In Natural History, we have a semester-long project which allows us to observe and study the phenomenon in the world around us, which we call our “phenology” project. Every other Wednesday, instead of going to Natural History, we go to our own chosen locations and create something, which can be anything from a poem to a fully detailed species account. During the second week of class, we all chose the individual sites that we would observe for the duration of the project. I, not knowing the campus too well at this point, meant to go down to the waterfront, but ended up with a site in the middle of the woods, where the ocean peered up through the trees to the little cliff where I perched myself.
It was that day that I realized how truly important it is to give yourself the time to observe things. As I sat there focusing only on what was right in front of me, I noticed the most obvious and wonderful things, like a tiny lavender colored flower at the base of a huge red oak, and the very vocal squirrel whose territory I was apparently challenging. Though I’m sure I had walked through these woods before on our initial tour of the campus, I hadn’t noticed this spot, or the creatures and plants within it. I thought I had been observing, but I had only been looking; quickly glancing at an area to summarize its layout in my brain; then moving on. But because of my phenology project, I was able to discover the difference between looking and observing—a lesson which I believe will be useful to me even beyond Natural History class. I am so grateful that at Chewonki, we are not only encouraged to actively observe the rich Maine environment that is an essential part of our semester experience, but we are also given the opportunity to do so.
-Catherine Jachthuber, Atlanta, GA