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

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 HMI community, 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.