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Fairfield Students Hear Call of the Wild

You might be surprised to know that a class titled Call of the Wild even exists. It’s rare to see a course in which students break out of their comfort zones and explore the outdoors in a world where Facebook , Twitter and text messaging are common tools for communication and where schools use computers, PowerPoint slides and SMART boards . But Richard Novack, an English teacher at Fairfield Warde High School , has been conducting this class for more than four years.

“Call of the Wild is a class with a long history in Fairfield,” Novack says. “Like any English class, we do a healthy amount of reading and writing. But what makes the class unique is the outdoor experiences we share, including a day hike through a local farm and an overnight backpacking trip in the northwest corner of Connecticut.”

The class is now reading a book called "Into the Wild," a true story about Christopher Johnson McCandless, who hitchhiked to Alaska, explored the wilderness north of Mount McKinley and created a new, very different life. “The book really causes you to examine your relationship with nature and the stressful, money-obsessed country in which we live,” says Sarah Puryear, one of Novack’s students.

The class is also preparing for its backpacking trip at Washington State Park. There, they will hike and camp through 10 miles of forest covering Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.

“I like Call of the Wild because we get to do things that we normally wouldn’t get to do in another class,” says Ally Mahar, a senior at Warde who also works at the Connecticut Audubon Society . “For example, today, instead of staying inside and sitting at our desks, we actually got to go outside and take pictures.”

Novack says that he doesn’t have to do much to get his students involved and interested in nature. “Usually, a walk through the woods seals the deal. When students step outdoors and just observe the vast natural world around them quietly for a few moments, it’s illuminating,” he says. “Many times, I’ve seen students take their first looks at a scenic vista perched 2,250 feet in the air atop Alander Mountain and just stare with open mouth in awe.”

Are your kids taking any interesting electives? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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