Green Teens get “To Know the Dark”

Friday, December 16, 2016 - 3:40pm

By Ilya Shmulenson, Director of Programs

"To Know The Dark" by Wendell Berry

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.

To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,

and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,

and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

Dinosaur Valley State Park is known for its dinosaur tracks, but the Green Teens from Travis High School got to know its incredible night sky, learn about nocturnal animals, and experiment with night photography. 

On a chilly night during the Green Teens camping trip, Keep Austin Beautiful took students on an adventure get to know the dark. While they made their way to a trail with the help of head lamps, nervousness and skepticism trickled through the group as they found out that the lights must be turned off and the hike continued in the dark. The flat and open path eventually shrunk and descended through the woods to the river. They walked single file, each person in charge of communicating with the person behind them about the perils of the trail. Using clear instructions and a lot of trust the whole group made it down the slope in the pitch black to the river’s edge. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness, they were able to make out the horizon line of the hills, the sparkling of the river, and the twinkling of thousands of stars above.

While exploring the dark Green Teens learned how to call out to a nocturnal animal friend, making a Barred Owl call. Following several attempts to imitate the call they got a response from several Barred owls in the distance!   

Learn to call like the Green Teens. 

They ascended back up the hill towards camp. The path widened and the trees gave way to open fields. They laid down on the trail to take in the stars. Questions about constellations and concerns about the cold quickly gave way to silence. The Green Teens all simply gazed at the stars. The silence would break in excitement as shooting stars cut through the darkness leaving a trail of light. Most of the Green Teens had never stargazed before, had never seen so many stars, and didn’t know that they could be so bright.


It was an experience that many of them reflected on later and voiced that it ignited their curiosity to learn more about the astronomy.

The night activities ended with a lesson on photography. The Green Teens learned about basic functions of cameras like aperture, focus, and shutter speeds. They then learn to manipulate them to create long exposure light writing photographs. After playing around with camera settings, the Green Teens were challenged to write out “Keep Austin Beautiful Green Teens” using only head lamps and a digital SLR camera. They did a spectacular job working together, coordinating tasks, and creatively problem solving to create a series of photographs to spell it out and they looked stunning!

When asked how they felt about their nighttime adventure, one of the Green Teens responded “You really shouldn’t let your fear take over because it will ruin your experience and you won’t have any fun. It’s hard, but can eventually do it.”

Greens Teens is supported by