Field Courses 2014!

WMS leaves on March 3rd for Spring Field Courses! Check out the options inside!
Field course is one of the most unique academic opportunities that The White Mountain School offers: the opportunity to leave campus and spend one week immersed in a totally new learning environment. These environments can be as close as our own North Country wilderness or as far away as France and the Dominican Republic, but they all represent an opportunity for students to have an amazing experience, learn new things, and form strong bonds with each other. Below is a list of the field course options available next week:

1) Leadership Ropes Course at The Browne Center

Leadership, teamwork, communication, risk and conflict all play important roles in our lives. On this field course we will have the opportunity to work together to learn about ways of dealing with these challenges and responsibilities.

We will learn through hands-on experience on the high and low ropes course at the University of New Hampshire’s Browne Center. We will be spending full days outside engaging in fun and exciting activities and initiatives. These challenges are designed to improve our understanding of ourselves and each other, bring awareness to our communication, dabble with safe risk taking and just plain have fun.

A positive attitude, an open mind and a willingness to try new things and push yourself out of your comfort zone on high and low ropes course elements is necessary. In addition to our time spent with The Browne Center during the day we will spend time examining our own leadership styles and putting into practice some of the things we are learning. We will be living in a yurt on The Browne Center campus and offering our service around the facility during our stay.

2) Green Living in the Urban World: Sustainability and Service in Montreal

How can you live in a city and still live a sustainable lifestyle? What are cities around the world doing to confront the environmental problems that have resulted from the rapid urbanization of the 21st century? What would your dream city look like?

This course is designed to give students a hands-on opportunity to learn about the ways people can reduce their environmental impact while living in an urban world.

We will be working with Eco-quartier, “an organization of community action, initiative, awareness, and environmental accountability” in Montreal, Quebec. The city of Montreal created this organization to encourage its residents to reduce their environmental impact. We will explore a few neighborhoods to examine the ways Montreal combats environmental problems in today’s world. We will visit the Biosphere which is an interactive eco-museum focused on educating the public on ways to build awareness of major environmental issues. A visit to the TOHU’s sorting center, a complex created to highlight Montreal’s circus arts scene and the base of Cirque de Soleil, will help facilitate our environmental citizen responsibility. We will be staying at Auberge Alternative, an arts-oriented youth hostel. A current passport is required.

3) Helping Others: Community Service in New England

Is it human nature to help others? Is there such a thing as altruism? Do we serve because we should? These questions and more will be raised as we explore and discuss the ideas, values, politics and psychology behind helping others. We will also learn about the realities of poverty and homelessness while volunteering throughout the city of Boston.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than 7000 families were assisted with emergency shelter over the past twelve months. An estimated 44,000 school age children were homeless across the state, and 738,000 people are living on less than $23,000 per year for a family of four.

We will be volunteering at four different locations within the city of Boston: The Greater Boston Food Bank, where we will be sorting and packing food and supplies for individuals and families; The Boston Rescue Mission, where we will serve hot meals and interact with the community; at Room to Grow, we will sort toys for needy children, and at Community Servings, we will prepare and pack healthy gourmet meals for the sick and elderly. These organizations serve thousands of people a year and we will contribute to the challenging yet rewarding work they do. We will stay at Boston’s Hostelling International location and in the evening read pertinent materials and discuss our experiences and thoughts as a group. Must be at least 15 years old.

4) Wilderness Writing

There is a tradition of seeking meaning and inspiration in nature that is as long as writing itself. Whatever an author’s background, time period, gender, location, or genre of writing, when one is absorbed in the natural world, it has the power to transport, transform, and transcend.

On this field course we will immerse ourselves in the beauty of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom and a wide range of writers from diverse backgrounds and forms. Through reading and focused writing workshops, we will draw on traditions as well as the natural world to create written works that reflect our experiences.

We will be staying at the Northwoods Stewardship Center in East Charleston, VT, using their classroom and cooking facilities and sleeping in a lodge – with one night camping out in a shelter on their property. Each day will have writing and discussion sessions, as well as activities outdoors that will enrich and inform our writing. We will make use of the center’s trails and some of their courses on the special characteristics of the Northeast Kingdom. Our nighttime activities will include some films written by renowned Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher, star-gazing, and peer workshops.

5) Buddhism: The Study and Practice

On this course we will travel to Livingston Manor, New York to spend five days studying and practicing Zen Buddhism at the Dai Bosatsu Zendo.

Our days will be spent learning about daily life in a Zen monastery, Buddhist philosophy and history, meditating, doing volunteer work and we will be eating vegetarian meals prepared for us. Most of the trip will be spent at the monastery. There will be presentations on finding the ancient Chinese practice of Zen in America, Buddhist stories, and an interactive class on Zen shiatsu. We will take a nature walk and discuss the ecological environment at the monastery with a professor from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry. We will focus our learning about and understanding of Zen Buddhism through the lens of sustainability.

Because this is a religion-focused trip, it will present some unique challenges. We will spend much of our time in meditation or in presentations or discussions, all of our food will be vegetarian, we will have to be open to an unfamiliar religious tradition, and we will have to work together harmoniously as we live in close quarters. The trip is meant to be an introduction for those who are genuinely curious about the Buddhist religion, but is not designed to convert anyone. Students who are in the Eastern Religions class are encouraged, but not required to come. The field course is open to all students. There will be an additional cost of $220 per student for instruction, food and lodging at the monastery.

6) Economics: The Lost Ski Resort Project of Maine

In NH alone, there are 172 ski areas that have been closed or lost to history. In Maine there are currently 79. Each one has a story that provides insight into regional economics, the evolution of the ski industry, and general principles of micro and macroeconomics.

