What started as a required service learning trip for an ethics course turned into summer volunteer work for five students from Anoka-Ramsey Community College. After visiting the Homestead for the first time as part of a class trip earlier this spring, some students were eager to return to work again, despite the semester being over.
Choosing to spend a week doing physical labor, without electronic conveniences or air-conditioning, might seem like an unusual choice, but the students didn’t seem to mind. They cheerfully spent their time at the Homestead hauling and stacking hay bales, collecting pallets of stone for mason work, clearing away dead brush, and tending to garden beds. When asked why she took the opportunity to return, Katie Steffensen replied, “I like to live a simple life.” Tom Pier expressed getting satisfaction from the work, saying that it’s better than spending the time sitting at home and never seeming to get anything done. One thing Katie, Tom, and their peers all have in common is a love of the wilderness, which was one of the main reasons they were drawn to return to the Homestead when given the chance.
It’s thanks to Humanities instructor Peter Wahlstrom that these and dozens of other students have had the opportunity to experience life on the Homestead. For more than four years, Wahlstrom has been bringing students from his Environmental Ethics classes to do volunteer work on the Homestead for class credit, as well as students from the e-Club, the campus environmental group. In doing this, Wahlstrom hopes to help students develop a deeper connection with nature, and a sense of work for the sake of work. He also believes it’s important for them to have the chance to meet someone like Will Steger, who’s actively working to actualize his dream. “It all comes down to one word,” said Wahlstrom, “weltanschauung.” Wahlstrom describes the German word as loosely meaning ‘one’s philosophy, or worldview.’ He believes that by spending time in a place like the Homestead, students will leave with a new way of looking at not just the environment, but the world as well, and the confidence to pursue their own ambitions for the future.