Why this matters: Through participation in the Studio 345 Journeys program, students gain self-confidence, develop resiliency and begin to understand their place in the world.
By Natalie Blundell
Davidson College Impact Fellow
What do you get when you put 16 digitally-dependent students in a national park with no cell service for a week? You get immense growth and alternative sources of fun.
This summer, each of these Studio 345 Journeys students acquired callused hiking feet, a renewed sense of self and 15 new friends. Intensive outdoor education lessons in art and science helped the students develop a strong relationship with nature.
The Studio 345 Journeys program represents the intersection of arts and sciences. The program instills within high school students a love of nature through outdoor education, environmental advocacy and nature immersion. Thanks to sponsors Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Duke Energy, and partners Catawba Riverkeeper Association and CATS, the program is free to participating students.
Through three phases, developed to educate, engage and empower, students were taken out of their comfort zone and challenged to expect more of themselves, while learning about the world in which they live.
During the first phase, the youth were exposed to nature experiences in their own backyard. The ambassadors kayaked on the Catawba River, summited King’s Pinnacle at Crowders Mountain State Park, created poems while hiking cross country trails at Davidson College and tested Little Sugar Creek for water quality. Students also spent a weekend at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., learning about water ecology, Appalachian folk culture and racial immigration in Appalachia. The university art gallery opened its doors to the students for a private tour and bluegrass concert.
For the second phase of the program, the students traveled 200 miles to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Townsend, Tennessee. There, students put down their phones and turned toward alternative sources of entertainment. They contributed to a University of Tennessee citizen science initiative by collecting data on local salamander populations. Students engaged with local artisans and their wool-producing llamas and tried new instruments and folk dances. Journeys students compared the health of Smoky Mountain streams to that of their stream in Charlotte through observation of water critters under a high-powered microscope.
The third and final phase of the program will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. Oct. 20, 2016, in conjunction with the first screening of the new ASC documentary, Nature Matters. The documentary tells the story of the previous group of Journeys students as they traveled to Yellowstone National Park. Before the screening, students from this year’s program will present their original artwork and anecdotes. The screening is open to the public and will be held at the Science Center at Johnson C. Smith University (100 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte).