After establishing a sense of place on campus in Cascade, Idaho, the Alzar School took to the road for over two weeks on expedition. In English class, we have moved past our first unit exploring Querencia to explore the relationship between wilderness, adventure, and character.
Hiking through Siligo Meadows
Over expedition, students read Jon Krakauer’s book
Into the Wild, annotating for unfamiliar vocabulary and focus questions such as “How does Jon Krakauer feel about the protagonist? How can you tell?” and “What issues and themes can you see in this work?” Students engaged physically with the text through posing their own questions, and connecting Chris McCandless’ adventures to their own challenges and success on expedition on the Lower Salmon river and backpacking through the Trinity Alps. After a lesson defining character (What makes strong character? What role do virtues and vices play? Does your character determine your fate?) students began reading to determine whether Chris McCandless’ character was heroic or foolish.
Students read “Into the Wild” on expedition backpacking through the Trinity Alps Wilderness.
As the hotly contested character Chris McCandless was submitted to trial by teenage scrutiny, so every student took the time to reflect on their own character growth over expedition.
Read below for some highlights of student insights into themselves!
Another instance where I exemplified strong character was during the “Perpin-turns” on the fourth day of the backpacking trip. It was a very difficult section of the mountain, but I kept the group going by leading them in song and encouraging them through the most challenging parts. For me, strong character encompasses my enthusiasm and high energy during tough experiences. – EP
At one point on the backpacking section of our expedition my character really shined. My team and I had been hiking for about seven miles and still had a ways to go. I had been in a pretty lethargic mood because it was hot and I was tired. My attitude really did a backflip though when we walked into this valley and looked up to see soaring peaks of solid stone. I was so happy to see the beautiful landscape around me that my fatigue lifted and I was super excited to keep hiking…I practically flew up the last hill and felt like my attitude and positivity really helped my group make it to our campsite. – KA
After meals, sometimes people would wander off and leave the clean up to those who remained. I knew that if I wanted this to change, then I would have to talk to these people and explain my point of view. However, I have a habit of avoiding or skirting around issues which may cause conflict, so I brushed away the idea of communicating my displeasure and instead let it eat at me, worsening my attitude. Communication is an area which I need to pay special attention to and work on. – JS
As we were finishing breakfast, it started raining considerably hard, so the group and I knew that it was going to be tough to get out of there with mostly all of our things dry. My character was tested because with all this rain, I needed to get all my things together without getting them wet. Because of that, was very hard for me to preserve myself calm, and not tressed, also try to keep the group motivated and with a good attitude. Because it would have been really easy to just quit and being complaining about that weather, our wet stuffs and putting myself together, was a really good challenge for my character. – JC
This expedition has been many different things for me. At times I have felt strong, weak, challenged, indifferent, amazed, engaged, included, and exhilarated. Through it all, I have learned about myself and my highs and lows. I can be impatient but I can be understanding. I can be annoyed but I can be empathetic. I can be sore but I can be strong. Through scraped knees and sunrises I am learning that strength is not the lack of fear or pain, but the perseverance to keep going despite these things. – JS
While choosing a menu I had to listen to others ideas. While I might really want a meal the whole group might not have liked that meal so I had to come to a compromise. Also while we were eating I had to be mindful of the others in my group and realize that the food was not all for me. – RR
On the Salmon, I was always motivating people to keep pushing on, even though they were probably very tired. I always stayed positive. Also, in the morning, I had all of my gear together first, so I was able to go around and check in on everybody, making sure they were okay. I continued to make sure everyone was doing well throughout the day as well. This was a strong point of my character, exhibiting that I was a charismatic leader. – IG
The first time that I was leader of the day I was very shy. Maybe not all people noticed it because Jess was working with me. But I realized that I have to be more confident and say what I need from other people and don’t be afraid of being wrong. – CL
It is exhilarating to feel the sense of belonging in the Alzar School community. I think my participation in group tasks and activities, as well as effective personal leadership has sky-rocketed. I try to voice many possibilities and play the devil’s advocate in order to make sure the plan is thorough. – EP
I really had an epiphany about my character when I was getting feedback from Ellie about my Leader of the Day experience. She told me that she really appreciated that I was kind and caring and always optimistic and up beat. She also admired that I worked hard and was really appreciative of where I am. I had never thought that I had good qualities in my character and really made me more confident in who I am. – KA
When I finally flipped in a bigger rapid, I kept my cool and attempted to get in position to roll. Though I didn’t succeed in that situation, I felt good about it because I didn’t panic as I likely would have at the beginning of the trip. With my flat water roll, I gained enthusiasm and confidence. Suddenly, I found myself paddling towards waves instead of away from them. Dread was replaced with excitement. All of this was a direct result of my willingness to practice and try even when I felt uncomfortable. – JS
Prior to this experience, I always thought that my character determined itself, and I had no control over it. However, when we were hiking on the second day, I realized that I can change my character around whenever I want. Even though I was feeling worn out, I had the strength to shape my exhaust into something beneficial. I started seeing the positive side to the situation rather than the negative side. I started thinking things like “Well at least it’s not raining!” and “It could be 100 degrees out here, but its not!” Once I learned to control my character, it became easier to maintain a positive attitude in demanding situations. I can now use this skill in the future to direct a group through problematic times, which will really benefit my leadership as a whole. – EP