Blog

Summer Term 2017: “Another amazing week at HMI”

Written by by Claire Harpel, Emma Cavage, and Aliénor Manteau
July 18, 2017

This week at HMI we studied Leadville’s comprehensive mining history and the effects that this had on the the town’s culture. For humanities we visited the mining museum and an abandoned mine in preparation for a debate surrounding Leadville’s mining future. For the peer-run debate we were split into four groups: miners, farmers, consumers, and environmentalists. This conversation continued in science class where we traveled to a variety of different water sources to compare water upstream and downstream from mine drainage sites. We examined macro invertebrates, oxygen content, conductivity, and pH levels. We then split into groups to present on our data.

Throughout the week we participated in either fly fishing or rock climbing during activity periods. The rock climbers scaled vertical rock faces, learning to belay each other and ascend to new heights both literally and figuratively using the five steps of leadership we learned in P&P. The fly fishing group was given an amazing lesson by Grace who taught them the basics of pole set-up and casting. We hiked to Timberline Lake and on the Outward Bound campus where both fish and trees were caught as we practiced.

On Friday night we held a carnival competition on campus. There were rubber ducky races, gaga ball games, wheelbarrow races, whipped cream and cookie challenges, and improvisational competitions. As a prize, we chose three faculty members, Libbey, Gavin, and Dave, to get pied in the face.

On Saturday we all piled on buses and headed to the Arkansas River to go whitewater rafting. The students and instructors split into raft groups and were taught the commands and techniques of paddling in whitewater. Throughout the trip we passed beautiful rock formations and scenery. Many students and faculty went swimming in the rapids—most of them on purpose. The groups stopped together for a great lunch on edge of the water and a bunch of us had fun wading in the river. After lunch the raft groups tackled even more intense rapids. We even had to pull over to scout forthcoming rough water. The day was topped off with some prime sea shanties sung by Ian and watermelon at the end of the journey.

Upon returning from whitewater rafting, many students played a game of football, utilizing a very impressive playbook organized by Emma. The evening activity was a bonfire that featured the musical talent of HMI students and Joe’s bow-drill fire making skills. The night continued with more pickup football, singing, tight-rope walking, and tug of war.

On Sunday we were given the choice between summiting Mt. Sherman, a local fourteener, or taking a trip to the farmers’ market in Vail. The hikers were led by Dylan and Gavin and enjoyed sparkling cider and donuts on the top of the mountain. The hike took about four hours and the group hung out in the town of Leadville afterwards. According to Chloe, it was a beautiful day “filled with a lot of laughs and good conversation.” The farmers’ market group also had a blast exploring the shops and stands in downtown Vail. They enjoyed amazing food and pet lots of adorable dogs, none of which were as cute as Noah’s dog Ralph.

All in all, this was another amazing week at HMI.

Three Lake County High School Sophomores Receive Full Scholarships to HMI

May 26, 2017

Benney, Gonzales, & Reigel Receive HMI Merit Scholarships

Lake County High School sophomores Ariel Benney and Bianca Gonzalez, and Abigail Reigel are the recipients of this year’s High Mountain Institute (HMI) merit scholarships.

Benney, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Charles & Suzi Benney, will attend HMI this summer, Gonzales, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Alberto & Vianca Gonzales, will attend HMI for the fall semester; Reigel, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Michael & Allison Reigel will attend HMI in the spring.

With an extremely competitive admissions year at HMI, these LCHS scholarship recipients were selected for their commitment to academics, leadership, and involvement in their greater communities.

The merit scholarships cover the full cost of tuition for each recipient, a $29,263 value for the HMISemester, and a $8,650 value for the HMI Summer Term.

Since inception in 1998, 31 other LCHS students have attended HMI on full merit scholarships. Past LCHS HMI Alumni have attended colleges such as University of Denver, University of Colorado Boulder, and Colorado State University.

The High Mountain Institute is a semester-long boarding school for high school juniors. Each semester a new cohort of 48 students travel to Leadville from all over the country to partake in the school’s rigorous academic curriculum, extended backpacking expeditions, and a small, intentional community.

