Chronicling the First Year at The Riveredge School

Creating a new school is a little like designing an iceberg. Once it’s open people might notice it looks like a huge undertaking, but most of that work takes place before it appears. This past fall The Riveredge School opened onsite at Riveredge Nature Center. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to document some of the activities of these students at the first nature-based public charter elementary school in the greater Milwaukee region.

This picture above was the first time I went out to grab some snapshots of students out on the trails. They were participating in an exercise to sit down, and write or draw everything they saw and heard in the forest that surrounded them. They sat down and began to take in their surroundings and went to work, overall quietly and contemplative. I’d never seen a group of first graders work so independently and so calmly.

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How do you start a nature-based elementary school when you don’t yet have a school? You figure it out by using the inquiry-based educational philosophy that you work to instill in students! Thanks so much to everyone who has helped out The Riveredge School throughout this entire process, now culminating in our new (nearly complete!) yurt classrooms. We’re so excited to take this next step, in becoming the first nature-based public elementary charter school in the region with The Riveredge School this fall! . . . . . #education #environmentaleducation #nature #volunteers #milwaukee #wisconsin #elementaryeducation #midwest #yurt #optoutside #natureeducation #science #scienceeducation #outdoors

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Here is the completion of the yurt classrooms last summer, two of which are in use at Riveredge. Volunteers are extremely helpful.

Science lessons can take place on the land in conjunction with Riveredge staff and educators. Above, student learned about habitat restoration and creating ways for a less common plant species to flourish.

A snapshot of the inside of the yurt classrooms. I wonder what it’s like to have your first school experience be one in which the majority of your time is spent outdoors and the remainder of the time is inside a cozy round room looking out onto prairies. That idea kind of makes me wish I could be seven years old again and go to school there.

This was one of the first snows of the season and everyone was outdoors having a great time.

Students learned to cross country ski this past week. I bet they’ll be excited to arrive at school this morning with our six inches of new snow yesterday.

Late last summer, when the yurts were completed and awaiting students to begin classes.

The theoretical timelessness of black and white photography

Film Photographs from Photography Class

I’ve been taking an intro photography class at UW-Milwaukee. Each class in this, my last semester, is an elective. Poetry, drawing, architecture, photography.

Anyhow, the class has so far been taught entirely in black-and-white film. The above are my most recent snaps for an assignment, this time the theme was to capture intersections, in the broad definition of the word.

Below is the first assignment for which I made printed photographs. I’m pretty happy with how the nighttime one turned out.

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It’s my last semester at college and I’m celebrating having my required classes complete with some fun ones. These are from the intro photography class I’m taking. The entire class is old school #film darkroom style. These prints are from a “take a roll of pictures on your block” assignment. Being in a darkroom forces me to stop and wait. Initially that was stressful, the doing nothing but waiting for chemistry to happen. But I’m beginning to like the waiting moments, the titillation of wondering what image will appear in the tray, how it will need to be tweaked. There’s fine tuning, not just immediate cause and effect. A process. Having to give over to the idea that it’s a discovery and there’s no way around being along for the ride. . . . . . #photography #blackandwhitephotography #cityscape #urbanphotography #dearmke

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I wonder, in a few years, looking back at these, what kinds of criticisms I’ll have. For now, I’m enjoying practicing the seeing of a compelling moment and then trying to capture a photograph of it.

Exploring Riveredge Nature Center

I started working at Riveredge Nature Center in early October and I’m enjoying getting to know the landscape. Riveredge is comprised of 379 acres along the Milwaukee River, and is located in Newburg, Wisconsin. It’s about a 40-minute drive from Milwaukee.

I’m primarily a writer, but I use photographs as a companion to words. Sometimes pictures can more quickly communicate an experience than words are able to translate. Taking pictures has given me an excuse to go exploring the 10 miles of trails and find things to write about.

I’ve been trying to look at the place with new eyes, try to see things from perspectives other people may not, or from places I haven’t thought to look from.

I liked that this view was initially a little confounding to look at. The angles of the tree shadows, the grass through the water, the water now becoming solid instead of aqueous and taking on a different sheen.

I’ve been trying to capture the sense of topographical dynamism that I observe between the hills, ponds, immediate trees, skyline, and forest in the distance.

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Gnarly

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One thing I’ve realized – it’s pretty challenging to get pictures of birds. They just don’t stay still! I saw these hawks tussling above the prairie, and unfortunately I had the wrong lens to capture any of them individually. Ah well, we all learn (hopefully) new things, and I’m glad this is giving me an opportunity to practice new skills.

Here is a shot of the Milwaukee River in late October.

Unexpected Forest in the City

Went to go swimming at the #Milwaukee county pool on 82nd and Good Hope and – what’s with this forest over here in the middle of the city? Went for a nice little hike; even startled an American Woodcock, which are great fun because they always startle back.

Photos in Zip MKE

Glad to have a few of my pictures amongst snapshots of Milwaukee at the @zipmke opening in the Central Library. Come see your city!