher Jaime Danen joined me in binding field books, exploring, observing, noting, and reflecting. We also played some great games.

Warming up with balance games at Baird Creek Park

We got to explore some of the school grounds, two beautiful public parks, and, with the help of biologist Carrie Kissman, the nearby Fox River. It was a treat to work with these students. I was particularly excited discover and note the plants coming up in our area. Here's a list of some of the plants we saw:

I hope the students will complete their field books and turn them in for their Observation badges (now in their second edition of production). Thanks to Aldo Leopold Community School, Jaime Danen, Carrie Kissman, and the generations of Wisconsin environmentalists and conservationists whose work prepared the way for us. I hope we can work together again.

Semi-solo drawing in field books at Bay Shore County Park

Examining aquatic organisms pulled from the Fox River under the guidance of biologist Dr. Carrie Kissman

Observing at the creek in Bairds Creek Park
I do not recommend making a field book with so many pages. Takes to long to finish.