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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The transcendentalism project has brought a new perspective of life to the Honors English 10 students

Nova Wilson
A photo of Nova in the woods for their transcendentalism project.

Never before would sophomore Nova Wilson have noticed such a small, angry animal staring at them, and yet, there they were, staring face-to-face with a livid squirrel.

In any normal situation, they would not have noticed such a small moment—it would have gone by as something insignificant in their mind; however, with the start of Honors English teacher Ken George’s transcendentalism project, Nova has become evermore aware of their surroundings.

“I was sitting on a picnic blanket with a friend,” Nova said. “We started to hear this clicking. Then, we look over, and there’s just an angry squirrel staring at us. And it’s like, ‘Why is there an angry squirrel staring at us?’ We don’t know. It’s just it’s there. I thought it was gonna throw its nut at us. Honestly, it was really mad. It was weird because it’s one of those little things I would have never paid attention to. To me, that interaction or experience is just different.”

Originally, the transcendentalism unit had followed the typical course of many other units: read some essays, learn about the famous people pertaining to it, and discuss it all.

That was until about four years ago when George decided it was time for a change. With that change, the transcendentalism project as it is known now came to fruition, and the students’ ability to choose blossomed.

“I think students thrive on choice,” George said. “Given this list of choices and point values, they look at it, and they’re like, ‘Wait a minute. I can pick and choose what I want to do.’ There’s some instant buy-in from that. A lot of the choices are unique things that they wouldn’t usually associate with school. So they’re like, ‘Oh, wait, I can make a Spotify playlist, and I can get credit for that. I’m all in.’ So, I would say there’s absolutely more specific buy-in since I started doing the menu.”

Although the freedom to cater the project to each of their likings may be what initially draws students to the project, leaving the project, they are also left with a deeper understanding of transcendentalism—and of life.

How each person will end up defining transcendentalism is subjective, but for Nova, it has come to mean the simple complexities in their life.

It’s the interactions and everything that’s had to happen in nature to get us to the point we are today—to our society, to every little thing in nature and in humans.

— Nova Wilson

“Transcendentalism is all about the simple complexities of life,” Nova said. “It’s the interactions and everything that’s had to happen in nature to get us to the point we are [at] today—to our society, to every little thing in nature and in humans. Transcendentalism is very idealistic: you walk through nature and just live in the moment and take everything in. But, in today’s world, that’s unrealistic. So I’ve kind of been looking at transcendentalism with, ‘How would it be more realistic?’ And to me, it is the simple complexities.”

The transcendentalism project has brought out a curiosity for life in students that they may not have previously had.

It has combined fun and learning into a single project, leaving a positive mark on sophomore Clare Knoester’s memory. As a result, it is something that she recommends everyone try to do at some point.

“I feel like it’s a good change to have,” Clare said. “[You could see] if journaling in the morning helps you, getting your mind drained out. [Or you can try] doing yoga, which could help you with becoming focused, or with social media, maybe you’re deciding an app is not necessary, and it’s distracting.”

Even outside of school, Clare has begun to notice the everlasting effects that this project has evoked in her life.

“It’s definitely affected me outside of school,” Clare said. “It’s one of my favorite projects that I’ve ever done because you get to pick your activities, and you get to pick what you want to do. It’s the freedom of that, and it affects me in a good way: to change, to become focused and get my work done, and having a new perspective on connecting myself with nature.”

The project has morphed into something that past and current students alike have come to thoroughly love and enjoy.

It is a project that, looking back to when she did it, senior Emma VanTongeren remembers fondly.

“Honestly, it was just a really fun experience overall,” Emma said. “[From it, we started] paying more attention to the things around us and spending time in nature, things like that. I think it’s definitely a good way to learn about transcendentalism, and it’s also just a fun project.”

The project has taught Emma an array of things. So, if there were one thing she would recommend for everyone who will do it or is doing it, it would be to do it in a way that you truly want to do it—to, simply, have fun.

“Honestly, just have fun with it,” Emma said. “Be engaged with it. Don’t just do it to do it; do it because it’s actually something that’s interesting to you.”

After years and years of teaching the transcendentalism unit, George has become more than familiar with all things transcendental, and yet, he still continues to learn and grow each year from the unit.

So, if there’s one thing he hopes students take away from the project, it is to live your life.

“I would give advice to all students through it,” George said. “I said it a lot to my 10th graders: I just want them to not just go through their days. Don’t just go through your day, and I get it, there are barriers to being highly engaged; there’s a lot going on for students. I understand that. But instead of just going through your days, try to consider each situation you’re in and how it might impact you in the future.”

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About the Contributor
Alysse Calabio
Alysse Calabio, Staff Writer
Alysse Calabio is going on to her second and final year on The Central Trend. If there's anything she loves more than the world, it would be experiencing new adventures and hobbies; everything from taekwondo to horseback riding to, evidently, writing has caught her attention at some point. Whether or not she was able to stick with it is up for debate but to say she didn't try would be a lie. In her free time you'll find her attempting to learn how to cook, something she has failed miserably in the past, and crocheting her heart out. This year will surely be a bittersweet one, but she's excited to be going through it. Artist she is currently obsessing over: Laufey Her favorite movie: Everything, Everywhere, All at Once Most interesting food she's ever tried: Chicken feet  

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