Fall Field Course!

Read descriptions of our amazing set of fall field courses!
1) Poverty, Homelessness, and Hunger: Meeting People’s Basic Needs
Faculty: Megan S and Spencer

In 2011, 10% of American households could not adequately feed their children. That means that nearly one out of four kids in this country were hungry. 15.1% of American families lived in poverty last year and a reported 636,017 people had nowhere to live. Imagine a life in which your next meal is uncertain and where you do not have a bed of your own. In this field course, we will explore the causes and consequences of poverty in the U.S. Our study of poverty will take place in Portland, Maine and will extend from the theoretical to the practical as we work with Cultivating Community in their community garden and farm, Greater Portland Area Habitat for Humanity, and the Preble Street Resource Center.

Cultivating Community provides farming education and experience to teens who are living in poverty. Habitat for Humanity is gearing up for its largest building project in Portland’s history, and Preble Street runs a soup kitchen and food pantry serving low-income Portland residents. Participants on this trip will help prepare the land for a new Habitat for Humanity community, sort food at the Good Shepherd Food Bank, and prepare and serve breakfast and lunch as well as sort and distribute food for the Food Pantry at Preble Street Shelter. In addition to interacting with the recipients of these services, we will examine these topics through readings, documentaries, and discussions. We will be sleeping and preparing our own meals in a church in Portland where there is immediate access to trails and waterfront parks.  You must be 16 to sign up for this course and there is no additional fee.

2) A Study in Leadership: Backpacking the 100 mile Wilderness
Faculty: Paddy and Jill T

For this field course, the fabled 100-mile wilderness in Northern Maine will be our laboratory as we explore both leadership and expedition planning.  Upon completing this trip, students will be well positioned to take on leadership roles within the WMS community as proctors, crew supervisors, club leaders, and team captains as well as Field Course assistants and leaders. The trip will focus on the following leadership skills and strategies through the lens of peer leadership: understanding individual leadership style, building cohesive group, effective communication, setting goals, and planning and executing safe group activities and expeditions.

Pre-trip classes will introduce leadership models and styles and the trail will provide the opportunity to put these into action. Students will also play an active role in the preparation for this trip, gaining valuable experience in the task of planning and preparation.  During the trip, students will push themselves physically and explore one of the wildest parts of the eastern United States, all the while learning about how shared challenge and experience can bring a group of people together. Our days will be spent hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail, and honing the craft of general leadership and expedition leadership. This is a true backcountry trip and we will be staying in lean-to shelters. Students do not need prior backpacking experience. However, participants need to be prepared for a physically challenging trip. There is no additional fee for this course.

3) Creative Writing and Storytelling: Ghost Stories of the White Mountains
Faculty: Barbara and Jim

The overall goals of this field course are for students to become familiar with the history of ghost stories that have their origins in the White Mountains and to learn how to write riveting ghost stories. To achieve those goals, we will read several ghost stories, hike on haunted trails, visit haunted buildings, and watch haunted movies. The students will write personal short ghost stories and, as a culminating activity, produce a film version of a ghost story.

Surrounded by forest and complete with abandoned cabins, our setting at Copper Cannon Camp in Franconia, NH is ideal for storytelling and filming a haunted tale. We will also take two day hikes to notoriously haunted locations deep in the White Mountains. If we’re lucky, we’ll hear the cries of Nancy Barton – still searching the forest for her lost love or see the ghosts of other souls lost in these wild northern mountains. Students will also have time to write their own haunted stories and to fine tune them to make them scary and unexpected. These are not horror/slasher type stories, but spine-tingling, mysterious, haunting stories with surprise endings or mysterious circumstances. There is no additional fee for this course.

4) Sedimentation and Erosion on Maine’s Beaches
Faculty: Nate and Sarah

This field course will use the beaches of southern and mid-coast Maine as a laboratory to learn about the dual processes of sedimentation and erosion. Through examinations of various sites along the coast, we will learn about the basic natural processes that replenish and deplete the sand on Maine’s beaches, but also about the external forces (e.g., residential development, extreme weather events, harbor protection and dredging) that impact these important natural and economic resources. 

