Mosaic / April 25, 2012

Green Oaks: Knox’s hidden gem

While the campus may have plenty of trees, animals and nature, there is a place to which few have traveled, just a half hour east of Knox that inspires and transforms the students who visit.

The Green Oaks Biological Field Station is a large part of many students’ love for the college and provides an escape from the city streets of Galesburg and the surrounding cornfields.

Living history

The land has been a part of Knox since 1958, when the college received it through the estate of Alvah Green, a 1890 graduate of Knox. The field station includes the Lost Meadow, one of the only remaining prairies in the area and is home to one of the oldest reclaimed prairie lands in the nation.

“Having a prairie restoration is a big deal because it brings back what this land was before western civilization came and plowed and turned this into agricultural land,” post-baccalaureate Eric Ballard ’11 said.

What to do? What to do?

There are a wide variety of activities in which to take part at the green haven, including fishing, canoeing, camping, swimming, hiking and bird watching to name a few. In addition to finding your fellow student, you can often find alumni and Knox professors, including Professor of Economics Richard Stout, enjoying the scenery or even trying his hand at catching some dinner on the lake.

The lake, which was formed by flooding an old strip mine, features great views of the surrounding trees and wildlife from the small dock or from one of the many canoes available for free.

“My favorite part about Green Oaks is when you go camping at night here, the frogs sing,” senior Destiny Ziebol said.

The opportunity to camp on the property during the weekend gives a clear head and a new focus to many students.

“It gives me a different perspective on work,” senior Julia Sievert said. “Everything is more manageable after coming here [to camp].”

The annual prairie burn is a bright spot for many students during spring term, but was mostly missed this year due to an early spring.

Green Oaks sees a few visitors each week, but Ballard thinks there needs to be more.

“I would like to see Green Oaks more heavily used,” Ballard said.

A few students got the opportunity to go out to Green Oaks last Sunday and spent Earth Day immersed in nature. For some the day was a new experience, but for many it was a return visit.

Direct learning opportunity

Every two years, 12 students gain a new connection to nature through living at Green Oaks for ten weeks. Students take a full term of art, biology and anthropology/sociology classes, while being responsible for their living situation at the same time.

“It takes education to a new level. … It allows you to go out into the environment and go out into the world you are trying to understand and really engage with the environment,” Ballard said.

Despite a few initial bumps, most students gain a strong sense of community over the term.

“This program helps create a community based on nature,” Ballard said.

The tight knit community is fairly removed from the Knox campus during the term, only having a few visitors a week. For many it seems farther away than the short car ride.

“It’s like study abroad, but you are only 30 miles away from Knox,” Sievert said.

The spring term in nature gives the students the chance to truly notice all the changes that happen throughout the area.

“Its really wonderful to be here 24/7 in the beginning of spring because you get to see everything blossom all the green leaves come out,” senior Emily Young, who took part in Green Oaks term in 2010, said.

Overall, the sentiment was that participation in Green Oaks term is on the top of the list of things to do at Knox.

“I think it was the best thing I ever did at Knox,” Young said.

For Ballard, he could not pass up a second opportunity to be at Green Oaks this term and returned this year as one of two post-baccalaureate program assistants.

“It’s hard to stay away,” Ballard said.

John Williams

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