 In addition to the semester program, HMI offers a 5-week Summer Term for high schoolers, a two week backpacking trip for middle schoolers, and a variety of adult programs including wilderness medicine and avalanche awareness training. HMI also partners with the local non-profit Full Circle of Lake County each summer to offer a free, week-long backpacking program for LCHS 7th and 8th graders.

Today is Gap Year Decision Day

By Becca Schild, Co-Director of HMI Gap
May 25, 2017

In celebration of the inaugural Gap Year Decision Day, HMI is excited to welcome an incredible group of students for our 2017 and 2018 gap semesters. Gap Year Decision Day is a nation-wide initiative to encourage students to declare their gap year plans through social media outlets. The National College Signing Day, a movement started by Michelle Obama to celebrate students going to college, inspired the concept of Gap Year Decision Day. As gap years are increasingly popular, leading to numerous reported positive benefits, leaders within the Gap Year Industry, including USA Gap Year FairsAmerican Gap AssociationGo Overseas, and EnRoute Consulting, are spearheading the opportunity to provide students taking a gap year their time to shine and come together as a cohesive group.

Alia Paltos, Director of USA Gap Year Fairs, explains: “We hope that Gap Year Decision Day will empower students by allowing them to feel like a connected community … The possibilities for a gap year are endless, so this initiative will demonstrate to the public just how many students are taking gap time and exactly what students are planning to do.”

Now in our third year, HMI has expanded our program offerings to include a wilderness-focused gap semester through the American West and Patagonia in the fall, and a semester in Patagoniain the spring. Our students come from all over the country and with diverse backgrounds, yet they express the same desire to step into the world to learn more about themselves and broaden their perspective so they can pursue their ambitions in life with purpose, passion, and preparedness.

Semester 38: Prom, Project Day, and What Lies Ahead

Written by Isabelle Ross, Ben Glass, Renny Acheson, and Simon Kearns
May 25, 2017

This Saturday was prom.  The week began with students being randomly assigned dates, one being the “asker” and the other the “askee.” Each asker was tasked with creating a fun prom-posal to ask their dates to the dance. Prom’s theme this semester was the “Glory Days of Leadville,” and people dressed in all varieties of outfits. Some dressed formal while others wore their craziest flare, including helmets and wolf shirts. The night was a lot of fun. Students helped cook a delicious Thanksgiving feast for dinner with pumpkin pies and snickerdoodles for dessert. Students then finished getting ready for the dance and made the finishing touches to transform Who’s Hall from our dining room to a mine-themed dance floor. After a photoshoot in front of Mount Elbert, students and their dates hurried into Who’s Hall to begin dancing. Who’s Hall was decorated with lanterns, old photographs, and buckets of fake gold. The highlight of the night was playing a game called snowball.  Every time the word “snowball” was called, students had to switch dates and dance with somebody else. It was a great way to interact and have fun with all of the people in the semester. Just as everyone helped set up for prom on Saturday night, the whole community pitched in to help clean up on Sunday morning by unstacking tables and chairs and sweeping the floors. Overall, it was a great event!

Monday was project day! Everyone worked together on tasks all around campus and Leadville to either do some community service or work to make the campus look even more beautiful. From staining decks, to building greenhouses on a local farm, everybody was pitching in. Some of the jobs included: building fences, staining the new cabins, staining the decks, doing landscaping work around campus, fixing up the Frisbee golf course, making soccer goals, working at a local farm, and tons of others.

