Hi, my name Miles Despathy. I am a student at Danville High School and I am currently taking a Compass class that allows me to choose any topic that I want to study and earn credit for learning about it. In this class, I have chosen to study nature, specifically focusing on how nature can influence creative, inspired writing, as well as researching the influence of technology on nature, current environmental issues and ecology. In this class, I will read the books Writing Wild by Tina Welling, The End of Nature and Enough by Bill McKibben, The Forest Unseen by George Haskell, and The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. For my first project, I read the book Writing Wild and then I researched something that I observed in nature that interested me. From these observations and research, I wrote a six-page paper about what I found. For my next projects throughout this semester, I will read the other books and write a paper about an environmental issue and possible solutions, research a technology and write an opinion paper about its impact on the environment, and find a spot in nature and keep an ecology journal which will include regular observations, essays, and poems related to this spot.
After reading Writing Wild, I went out in the woods to follow the three-step process that is shared in this book. This process involved going into nature and finding something to describe using the five senses. What I found on my walk in the woods was a lichen on a tree. After choosing this lichen for my project, I began to ask questions about lichens in general and I used these questions to help create an outline for my six-page paper. Some of the major questions that I asked in this paper were: what are lichens? Do lichens harm the objects they grow on? Where do lichens live? What is the oldest lichen? How do lichens grow? What can lichens grow on? What conditions can lichen grow in? How many different lichens are there? I found that by asking questions about the lichen, it helped me to have a clear direction in developing my paper.
Some of the parts of this project were challenging because I had never written a paper that included my own personal narrative and thoughts as well as scientific research. The first challenge I had was trying to figure out how to begin the introduction of my paper. Another challenge was that some of the sources I used were long and used dense, scientific language that caused reading them to be slow and complicated. The last major issue that I had with this paper was trying to find a way to organize all of the information that I had gathered so it was easy to understand and follow. In order to solve the first problem, I went back to the three-step process from the book Writing Wild. this process involved asking questions about what I had found. Because of this part of the process, I thought it would be appropriate to use questions in my introduction and to share the description of the lichen that I had created. For the second challenge I just had to read through the material slowly and several times to figure out the message. To solve the last major challenge regarding the organization of the paper, I had to create an outline in order to form the information into usable chunks that flowed so the information did not overwhelm me and also to help present the information clearly.
There are many things that I learned about lichens from this paper as well as my writing in general. This paper taught me that I enjoy narrative writing and trying to weave it into a paper. The main places that I used narrative writing were in the introduction and the conclusion of my lichen paper which were my favorite parts of the paper to write. This paper also showed me that creating an outline is very helpful because it is an effective form of organizing information and creating the flow of your paper. One of the facts about lichens that I found interesting was their ability to function and grow after being in space for more than two weeks where they were exposed to extreme temperatures and radiation. Lichens are found in many different places including Antarctica and rain forests. I also learned that lichens can be used to measure the amount of pollution in an area by monitoring how far out they grow from where they are attached. Another major thing that I have learned in this class is that many writers both past and present have used nature for inspiration in their writing. Some of these writers include the poets Basho and Robert Frost, the environmentalists John Muir and Thoreau, as well as many others.
Currently, in this class, I have just read the book The End of Nature by Bill McKibben. This book was about many environmental issues including climate change and what could happen if humans do not change their ways. This book offered insight into how humans have contributed to current environmental problems as well as humans relationship with nature. For my next Compass project, I will be writing a paper on some of the key messages from Bill McKibben’s book and specifically focussing on the energy crisis and its impact on both the climate and the environment. This paper will be a five-page research paper and it will also include some solutions that could possibly work to end or help this issue. After I have finished this paper I will begin reading my next book by Bill McKibben, Enough, and writing an opinion based paper on a current technology and its impact on the environment.