I was recently researching semester schools for my son who is in high school. A semester school is like a high school exchange, only for one semester, and most of the programs provide high school curriculums that align with the sophomore or junior year. A semester school typically runs from August to December or January through May. There are about 12 semester school programs in locations across the US and some that are in Europe.
In my search, I was looking for the right mix of environmental education, academics, location, and (frankly) fun. All of the semester schools offer different visions and approaches to academics, but one was a standout in the area of environmental education and hands-on learning – Conserve School. Conserve School is focused on the theme of environmental stewardship. And, it is a 2014 national Green Ribbon School award winner. Founded by Jim Lowenstine, Conserve School was conceived of in 1965, but only started in 1996 after Lowenstine’s death. The school is located on a sprawling estate in Land O’Lakes, WI, in the beautiful northern woods of Wisconsin near the Michigan border.
I’m a big fan of sending students – especially my sons – away for a period of time in high school. High school is such a critical time to explore, not only terrain outside your home town or state, but your inner terrain. Ages 16 and 17 call out for exploration and experience and journeys. My oldest son, who is now 20, went to Germany for a year at 16. While it was difficult to see him leave and not see him for a year, he returned a mature young man with a vision for his life and fully capable of taking on responsibility for his future.
And it is this kind of experience that young adults in high school need today – the chance to suspend their regular high school program in favor of experiential education, especially before the rather large and looming decisions of where to go to college and what to do for a career.
For students who are looking into environmental science or conservation, or those students who love nature and are interested in environmental education and stewardship, Conserve School is a must consideration. The school covers a wide range of courses, including environmental history, nature literature, and the science of conservation. Classes are held outdoors to enhance hands-on and active learning. Students leave with a firm commitment to conservation and protecting the environment, a deep love of nature, and tools to take meaningful action.
While my son did not have the opportunity to attend Conserve School, I have a younger son who will definitely apply once he reaches the right age. And for all those green students out there, take a look at Conserve School, and take a chance – go ahead and apply!