Over the course of this week, we’ve started having conversations about the difficult truth that seems to be hanging over all of our heads; we’re leaving in a week. With the start of the Going Home series, we’ve began the emotional transition from life at HMI back to life at home. On Tuesday, we held cabin meetings to discuss the months following HMI. Cabins discussed increased independence at home, summer jobs and volunteer opportunities, and our plans for staying in touch once we go our separate ways. The next day, during advisory meetings, we talked about applying what we’ve learned at HMI to our last year of school at home. Topics covered included having good expedition behavior (despite not being on an actual expedition), practicing good communication, and being considerate of the world around us. We then wrote letters reminding our future selves what we want to get out of senior year, and our advisors will mail them to us in September. On Friday, Jess addressed the entire semester during lunch about the inevitability of the fact that the semester is coming to a close. She encouraged us to, even though we have 8 days left together, to deepen friendships, try new things, and to continue building the strong community that we have developed over the last four months. Finally, on Sunday during the afternoon, we began packing up our belongings into boxes and duffels to be shipped home. The semester may be coming to a close, but we are still enjoying the beautiful Leadville spring and each other’s vibrant company.

Semester 38: Square Dance, Fun Run, and Final Projects!

Written by Nora Greeley, Liz Jones, Lucy Wasserstein, and Luke Robins
May 16, 2017

As the academic year comes closer, our final projects for our classes have been introduced. In Natural Science we performed two water quality experiments in Leadville’s local watershed, which really brought it closer to home. Our project combines two essential aspects of science: thorough research and engaging presentation. First, we must find and read scientific papers about the watersheds that affect our hometowns. Next, we must use our creativity to decide on a non-traditional presentation method. In past projects we have used classical methods, much like the scientists who present their findings in reports and posters. For this project, however, we will instead use methods including creative writing, board games, or movies to express our message. Once we have created these projects, we will present them to our classes.

In our Practices and Principles class, we have been presented with a similar project. After reading, discussing, and writing about diverse environmental ethics, we have an opportunity to create our own statement. Again, this project will be a presentation in the form of creative visuals, such as songs, movies, or artwork. One group is interviewing restaurants in Leadville about their food ethics and the manner in which this influences their food orders. Informed by their interviews, they plan to create a movie in which they discuss how ideas of food locality and animal treatment are prevalent in Leadville’s food industries. In both classes, these culminating projects allow us to explore the intersections of our lives with the information we’ve learned!

This Saturday afternoon we had an HMI community square dance. We brought in professional callers from Leadville who set up big speakers and turned the parking into a square-dance dance floor. Everyone dressed up in their best square dance costumes including flannels, jeans, and even cowboy boots. The callers taught us a lot of new dances that seemed complicated at first but everyone learned really quickly. We did dances as a whole group in a big circle and then we also did a couple other dances with smaller groups or partners. Along with the students, some apprentices and faculty joined in the fun as well. Everyone’s shoes got a little dusty, but the new experience was worth it.

On Saturday after dinner, we played a few school-wide games, some of which got pretty heated! After a while of friendly but intense competition, we switched to an activity led by Sofia called Warm and Fuzzies. We each got a piece of paper, and, in groups of ten, we rotated the papers around the table and wrote little notes to each other, like you would in a yearbook. Everyone got a little teary-eyed after reading all the sentimental notes on their papers, and Noah certainly did not help the situation when he started a playlist of slow, emotional folk songs.

This Sunday, everybody woke up early and got ready for the ten-mile Fun Run, an HMI tradition since Semester 12. Starting in the beginning of February, we have run three mornings a week for AMX in preparation for the Fun Run. At first, some were anxious about the race; however when Ben led us in an inspirational chant, all of our nerves disappeared. We began the race on a flat road about four miles away from campus, which led us to the six-mile loop that many of us have run on the past few months. The Fun Run then finished in the HMI driveway, with lots of cheering, snacks, and celebration! The weather was perfect for running, and the entire race we were surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains and blue skies. Throughout the course, there were three aid stations run by staff members. Each aid station was stocked with water, gatorade, and pretzels for anyone who needed a boost of energy. Everyone did an amazing job during the race, and Simon Kearns beat the all-time Fun Run record by fifteen seconds, making HMIhistory!