In addition to studies in the field, we will engage with resources at local colleges, state and local government, volunteers and advocates for beach protection and access.  As a part of our experience, the group will take on a service project in support of Maine’s beaches. Based at a house in the Kennebunk area, students will also have a chance to experience firsthand the value of these amazing resources through surfing (no experience necessary) and stand-up paddleboarding along the coast. There is no additional fee for this course.

5) Farm to Plate: Experiencing Local Agriculture and Low-Impact Living
Faculty: Campbell and Megan K

In today’s world of consumerism, convenience, and fast food, many people yearn to get back to a simpler life. Have you? Have you ever wondered where your food comes from, or what it would take to live off the land? How could you build your own house from scratch, or prepare food from your own garden? In this Field Course, we will have the unique opportunity to answer these questions and experience this back-to-basics lifestyle through active participation in farm life and the growing local foods movements. 

Over our five days together, we will visit three different farms and gain insights into the challenges and rewards of local farming and homesteading in modern society. Our first stop on the trip will be to Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs where we will learn about the organics industry and larger-scale organic farming in New Hampshire. From there, we will move to Meadowstone Farm in Bethlehem, NH where we will get firsthand experience in daily farm tasks such as vegetable harvesting, animal husbandry, farm chores, and food preparation. Then, at our last stop, we will travel to the Small Axe Farm in Barnet, VT where we will live and work like homesteaders to learn about a low-impact lifestyle and perhaps re-examine our own ways of living. In the end, this Field Course is designed to get our hands dirty and experience the realities of local food and local farming in today’s world, and apply these experiences to a broader understanding of our global food system and the ways in which we impact it. There is no additional fee for this course.

6) Hydropower and Whitewater Rafting: Where Recreation and Energy Demands Meet
Faculty: Matthew and Ryan

Humans have been harnessing the power of moving water for centuries. It has powered mills, transported materials, and more recently has powered turbines to produce electricity as well as utilized heavily throughout the U.S. as a resource in the whitewater recreation industry. New England is home to some of the country’s greatest whitewater runs as well as hundreds of dams, some of which release water for these awesome whitewater runs while simultaneously producing electricity for the region.

Students in this course will research, study, and get firsthand exposure to the production and distribution of power from hydroelectric generators, and how it is utilized in the creation of the industry based on whitewater recreation. We will explore some controversial issues of hydroelectric power generation (e.g., habitat destruction, Northern Pass) as well as some of the benefits (e.g., a local source of renewable energy, release of water for whitewater recreation). We will examine the relationship between hydroelectric power generation and the whitewater recreation industry in New Hampshire and Maine. Students will get a firsthand look at different hydroelectric plants, talk with local experts, from both the hydroelectric production side, as well as the representatives from the whitewater industry, and spend a few days rafting and kayaking on the Kennebec Gorge. We will be staying at a campground in The Forks, Maine at the confluence of the Dead and Kennebec rivers. There will be an additional cost of $50 for this course.

7) A Watershed Study of the Connecticut River: Canoeing the CT Paddler’s Trail
Faculty: Jeff, Renee and Tim M.

Let’s get to know the water that we drink, and the water that we send downstream to the rest of New England! While canoe tripping down the Connecticut River students will learn about the watershed in which we live. Many biological, political, chemical, economic, geologic issues arise from watershed management and misuse. During this Field Course students will learn about surface pollution, groundwater contamination and human factors that influence the watershed while partaking in a multi-day canoe trip on the Connecticut River as it travels the New Hampshire and Vermont border.

We will have the opportunity to perform in-the-field water quality analyses and relate our findings to the activity in the surrounding watershed. We will be spending our nights in primitive campsites along the Connecticut River Paddler’s Trail, soaking in all the beauty of the watershed while floating in our canoes. Understanding how the watershed functions and how we affect it will help us develop a personal sense of place and engender a sense of stewardship for this crucial resource. This trip is open to anyone with an interest in viewing water through scientific, political, and recreational eyes. There is no additional fee for this course.

