Fall Field Courses!

Megan Sweeney
The White Mountain School presents its list of challenging and exciting fall field courses!
October 1 – October 5, 2012

Fall field courses provide unique opportunities for students to immerse themselves in a subject or topic, or simply to push at the edges of their comfort zone or learn a brand new skill. Hiapo Emmons-Shaw, History Department chair, says of the experience,

“I love our field courses. They are personal and experiential. We travel long distances together, do community service together, write plays together, climb together, or even meditate together. When the relationships are genuine and the work is genuine, students’ desire for success is also genuine. Lessons and feedback are more than just assignments and grades; they become tools for pursuing success as individuals and as a group.”

Here are the descriptions of this year’s exciting fall field courses and links to photos from each trip!

A Study of Leadership: Backpacking the 100-Mile Wilderness

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. Photos.

Students will spend the field course studying the philosophy and writings of Henry David Thoreau. We will be visiting Boston and Salem and hiking in the woods of Walden Pond, students will be studying the Transcendentalist movement of the early 1800s, and reading works by Thoreau, Emerson, and others. Students will keep a journal of their reflections and contemplations and learn to write poetry in the style of the Transcendentalists as well as developing their own style of reflective poetry.

A Watershed Study of the Connecticut River: Canoeing the CT Paddler’s Trail

In the words of the Connecticut River Watershed Council, “Real-world issues and decisions are not one-dimensional; they are complex and involve myriad considerations. With its biological, political, chemical, economic, geologic, and social factors, the watershed is a microcosm of the world. Watershed education helps students develop a personal sense of place as well as an understanding of the complexities of watershed issues. This sense of place and understanding of the watershed are the cornerstones for responsible action.”

The White Mountain School is located in the Connecticut River watershed and during this Field Course students will learn about watersheds while partaking in a multi-day canoe trip on the Connecticut River as it travels the New Hampshire and Vermont border. We will be spending our nights in primitive campsites along the Connecticut River Paddler’s Trail and our days basking in the glorious fall foliage on New England’s great river. 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.

Where does your food come from? We will examine the growing movement towards supporting local food and local farms by actively participating in farm life and having discussions about the current trends in the food industry. We will be camping at Meadowstone Farm in Bethlehem, NH and at the Small Axe Farm in Barnet, VT. Students will experience daily farm life and learn about milking goats, feeding pigs and turkeys, collecting eggs, harvesting vegetables, the process of making goat cheese, taking care of orchards and berry patches, and end the day with a feast where we taste what we harvest. Some of the topics that we will discuss include: the organic industry, living off the grid, the process of making straw-bale and timber frame homes, making your own compost, raising your own source of meat, what steps we could take to improve our food system, how to empower consumers, and ways to improve the treatment of animals and workers.

The increasing popularity of outdoor sports today has been partially due to the new generation of filmmakers and outdoor videos. Technology has given us video cameras built into almost every electronic device we carry and now anyone can find herself a budding filmmaker. This field course is designed as a documentary video project, where students will be expected to take on all the roles required for producing a documentary video.

New England is home to world class rock climbing and this course aims to capture it at its best. The task will be to make a series of videos that documents the spectacular landscapes and the essence of the climbing lifestyle as it is seen through the eyes of climbers. Our cameras will be ready to capture the lives of climbers through interviews, to showcase the landscapes that inspire climbers, and of course, capture some climbing. We will travel to Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine, camp in the park campground, and climb and film at sites like Otter Cliffs and The Precipice. This trip is appropriate for climbers of all levels and will have no extra cost.

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 (habitat destruction, Northern Pass, etc.) as well as some of the clear benefits (a local source of renewable energy, release of water for whitewater recreation). We will also 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 couple of days rafting and kayaking on rivers that are dam controlled.

As a final project, students will create a feasibility study for dam control of the Ammonousoc River running through Littleton, New Hampshire for both energy production and in the creation of a Whitewater Play park in downtown Littleton. 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.

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 work alongside Turkey Hill Farm farmers at their beautiful coastal farm, help prepare the land for a new Habitat for Humanity community, 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 trail and waterfront parks.

There are few things that can stir as much passion and national pride as soccer. Truly the global game, soccer is played everywhere and in most places it is the dominant sport. As such, soccer is on the leading edge of globalization and an understanding of various aspects of the culture, business, passion and traditions of soccer will illuminate the forces at work as globalization spreads across the world and throughout all aspects of our lives. Why is it that Tottingham fans refer to themselves as the “Yids” and what can this teach us about immigration, racism, and assimilation, all topics of paramount importance as it becomes ever more common for people to physically move around the world. Brazil is renowned for its soccer and soccer players; indeed it is Brazilian soccer that earned the moniker: “the beautiful game.”

Yet, globalization has degraded Brazil’s local leagues into a rat’s nest of corruption and lackluster play similar to the legacy left other underdeveloped countries when their rich resources were tapped by more powerful nations. How have the gangs of violent hooligans, who long terrorized Chelsea matches, changed in response to economic development and worldwide attention to their beloved team? What can that transformation tell us about the changes wrought on other local, cottage industries, as they become known far beyond their provincial roots? On this field course we will learn the game of soccer itself through daily practices, watching college matches, discussions of its history, and study of the rules. Using Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World, we will use soccer as a vehicle to highlight and understand the effects, good and bad, of globalization. We will be camping at a front country campground.


The coast of Maine is one that is admired and documented by artists from around the world. While artists come to be inspired by Maine’s rocky coastlines, cyclists come to enjoy the same beauty from the seat of their bicycles. We’re going to do both! This field course will allow students to unleash their artistic abilities while traveling leisurely along the rugged coast by bicycle. In order to catch every breath taking scene Maine’s coast has to offer, we will bike Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, as well as the island of Islesboro and the towns of Belfast and Camden and our accommodations will be at campgrounds where we will keep our bus and belongings. Along the way we will stop at local galleries and get a chance to meet some photographers and watercolor artists. Students will keep a sketchbook and create various works of art, including photography and watercolor all inspired by the beauty of Maine. This course is open to anyone interested, you don’t even need to own a bike, renting or borrowing any kind of bike is perfect.
Playwriting is a fun and rewarding form of creative writing. On this field course, students will learn how to develop an idea – about an experience, message, or conflict – into an engaging and meaningful play. We will have time to write and share our plays, get feedback, and see our plays performed. We will watch plays that have been made into movies, see a live improve performance, and attend a professional performance of a contemporary comedy. We will add to the knowledge gained from those performances by “people watching” at various locations in New Hampshire and Vermont. The academic component is a performance-ready 10-minute play. There will be an additional $50 fee for two tickets to performances.

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