Semester 38: Life on Campus

Written by Julia Harrison, Sofia Sacerdote, Nina Goodkin, and Lia Coyle
May 9, 2017

In our second week back after third expedition we have gotten back into the swing of academics on campus. In lab on Monday we were in the Arkansas River catching, sorting, and analyzing morphotypes of benthic macroinvertebrates (think small to medium size bugs that live in the riverbed) as indicators of pollution from California Gulch. Leadville’s mining history puts us in an amazing location to study acid mine drainage in our local waterways and access how it affects the ecosystem! Standing in the running water was chilly and brought some of us back to the icy water in the canyons during first expedition. Instead of writing a usual lab report, we made posters to display the results of our studies, a method we will all likely use in college and in the future if we choose to pursue a career in science.

In Josh’s English class, we finished reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s CeremonyCeremony is a novel about Tayo, a WWII vet and member of the Laguna Native American Tribe struggling to understand how his culture’s stories and ceremonies fit into the modern world as well as his own life. It is certainly a complicated text with many nuanced themes and patterns and has lead to many great discussions. On Friday we went on a mindful walk to brainstorm ideas for what we want to write our Ceremony essays about. Many of us have chosen to analyze a pattern or motif while others wrote theses about the traditional stories and Native American agency.

This Saturday, some of the HMI students got to take the SAT! After everyone was done, we rotated between going into town and chopping wood. Students who didn’t take the SAT headed into town in the morning for some brunch or hung out on the back porch in the sun, sitting in the hammocks and playing guitar. For Saturday night activity, we hosted our second open mic of the semester. Along with cookies, chai tea and a halftime show, we watched and listened to some pretty incredible acts. There were a variety of hilarious duets, some cabin sing alongs, magic shows, guitar solos, dances, and a skit. Everything was either very funny or showcased an amazing talent. All of this was followed by a quick dance party  before we headed to our cabins.

 On Sunday, we visited Colorado College (CC). In the morning when we left, it was cold and threatening rain. Nonetheless people wore shorts, anticipating beautiful weather in Colorado Springs. When we arrived and got out of the buses, it was springtime! People plucked dandelions from the side of the road, blowing them at each other. We ate lunch first, choosing from a variety of options in the CC dining hall, soft serve ice cream and cheesecake being among them. Then we had the info session. We learned all about the programs CC has, and the opportunities their block plan gives us to explore different places within the country and the world. We learned about how students at CC have access to Colorado skiing and backpacking, including in Southern Utah, which we’ve done at HMI. We then had a tour of the facilities, which were beautiful. We saw Pike’s Peak, and the Barr trail, and the soccer fields. Altogether, CC was a different experience from most college tours, and it appealed to a lot of us because of our experiences at HMI.

Monday afternoon electivities at High Mountain Institute provides students with the opportunity to put their athletic and artistic capabilities into high gear. Electivity is a block that takes place directly after lunch on Mondays, and allows students to pursue interests that they would not normally get the opportunity to practice during a normal school day. For example, some students partake in competitive games of Frisbee or soccer on Leadville’s local turf field. After a quick warm up on the jungle gym and some time mentally preparing for the big game on the swing set, they usually have about forty-five minutes to sweat, scream, and sprint on the turf. Yesterday, we had a particularly intense game of soccer and each player left with a fair share of turf burn. While we were at the field, other HMI students got to participate in making metal jewlery with Aimee, “Waste Warriors” (a recycling program for kids) at a local school, an introduction to bouldering, linoleum block painting, a dance class, or an introduction to film. With only two electivity sessions left, it seems certain that every student will be sad to see these fun opportunities start to wrap up.

Semester 38: 3rd Expedition

Written by Jake Lamazor, Emma Page, Quattro Musser, Carter Norfleet, and Amira Abualhaija
May 2, 2017

Group A

Although the blood red mesas, the varnish-stained canyon walls, and the sun-bleached trees remain, Bears Ears National Monument has metamorphosed since we last visited in late January. The arid land’s water is no longer locked up in snow, and with the melt, a new layer of beauty has emerged. Vibrant foliage and brilliant blooms awake from their winter slumber. Life crawls out of seemingly impossible, inhospitable cracks in the earth. The microcosmos that is the intricate system of canyons in southeastern Utah is transforming.

