Story by Beth Va Vang – first published at Patrick Henry High School (2011) and in the Minnesota Women’s Press (1/2012.)
“Stepping onto the bus last summer became a life-changing experience. I rode for four hours with other Scientists Eagerly Acquiring Knowledge (SEAK) students from Minneapolis and Duluth, anticipating the three weeks that awaited us in Finland, Minn., at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center (WRELC). What was ahead was a whole lot of working, walking, living in nature and staying in dorms with people from all over the world.
During the first week we did experiments about finding chemical or physical answers to environment questions. We caught and studied fish in the streams, we freed birds from our hands, we worked on trail development. Later, we spent time in camp playing games, singing campfire songs, telling ghost stories, eating delicious food and always meeting new people.
For four days we canoed and camped in Voyageurs National Park. We even swam with the fish and the turtles in the wide lake. At this point, it felt like anything was possible, even walking on water.
When we returned from our four-day camping trip, we were seen as students who were capable of anything, of being naturalists, of being biologists. We felt the earth move, we saw the fog shift through the mountains, we saw the sun rise and set along the horizon, we felt the breeze of the wind lift its fingers through our hair. Working on our papers, dancing along to folk songs, meeting students from Russia, hearing the pre-school students sing our songs from heart, everything, made us happy and sad.
Having to leave behind everything that we had just achieved broke our hearts, but opened our minds.”
The SEAK (“Scientists Eagerly Acquiring Knowledge”) program is a partnership between Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, the US Forest Service, the Boys & Girls Clubs, and several schools. The program gives urban students from socio-economically diverse backgrounds an opportunity to explore careers in science and natural history. Students entering 10-12th grades who do not attend a SEAK partner school can participate in our sister program, the Ecology Credit Camp.