Nature Is Our Classroom

The IB Group 4 Project is a special project requires students to collaborate in order to solve a complex problem. The project combines students taking different IB science subjects (i.e. physics, chemistry, biology, sport science, etc.) into a 4 to 5 person group. I have heard of the Group 4 Project since September, but nobody knew what the Project would be exactly. Nevertheless, the mere idea of going on a field trip for the whole Friday was enough to excite everybody’s anticipation.Finally Friday came, and the mysterious mission was unveiled. The goal for this year’s Project was to find a way to survive in the Academy’s backfield for one year – no electricity, no aid from outside, only the wild and our hands. The final graded project would be a poster and a group presentation. “This is nothing like what they did last year!” a student murmured excitedly. True enough, the Into the Wild idea was far more intriguing to me than sitting in a classroom and conducting 10 hours of research in front of a laptop, which was what last year’s students did. However, this year’s mission was nowhere near easier, and maybe even more challenging compared to last year. Our first test was to find a clean water source.

Not far from the base where the teachers sat was the pond. Acquiring water from the pond was our first thought, but we soon realized it would be a bad judgement to drink it without filtering once we saw the chunks of green algae floating on the surface. We decided to head upstream to find the source of the water and meanwhile think about how to filter the water. We found some planting pots that had holes at the bottom, and collected different sizes of pebbles, sand, and some charcoal from a burnt-down branches. The idea of a water filter was therefore complete – with fine sand and a layer of leaves blocking the holes, a layer of small pebbles and charcoals in the middle, and bigger pebbles at the very top.

The stream zigzaged into the woods. At one point, we decided to walk on top of a fallen log to explore the other side of the stream. The log was so thick that I could not wrap around it with my arms, yet it snapped flat down under nature’s enormous force. I climbed up from the root of the tree which was still firmly ingrained into the bank, and carefully extended my arm to balance myself. Although the log was only 2 meters above and it took me less than 15 steps to get across, it was a totally different perception. The archaic, solid wood under my feet, and the thin air mixed with a strand moist rising from the ground of the forest, I felt like walking into a different world – perhaps a land of fairytale or magic that was filled with unknowns and amazements.

Along the journey, we found many materials that would be essential for our survival: scrolls of tarps that could be used for heat-isolation and water-resistance, a thick Y-shaped twig that could be made into a slingshot for hunting, rusty but still strong metal pieces from abandoned trucks for the base of our fire pit, and much more. Food was not a problem. We gathered different samples of mushrooms, berries, and leaves so that we could check the handbook to find out what was edible once we were back at the base. There were also many animals in the backfield, such as rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks. We even saw a turkey. The only difficult task was to start a fire.

Back at the base, I talked to other groups for their tactics on fire. Many people mentioned the classical image of a cave man rubbing a stick against a log by hands. I immediately thought of a TV program I watched that showed how to start a fire using a method called Bow-Drill, which could save a lot of work than using bare hands. Since we had five people, we really just need a long rope wrapped around a stick in one loop so that one person can pull the rope back and forth while the other one can use a brick to press down the stick on another surface.

I was tired after the adventure for the day, but I also learned things that can never be taught in a traditional classroom. Nature itself provided its boundless knowledge for us to harvest, and experiencing it all from my own perspective made the entire journey more engaging and exciting.


Richard Yang '18

Richard Yang is a boarding student who attended at Cheshire Academy from Janurary 2015 as a freshman. I have a broad interest in almost everything and a good standing of academics as well.

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