We can’t help but feel anxious before each of our expeditions, and this is no exception. For a claustrophobe, the towering canyon walls can sometimes be suffocating. But to drown in this phobia would be a mistake—there’s too much to miss. The desert’s treasures are well hidden. Ruins perch like the multitudes of ravens on canyon shelves, revealing themselves only to the keenest hikers. Like someone had planted an Easter egg especially for us, we come across an undisturbed site including a two-story ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling, pottery shards, arrowheads, and pictographs. Peering at the paintings of bighorn sheep, fertility gods, and the handprints of children, I wonder if there was an intention, some religious importance, or a ritualistic significance to their art, or if they were only passing the time in the sweltering desert heat.

As the promise of Independent Student Travel drew nearer, Wilderness First Aid became an essential part of our expedition curriculum. Although we legally can’t be certified by our instructors, all ten boys on our trip become competent enough to handle a medical emergency, should one arise.

In the blink of an eye, our two-week journey through the winding canyons came to a close. Huddled together in our sleeping bags one hundred yards from the highway, the solemn, enchanting cry of a lone coyote pierces the melody of the calm, cold wind. It’s bittersweet; trading the open skies for ceilings, knowing something other than beans and pasta await us, leaving the intimacy of a small brotherhood for the warmth of the larger HMI family. But a little piece of us all stays in the canyon, just as a small part of the canyons will remain in all of us.

Group B

We started with an eight hour drive in a crammed bus. After multiple gas station trips, reading, listening to music, and a sudden change in temperature we arrived at Bears Ears National Monument. Everyone sat with their eyes glued out the window trying to remember the scenery from first exped. The burnt orange of the canyon’s walls swarmed above and below us. The feeling of walking on split ancient earth was something that everyone was eager to get back to. The first night was spent on slick rock right near the highway. We were greeted with a new presence that we had not encountered first expedition: bugs. This ultimately wasn’t that big of a deal though, as there weren’t many bugs once we got further away from the highway. From then on we embarked on our journey and by embarked I mean traveled .003 miles per hour due to our 65 pound packs… we literally crawled. Just kidding! Nothing could stop us. Coming back to the canyons was thrilling, since we were no longer rookies. There were definitely highlights from the trip. One included the 12 hour day in Gravel Canyon. The second hiking group came into camp at a record 9:45 pm, overjoyed to see the first group cuddled together in sleeping bags. Other highlights were discovering ancient ruins; we all hiked up silently to this sight, touched the charcoal on the wall and saw the small corn cobs lying on the ground from thousands of years ago. On the fourth day of the expedition we were met with a steep drop off into the canyon we had to descend. There was no way we could walk down. The I-Team set up a belay and all of us repelled off of a 40 foot ledge into the canyon. At first everyone was a little bit nervous and shaky when Steph lowered us off of the edge but that was quickly tamed when our feet left the rock and we were left dangling. While the days were filled with adventuring, laughing, and enjoying the sun. The nights were filled with cooking brownies, British accents, and star gazing. By the end of the 13 days we were definitely worn and tired but sad to leave this beautiful place we have called home for 28 days. Now it’s back to life in Leadville!

Group C

This expedition was quite different from the others. We did way more technical travel with reppells and climbs, which we really enjoyed, but more so we got to do a lot more independent activities which we found surprisingly gratifying. While we had been to this area on first exped, it was a very neat experience to come back and see how much more prepared we were this time. Physicaly speaking our trip was much more rigorous, involving fewer long hikes across canyon tops, and more technical climbs and descents in canyons. We got to go in a lot of what we dubbed “narrows,” which involved descending up to 100 feet down slots at the bottom of canyons into freezing cold water that only saw the sun for five or ten minutes a day because of the depth and narrowness of the narrows. Overall it was a wonderful experience and we can’t wait for an opportunity to go back to the canyons of Utah.

