The Juniors’ Parzival trip adapts to coronavirus

Juniors connect to nature through the altered Parzival trip

by Dylan Lee

Photo courtesy of Tracy Chen

In the past, the 11th grade would prepare for almost a month before they headed up into the rugged backcountry of Northern California, a very remote and isolated experience away from the comforts of their daily urban living standards. They would spend an entire week backpacking with their class and then would spend an entire day and night completely alone in the middle of nature. Three weeks prior to this week-long backpacking trip, juniors would delve into the book on Parzival, a 13-century Arthurian romance written by German writer Wolfram von Eschenbach. At Waldorf School of the Peninsula, the Parzival main lesson block explores the knight who began as an innocent fool but grew through the pain and sacrifice of finding the Holy Grail and its healing power of love.

This year, things were much different. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the standard backpacking trip was off the table. Ms. Sarah Jane Pinkerton, the main lesson teacher of the Parzival block, still wished for her students to experience a semblance of what past 11th graders had gone through. When reflecting on how to create her main lesson block she looked deeply into the message of Parzival. 

Parzival is an integral part of the Waldorf curriculum. It is a story of adolescence and growing out of it. The 11th grade curriculum focuses on students finding individuality and seeking their own path, and this is taught through the lens of Parzival. “The story of Parzival is one of self growth and compassion” Ms. Pinkerton said when asked for her inspiration behind the main lesson. “The message of Parzival is to ask a question, not out of curiosity but out of compassion,” she said. 

In the hopes of self enlightenment, this year’s juniors would hike eight miles and journal their thoughts. They were forbidden from listening to music or from using any sort of technology on their hikes. Ms. Pinkerton wanted them to be completely surrounded and immersed in the nature around them in order to self-reflect. Taylor Brandenburg, an 11th grader, took this to heart. When reflecting on this experience she wrote,“If you do not allow negativity to limit your views, only the most beautiful surroundings will emerge.”

 If there is just one thing Ms. Pinkerton would want her students to take away from this experience, it is that, “I hope that no matter what’s going on, we can rely on ourselves.”

Parzival Trip Reflection

by Taylor Bradenburg, 11th grade

Isolation is hard for me. When my family was told we would not be able to see the friends we see almost every day, we were concerned. How is our family going to stand each other when the only method of getting along is seeing each other periodically? – when Taylor comes home after a few nights at a friend’s house when Jackson emerges from his room and his video games when Jeff occasionally comes home from work, and when mom pauses the vigorous cleaning of the house. With this shelter in place, it seemed to be impossible to find a healthy balance within the family.

 At almost the three month mark of being in isolation, we caught a break: the Parzival hiking week. Taylor and Jackson were going to be out hiking for at least three hours a day for four whole days. This was a blessing to us all. Especially me. I had to learn the hard way that you can connect almost as well with nature as you can with anything else. I am used to listening to music through my AirPods while I hike, or talking with friends, but this time I had no choice. My mind was given a mandatory break from technology, my family, my friends, etc. 

When I was on my first hike, I felt a sort of resentment towards people and especially people listening to music. I am not sure why, and I do not think it was because of jealousy. The second day, I decided that I would recognize the negative feelings I was having, but not give them any power and instead turn to recognizing how my surroundings made me feel. In place of laying in bed all day, I looked towards the clouds and it brought the same amount of comfort my comforter at home does. All alone in nature, the plants were my paperwork and I spent my time studying them instead of reading a textbook. 

It was surprising and new to realize that I am not invincible. I am not in charge of the universe or its decisions. I am a small piece of the world. Not an insignificant one, but one that has much to learn about everything. This hiking week made me realize that if you broaden your horizons outside of the limitation of negativity, you can connect with something outside yourself. That something for me was a reflection.      

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