Editor’s Note: For TSS graduate students’ final assignment of the year, they are tasked with synthesizing all that they learned, experienced, and came to understand from the year into a final product. Some create written pieces and some create artistic pieces. As we celebrate the graduation of TSS’s 22nd graduate class, we’ll publish two of these culminating pieces on the blog this week. Today, we feature Sam Neirman’s poem, which he used to capture the feelings and experiences of this past year. He read the poem at a reception for all graduate students and their guests during Graduation Week.  

I love to rhyme, I love to roast
So let’s give it up for a final week toast.
Yet this isn’t like the podank rhyme that started it all;
It’s about a boy who’s grown since the fall.
Embedded in all the rhymes and the riddles
Is the lesson of a year’s worth of giggles.
Intent trumps form, vision and action, engraved in my soul
This begins my educational whole.
An ethic of determination, the golden circle “why:”
Who am I? Why am I here? As I aim for the sky,
What brought me here is a will for compassion and an instinct for good.
Little did I know I’d be transformed in the TSS ‘hood.
So it’s time to celebrate all that has happened, to reflect on a year in the Tetons before we get packin’.
By this point there are no secrets to who we are;
The four pillars of the Grad Program; engraved in the tar.
Uncovering what was taught in IFST
Requires some reflection of the highest degree.
Certainly that backpack trip was all so grand,
But what really sticks is meeting Docent Dan.
He told a story that I will never forget
Of a couple that lived life with no regret.
The spirit of the Muries is something I feel,
Preserving special places means a great deal.
Mardy Murie, the Grandmother of Conservation said, “Wilderness itself is the basis of all our civilization. I wonder if we have enough reverence for life to concede to wilderness the right to live on?”
This quote framed my year,
The uniqueness of this place became crystal clear.
Then came fall with no apples or leaves,
Place-based education swayed in the Gros Ventre breeze.
The hike to Cobble brought us off the map
The untrammeled wilderness McGee dared us to tap.
To connect to a place is something so noble
To think global and act local.
We all have a story intertwined with a place
I got to meet with Rabbi Kleyman face to face
He told me a story of his path ‘til today
Like the time he skied with Nydam and heard wolves from the fray.
Yet among all the wisdom and encouragement that he provided,
“Effective education is a function of relationships,” he proclaimed
Connections and rapport are always center stage.
Intertwined in these classes about effective education
Was a scientific research project of earth’s greatest creation.
Nature is what we depend on for sustenance and life,
Attaining greater understanding in science avoids global strife.
Processes and patterns inform our observations
Analyzing the data informs any such relations.
“All data is good data,” is what Krasnow said
No statistical significance isn’t something that one should dread.
What seems too often detached from our notions of science
Is human involvement; a preposterous defiance.
Ecological Inquiry introduced the complexity of Social Ecological Systems
For such a class I studied the Grizzly in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
A tragedy of the commons it seems to be,
A capstone species with few places to flee.
In 2016 it might be delisted
Although stakeholder perspectives sure haven’t shifted.
Before EI was AIS:
A class for education at its very best.
How do our students construct knowledge and understanding?
That question is what we unraveled,
Strategic instruction is where we dabbled.
With so many means to teach a student,
This class aided in so much personal improvement.
Constructivism, design thinking, questioning strategies, direct inquiry
Are all means of educational theory.
Of all the assessments embedded in this class,
The belief matrix was the most memorable task.
I stated my beliefs about education
Exploring the why led to a revelation,
Something that Dewey said found on my bookshelf:
Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.
Then came a new year of winter ecology,
The Tetons are a place of remarkable biology.
What happens to plants and animals when temperatures are subzero?
The environmental conditions where the wolf is the hero.
Snow science was all new to me,
Rounded or faceted do not agree.
Temperature gradients became a concern,
Winters out here provide a unique opportunity to learn.
Another research project was used for assessment:
Doing science at Teton Village was a refreshment
Although our study led to nothing significant,
I discovered my VO2 max and its equivalent.
Last but not least was Advanced Elements of Field Ecology Course Design
Of all the courses, this was the goldmine.
Assessment and objectives were finally understood,
Understanding by design brought me so much good.
At last my lesson plans felt complete,
Which to me was a triumphant educational feat.
Intent trumps form
Alignment of goals, assessment, and learning events became the norm.
Among all the course objectives was a naturalist’s treasure:
My special spot became a weekly adventure.
Mammals, plants, birds, and insects were studied in ample supply.
Why birds, you may ask? Because they fly!
As I observed the phenology of the spring
Capstone design became king.
With a team called the Junco Show
We built a program that would deliver the knockout blow.
JHSE gave me clarity and purpose in all I aspire to do;
I owe the 11 remarkably talented individuals a huge “thank you.”
I miss them already in ways I can’t explain;
The past month made it clear that this year was not spent in vain.
We sit here in a world divided; a polarization of a binary mind.
Black and white; me versus you; us versus them.
But the beauty of this place we call TSS, is the mission that it promotes:
A connection of sorts between people, place, and nature it boasts.
I can’t accomplish much, but together we can do something
All the lives we’ve touched in just one year of learning.
From L.A. to Philly, Mexico to Louisiana, we dedicated ourselves to the selfless nature of education and the fundamental notion of you before me.
At times it was a challenge, but today we’re with glee.
To transcribe all our leanings would take too long,
But as we open the next chapter in our life, so much of this experience will come along.
The ceiling is broken, and we can reach for the sky;
Let’s celebrate the place that taught us all that we could fly.