Group D

The first night of expedition we camped on slick rock, right off the highway. During Circle that night, we began bonding with our group for the next 2 weeks. The next morning we went to the Ranger Station, to review the principles of “Leave No Trace” and learn about the ancient Puebloan ruins in the area. After, we hit the trails and officially began our expedition! Many days of hiking, learning, and making new friendships followed. After 4 days in Lime Creek Canyon, we had a spontaneous change in our route. Our original plan was to descend into Road Canyon, and continue hiking through the canyon. After hours of scouting, we decided to play it safe and turn back. We learned a lot about conservative decision making and risk management that day: as a group we had to keep in mind which terrain would be safe to travel down, and how much water we had left. 11 hours and 9 miles later, we arrived back at our campsite from the previous night. It was a difficult and tiring day, especially for our feet, but we kept spirits high by belting out songs on the trail, sharing stories, and telling jokes. We felt very accomplished after that day, and even more the next day, which was our first day of Independent Student Travel (IST). Before gaining IST, we had to demonstrate responsible decision making, knowledge of the terrain, and participate in the HMIfirst aid course. During this course we learned the basics of wilderness first aid, and even demonstrated our new skills on each other during the lessons.

Throughout the trip our Expedition Leaders shared stories, wisdom, and demonstrated exceptional leadership. One highlight was that Margi taught a very insightful and relevant lesson about Bears Ears National Monument, and the Native American history of the area. We expanded this lesson with a P&P reading and discussion about the monument, in context with the Obama administration’s legislature and the Trump administration’s future plans for the monument. We gained a very unique perspectives on this topic by learning about it while in the canyons of Utah.

After days of talking about Neville’s Arch, the moment finally came. It was a beautiful day: bluebird sky and full sun. We set up camp on the canyon floor, and then ascended the up the hillside. At the top, we journaled, took photos, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. It was a very special moment for all of us together, due to the breathtaking scenery and just being all together under the arch. For most of us, this day turned out to be a trip highlight. During the hike debrief that afternoon, we simply discussed how amazing that day was. This moment, along with many other over the course of the expedition, showed the special connection of an all-female group. We all felt comfortable with each other, starting on day one. By the end of the trip all nine of us shared so many inside jokes and memories. We got to know everyone in the group on a very personal level. During the more difficult moments, we empowered and helped each other. This was a unique aspect of an all-female trip: helping and motivating each other felt very natural. We explored gender empowerment, personal identity, the beauty of nature, and other topics, through prompts given to us by our apprentice, Emily, which aided our process of self and group realization. For most of us, this was our first single-sex wilderness experiences: it turned out to be very empowering, fun, and beneficial to our leadership skills.

Group E

Being able to return to the canyons of Utah with friends we’ve grown so close with over the semester was really something special. Contrasting with snowy, sometimes frigid conditions of first expedition in the canyons, we arrived in the canyons this time around and were greeted with clear, sunny skies, and balmy 75 degree temperatures. We wore shorts and t-shirts every single day; the weather felt like a tropical paradise compared our previous expeditions and time in Leadville!

This expedition was unique in a few different ways, even though it was spent in roughly the same area and with some of the same fabulous people as our previous expeditions. Our group in particular was very excited to earn Independent Student Travel (IST) after we finished our required first aid courses. We worked hard over the first half of the expedition and were able to get IST early on, which everyone was pretty excited about. The hard-working and friendly spirit of the whole group really helped in us being able to reach our goals. While we love the members of our instructor team, being able to spend all day just in the company of our peers helped to form an incredibly strong group bond between all of us. We spent the days hiking, lounging by pools of water, completing our academic work that had been assigned to us by various teachers, playing games, journaling, and other fun, relaxing activities. And while we did have a lot of relaxation time, it was also the duty of the whole group to pitch in with navigation, campsite finding, water collecting, and cooking. We had to accomplish all these necessary tasks without instructor supervision which, while it was difficult at times, played a large role in the cohesiveness of our group. We spent nights singing, playing games, stargazing, and finally all falling asleep together under the brilliant stars of Bears Ears.

Alison Kelman, HMI Alumna, part of historic conservation victory in Patagonia

by Chris Barlow, Co-Director of HMI Gap
April 10, 2017
April 10, 2017

The global effort to conserve pristine wilderness took a major step forward three weeks ago when Tompkins Conservation donated 1 million acres of land in Patagonia to the Chilean government. Alison Kelman, the Communications Director for Tompkins Conservation and alumna of RMS 11, played a central role in this historic moment.

