by Joshua Pautz, AP'18

Fish. Nearly every meal. There is something pleasantly consistent about it. We have classes, labor, and finally dinner each day, and dinner means fish. But, dinner time also means the entire group gathers together to enjoy the meal. That’s also pleasant and consistent. In fact, these two elements have made the daily meal stand out among the experiences this program offers far more than I’d have anticipated. In my experience, the educational community created by the Glacier Bay Project thrives at the dinner table.

At a basic level, we eat fish each night because it is abundant, but the abundance isn’t what stands out to me. The conscious effort to utilize this natural abundance does. Fish we have caught and processed provide the bulk of our protein. Garden greens we have planted and harvested fill our soups, stir fries, and salads. While we do still rely heavily on stocked, non-perishable ingredients such as flour, oats, and potatoes, each meal focuses on utilizing our garden and ocean resources as primary ingredients. This decision to make even our meals an exercise in awareness of nature and natural resources bolsters the education we are receiving here at the islands.

More than the fish at each dinner, the people catalyze the educational experiences here. While we have time during classes and labor hours to discuss what we are learning, at dinner we are all together. We are relaxed and free to give our undivided attention to each other and the discussions at hand. So far, dinner conversations have included things as mundane as our camping experiences prior to this program to lofty questions like “What is nature?” As expected with a group comprised of individuals coming from so many different areas and upbringings, everyone brings something unique to the table. Discussions don’t end at the table either. They consistently linger on into the night as smaller groups continuing to talk, individuals bringing ideas from the discussions at self-governance meetings, or as something to dwell on before starting the dialogue again at the next meal.

Though the Glacier Bay program emphasizes education through a combination of classroom learning and field education, I’ve found that I learn most at the dinner table. It isn’t the exclusive place in which I’ve learned, nor is it where I expected to gain the most, but the dinner table has in my opinion served as a hub of some of the group’s most fruitful endeavors.

Joshua Pautz is a member of the 2018 Glacier Bay Session cohort. He studies at Hillsdale College, where he double-majors in mathematics and art.