8) Mapping the Coastal Landscape: An Exploration of Acadia National Park
Faculty: Hiapo, Carl and Nadya

On this Field Course we will travel to Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine to study the art of making and reading maps. We use maps every day: from following directions on a phone or GPS unit to finding the nearest coffee shop. On Orientation we use maps to follow different hiking trails and to find the climbing cliffs we love. Geographers use maps to illustrate the landscape and how people use it, other people use them to find where things are and how to get there, and we’ll do a little of both on this trip.

We will learn how professional surveyors and cartographers produce maps and how modern maps are improved through the use of satellite and internet technology. We will learn how to use maps as we investigate the unique landscape of Mount Desert Island. We will rock climb above the surging surf of the Atlantic, we will see the first sunrise in the US from the summit of Cadillac Mountain, and we will eat lobsters fresh off the boat. We will also hike, geocache and meet with professionals and experts in the field. The campground at Blackwoods will be our home base as we explore the coast and mountains of the island. The course is appropriate for beginner to advanced climbers and hikers and there will be no extra cost.

9) Art History and Music in New York City
Faculty: Liz and Rachel

Imagine: getting on a train, and disembarking on the platform of NYC’s Penn Station. Get ready for five days of art and music in the cultural capital of the world. We will be staying at the Vanderbilt YMCA hostel on the east side, a prime and central location for accessing the most culturally stimulating venues. Each day we will hop on a train and hop off at the doorstep of intellectual adventure. What could possibly be better than having the privilege of experiencing some truly amazing classic and contemporary art, musical theater, and classical works of music? We will have the pleasure of touring galleries at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Graffiti Museum by day, and “music” by night. Perhaps you have not had the chance to learn about music or art formally and you have always wanted to. Or, if you already have interest in both or either, then this is a phenomenal opportunity for you to further your learning in this field.

Our evenings will be spent preparing and cooking our own meals, journaling and discussing our experiences, and examining how music and art both reflect society while also impacting it. You will be expected to complete some short and informative readings, present various ideas to the whole group, and be willing to expand your creative horizons. Our hope is for you to further your understanding of how humans have expressed themselves throughout history. There is an additional cost of $475 per student.

10) The Geology and Rock Climbing of Northern Arizona (Pre-Selected)
Faculty: Gabe and Ted

Stretch your arms wide and imagine that the span from fingertip to fingertip represents the timeline of Earth’s history. Now hold that position. If you took a fingernail file and swiped it once across the nail of your most extended finger you would erase, on this timeline, the entire span of human history in a single motion. Stop and think about that for a moment. Think about all the time that existed before we were on the planet. Now you’re thinking about Geologic or “Deep” Time. During this time continents collided, mountains grew, oceans formed, volcanoes erupted and rocks forming over nine miles below the Earth’s crust rose to the surface like giant icebergs. Through this field course, you will develop an appreciation for our place in history, and understanding of geologic events before us, and stronger personal connections with the natural environment. The state of Arizona plays host to a significant amount of exposed rock for us to study and climb and we will explore the most significant formations in Northern Arizona including the famous Grand Canyon, a canyon that is a mile deep and exposes some of the oldest rock in the world, truly making it the grandest classroom we could imagine.

Within a 100 mile radius of the city of Flagstaff, the geologist and the climber both feel at home on the great diversity of rock. In fact, there are seven different types of rock to climb on, from hardened lava flows of basalt and domes of white and pink granite to the white limestone cliffs of ancient shallow seas and pink metamorphic quartzite. We will travel in the famed style of a desert climbing road trip and visit some of the best climbing areas the American Southwest has to offer. Students will be able to practice and learn safe climbing skills and no climbing experience is required.  We will also take a breathtaking hike into Grand Canyon on our visit. Our nights will be spent at campgrounds in National Forests, sleeping in tents and cooking our own meals. Prior to departure, we will spend a few days in our climbing gym to learn or review basic climbing skills.

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