Alison joined Tompkins Conservation in 2014 after volunteering in Parque Patagonia. As the Communications Director, she leads a small team focused on communications and fundraising. While she is mainly based in San Francisco, Alison gets to take the occasional trip to Patagonia, where she puts her wilderness skills to use.

Doug and Kris Tompkins began buying large tracts of land in Chile in the mid-1990s in a bold effort to protect it from more traditional forms of economic development. In the years since, their non-profit foundation Tompkins Conservation has worked closely with the Chilean government to develop these lands into parks that will eventually be operated within the Chilean national park system.

The 1-million-acre donation is part of an initiative by Chile’s president Michelle Bachelet to protect over 10 million acres of land in Patagonia through the expansion of 3 existing parks and the creation of 5 new parks, including Parque Patagonia, where HMI Gap visits. By designating these lands as national parks, they receive the greatest level of protection under the Chilean government.

For Alison, “working on the future Patagonia National Park project has been the opportunity of a lifetime. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the Tompkins and the rest of the Tompkins Conservation team, especially at this stage in projects. Kris and Doug’s vision has pushed us all to think bigger, to be ambitious and aggressive when it comes to protecting wild nature. My experience at HMI most certainly influenced my commitment to conservation work, and I am so glad we have been able to collaborate with HMI GAP to get more students to Patagonia Park.”

Check out more by seeing the film, Douglas Tompkins: A Wild Legacy, which Alison helped produce.

Semester 38: “The HMI community is a 24/7 learning environment”

Written by Joost Sheehan, Evie Wallce, Amira Abualhaija, and Austin Graham
March 29, 2017

  We are back in full gear with academics on campus here. This week marks ⅓ of our academic progress. Crazy! So that students get an understanding of where they are gradewise here at HMI, teachers held conferences and check-ins with each individual student. After asking Skye what she thought of conferences she responded: “The constructed feedback from the teacher allows me to improve myself as a student and a member of this community.” Topics of this week’s Practice and Principles class discussions have left interesting debates on animal rights and vegetarianism lingering on campus. Our discussion has even resulted in two members of our community, Austin and Stuart, turning vegetarian. Liz’s English class has been deeply invested in the complicated book Ceremony. The Native American literary influence on the structure of the book has made it an incredibly interesting read. Margi’s science class has started a new unit, incorporating the studies of watersheds and the influence the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park has had on its surrounding ecosystem. Austin comments: “I love how this class allows me to connect what I’ve experienced on expedition and the outdoors of Leadville, to what we learn in the classroom. I feel like I’m always learning somethingwhether that be in class or in the outdoors.” From analyzing snowshoe hare tracks to heated discussions on vegetarianism in the cabins late at night, the HMI community is a 24/7 learning environment.

After returning from a snowy second expedition, we were happy to be greeted by all our friends. The semester quickly fell back into the swing of things back on campus. There was a lot of hugging as everyone reunited with the semester and shared great expedition stories. We were all surprised and happy to be greeted by some sunny days and the sight of melted snow (no more shoveling!). Even the morning runs were made fun by the warmer weather and the mountain sunrise. We were all proud to complete our first 4 mile run to prepare for the upcoming 10 mile Fun Run. Other AMX highlights include a Tae Bo workout video and an arms and abs circuit with Liz and Beyonce.

To celebrate the start of spring, we held our own “March Madness” or NCAA tournament brackets. The semester’s basketball fans placed their bets on the final eight teams in the tournament. During free time between conferences, basketball, 4-square, and ping-pong were all popular activities in the 50 degree weather. Apprentices also led their own activities during study breaks and had us swing dancing, making ice cream, doing yoga, and solving crosswords. Everyone took advantage of the back porch, lounging in hammocks, making friendship bracelets, painting, taking in the view of the mountains, and studying. Even small moments like these allow the semester to get closer and enjoy every moment of our time here.

