Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 73.23
Liaison Heather Albert-Knopp
Submission Date Feb. 28, 2022

STARS v2.2

College of the Atlantic
AC-5: Immersive Experience

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Dave Feldman
Professor of Physics and Mathematics
Environmental Science
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution offer at least one immersive, sustainability-focused educational study program that is one week or more in length?:

A brief description of the sustainability-focused immersive program(s) offered by the institution:

COA offers several immersive, sustainability focused programs each year. To give one example, this fall the college offered its program on the Great West, an intensive, term-long, field-based expeditionary program which takes students to Oregon, California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Taught by faculty members John Anderson (Biology) Ken Cline (Environmental Law and Policy), the Great West program consists of three concurrent courses program located entirely in the American West. The three courses are: Ecology and Natural History of the American West (ES4038), Reading the West (HS4042), and Wilderness in the West: Promise and Problems (HS4043). Descriptions of each of these three courses are below:

Ecology and Natural History of the American West

The American West has played a key role in the development of modern ecology and in our overall understanding of the Natural History of North America. Researchers such as Joseph Grinnell, Starker Leopold, Ned Johnson, Phillip Munz and Jim Patton contributed enormously to our understanding of the interactions, distribution, and abundance of the enormous range of plants and animals occupying the western states, while the incredible variety of topography found between the Pacific slope and Great Basin Desert, containing both the highest and lowest points in the Lower 48, has provided an ideal setting for both observation and experimentation. This intensive field-based course will provide students with the opportunity to examine first-hand some key habitats within Nevada, California, and New Mexico, and to conduct a series of short projects on the fauna and flora in select sites. Areas to be examined will include terminal saline lakes, open deserts, montane meadows, pine forest, riparian hardwoods, wetlands, and agricultural landscapes. Readings will include primary sources and more popular accounts of both locations and the peoples who have lived in these lands over the past several thousand years. Evaluation will be based on class participation, a series of individual research projects and presentations, a detailed field journal, a mid-term and a final exam.

Reading the West

The spectacular range of habitats between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Basin and Sonoran Deserts has generated some of the most significant “place-based” writing within American literature. In this intensive field-based course students will be required to read a range of materials dealing with key places, people, and events in the western landscape during the summer prior to the formal start of the course. The class will then convene in California and begin a trek eastwards into the Great Basin Desert, south to the Carson/Iceberg Wilderness, Yosemite, the Hetch Hetchy Valley and Mono Lake, and then finally southeastward across the Sonoran desert to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where students and faculty will participate in a conference celebrating the first 50 years of the Wilderness Act. Readings will include work by Muir, Didion, Steinbeck, and Fremont. Evaluation will consist of class participation, a series of essays and journal essays, and a final term paper that will be completed following the end of the field portion of the course.

Wilderness in the West: Promise and Problems

Wilderness has been the clarion call for generations of environmentalists. In a letter in support of the Wilderness Act, writer Wallace Stegner characterized the importance of wilderness as an essential "part of the geography of hope." That single phrase and the current controversy surrounding the concept of wilderness provide the central focus of our explorations of wilderness in western lands. This course examines the question of wilderness from multiple perspectives in the hopes of providing an understanding of both the concept and real spaces that constitute wilderness. Through conversations with wilderness managers, field work, and experience in federally designated wilderness areas in National Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges and on BLM lands, the course will also examine what “wilderness management” means on the ground in the varied landscapes of the western United States. In this context, we look at historical and contemporary acco unts of the value of wilderness, ecological and cultural arguments for wilderness, and the legal and policy difficulties of "protecting" wilderness. Considerable time is spent evaluating current criticisms of the wilderness idea and practice. The class will culminate at a week-long national conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The 50th Anniversary National Wilderness Conference provides an incomparable opportunity for students to hear from and interact with federal management agencies, academics, recreation experts, and environmental advocacy organizations. Presenting their final course work at this conference will also give students an opportunity to share their ideas and to receive valuable feedback from this sophisticated and well-informed audience of wilderness experts. Classwork emphasizes hands-on service-learning projects as well as reading, writing, and theoretical discussions. Students will be evaluated on journal entries, contributions to the class discussions, response papers, engagement in field activities, questions in the field, and contributions to group work.

Website URL where information about the institution’s immersive education programs is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:

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