Every other Wednesday that we are on campus at HMI is when we have our hour-long community meeting during lunch. The entire semester and many of the faculty and apprentices gather in Stuen Hall during these community meetings to eat delicious burritos and hold relevant, structured conversations. This past Wednesday was part two of the Identity Series Community Meetings. The Identity Series is designed for us to have open conversations about race, gender, sexuality, and other topics pertaining to identity, and how we as a semester can strive to be a more mindful and inclusive community. Some of these conversations can be difficult or uncomfortable to have, and sometimes raise a difference of opinions, but the wonderful thing about the HMI community is that we are all willing to step out of our comfort zones with open minds and respect for others in order to have productive conversations and continue our education on these topics as well as about others’ perspectives.

Before second expedition, the Identity Squad, a group of self-selected students dedicated to fostering inclusion, safe spaces, and open conversations about identity in the HMIcommunity, had the opportunity to help plan part two of the Identity Series. The topic of the meeting was microaggressions, which are indirect, subtle, or unintentional acts of discrimination against any marginalized group. So we as the Identity Squad planned how to inform our peers on what exactly microaggressions are, how they can have serious, harmful, impacts on people, as well as how to be mindful in avoiding their use. The entire meeting on Wednesday was student-run, so several members of the Identity Squad defined what a microaggression is, talked about brave space community norms, and helped facilitate small group discussions. As with many topics like it, talking about microaggressions is hard. But the entire community stepped up during our Wednesday meeting and we ended up having productive and informative conversations about microaggressions that even continued beyond the community meeting. And thanks to those conversations and the community meeting, there is now an open dialogue and a common language surrounding microaggressions on the HMI campus.

With a busy week of classes behind us, all HMI students look forward to the weekend. On Saturday night, after a delicious and particularly rowdy dinner, the main event was a (Lady) Gaga ball tournament. Students met in Stuen Hall at 7:30pm dressed in an array of outfits and face paint. Gaga ball, a game where students hit the ball at one another’s legs trying to get them out, got quite competitive and exciting. After various rounds and multiple champions, most students returned to Who’s Hall to ride out the rest of the night listening to music, talking to friends and family, or replenishing their bodies with the tasty treats left out on the food line. Student’s were in cabins by 10:00pm, thus concluding a very intense and entertaining night.

Waking up on Sunday for breakfast at 7:45 can be tough (when the normal time for Sunday breakfast is 10:00), but knowing we had a day of skiing and a presentation by Where There Be Dragons (a summer and gap year program) made it that much easier to get up. After everyone had filled up on our bagel breakfast and packed a lunch, we headed out to the vans, some of us loaded with our tele skis while others choosing to rent equipment at the mountain. While numerous students rented alpine skis, a large number of individuals decided to rent snowboards (this being the first time many students have ever snowboarded). After a number of tough falls, the newbie snowboarders brushed the snow off their jackets and charged down the mountain, shredding through the fresh inch of snow. It was awesome to see all of our other classmates skiing down the hill, some choosing to the lock their heels into alpine skis while others deciding to keep it free on the tele skis. We met back at the buses at 12:00pm and headed back to HMI, all the hungry students devouring our lunches on the ride back. At 1:00pm, we met the three individuals from Where There Be Dragons in Who’s Hall to discuss the program. After a couple of hilarious activities and an amazing video presentation, we all rushed to grab the pamphlets and packets that were being handed out. Although our Sunday, typically composed of a lot of free time, was quite busy, there was not a single moment we weren’t smiling or having a blast as a community.

Five Principles of Deliberate Practice: Dylan Kane featured on Edutopia!

March 27, 2017
 

Educators often say that practice makes perfect. But what should that practice look like?” asks HMImath faculty Dylan Kane in the opening of his most recent article, “A Focus on Self-Improvement,” featured on Edutopia. Dylan goes on to discuss five principles of deliberate practice, and how educators can integrate them into their classroom to improve their teaching. It’s worth a readcheck it out!

Thanks, Dylan, for inspiring us to always do better and be better!