This field course will use these lost ski resorts as case studies to qualitatively study the ski resort industry specifically and the field of economics more generally. Students will learn about the economic transition from small locally-run areas to the mega-resort model of today and try to understand using economic principles why so many of these ski areas were forced to close. When possible, we will also be collecting up-to-date information and photos that will be used for the NELSAP (New England Lost Ski Areas Project) website, which catalogs these different ski areas.

Daily activities will include interviews, research, readings, and discussions based on our daily visits to these areas. Students will have a chance to explore by foot, ski, snowboard and sled the present day sites of some of these ‘lost’ areas. We will be based in Maine, but will also learn about several different ski area management models in our local NH area. Lodging for this field course will be indoors, but will have minimal amenities.

7) Winter Ecology and Physiology in The White Mountains

Wintertime offers insights into the natural history of organisms and function of ecosystems that are not often appreciated in summer visits to the field. Winter Ecology and Physiology in the White Mountains is a survey of physical and biological processes and species interactions in wintertime snow-covered environments.

Through class work, fieldwork, and individual projects, we will focus on the dynamics of high-elevation ecosystems in the Northeastern US.

We’ll spend two nights at the Harvard Cabin on the flanks of Mount Washington studying alpine and subalpine species. This environment allows us to study the same environment found at the Arctic Circle. Next we’ll travel to Cardigan High Cabin on Mt. Cardigan in southern New Hampshire allowing us to study ecosystems at lower elevations. We will study plant and vertebrate physical and physiological adaptations to winter, behaviors in winter, processes that shape the winter landscape, and compare these adaptations to human adaptations to learn how humans can best survive in cold environments.

8) The Psychology of Group Interaction & Cross Country Skiing

Have you ever wondered why people in a group behave differently than they do individually? On this Field Course we will study the psychology of group dynamics and explore the reasons why people do behave differently in certain situations. During Field Course, students will gain a foundation of basic psychological terms and themes through worksheets, lessons, activities and discussions.

Using literature on historic expeditions to Antarctica, recent calamities on Mount Everest, and scenarios on skiing the backcountry, students will apply primary references to these stories to examine human behavior within a group setting. Students will also maintain a journal to hone their observation skills and reflect on personal behavior and the group’s dynamic.

As a final project, students will write a synthesis of their journal entries, which will help demonstrate their understanding of group dynamics and how it applies to their own lives. We will spend the week cross-country skiing a few miles each day (averaging 6.5 miles) to three beautiful huts in Maine. After each day’s journey, we will enjoy delicious fresh food, warm drinks, and a well-earned night’s rest on cozy sleeping mattresses. If new to cross country skiing, students will need to participate in a free instructional clinic prior to the course, and a moderate level of fitness ability is expected of all students to complete this course. There will be an additional cost of $50 per student.

9) The Business of the Bicycle Industry

Around the world, millions of people own and ride bicycles. People ride their bicycles for recreation, to commute to work, or as their sole mode of transportation. On this Field Course we will explore what it takes to run a business in the bicycling industry.

Through research and stories we will take a look at the economics of bicycling in the United States, the challenges of running a bicycle-related business, and the various uses of bicycles in the northeast. Students will gain an understanding of basic business foundations and have the opportunity to meet and visit a wide variety of companies and organizations who are successful in their bicycling mission. As a final project students will design and create a business plan for their ideal company. We will also get the opportunity to experience road and trail riding, practice our bike handling skills and learn some basic bicycle repair and maintenance.

We will stay in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Noble View Lodge in western Massachusetts, visit retail shops, framebuilders and bicycle-advocacy groups and get a sense for what it takes to run a successful bike business in New England. We will also consider the broader question of what it takes to run a business and earn a living in a competitive recreational market. This course requires a functioning bicycle and helmet. Bikes can either be rented from our local shops for a rental fee or borrowed from a friend.

10) French Immersion

Paris is the city of love, the cultural hub of France, and the home of some of the world’s most famous paintings, sculpture, and architecture. France is well known for her gourmet food, her ancient and immaculate architecture, and her beautiful and thought provoking art. It is no question that France is known for its culture, but do our perceptions really match the reality of French culture?

Through travel and immersion students will experience French culture first hand and have the chance to develop, affirm, and maybe even rethink their perceptions. Students will improve their French language speaking skills and learn about the culture during this eleven day trip. The first five days will be spent in Paris immersing ourselves in the culture. During this time students will conduct research projects on the cultural significance of Parisian landmarks, artwork and history.

The final six days will be spent in a homestay with a French family in Nevers. This is part of an exchange program between our school and a high school in Nevers which has lasted over twenty years. This stay has proved to be an invaluable experience for students as they develop relationships with French students their age, learn first-hand about the French culture, and perhaps most importantly, students learn a lot about themselves when living in such a new setting. The cultural immersion will be strengthened by daily journal entries and group discussions reflecting on our experience. Not only will the students learn how to travel responsibly but they will also develop applicable skills making them lifelong cultural ambassadors. There is an additional cost for this pre-registered course and students must have a valid passport and visa if necessary.

11) Community Service in the Dominican Republic

The March Community Service Field Course to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic is designed to offer students the opportunity to complete community development projects in the community of La Sabana Perdida.

This course examines issues of culture, poverty, social development, and social justice in the Dominican Republic through direct service learning work and preparatory and reflective class sessions and discussions. Students will have the opportunity to examine development issues that have plagued the island nation for years and current efforts to address these concerns.

The service learning component includes working on a designated construction project, working in a local elementary school, spending time with community leaders to learn about social and historical issues, and engaging in a variety of cross-cultural activities with community members. The trip also includes a visit to a couple of local Haitian immigrant communities (a batey), a tour of local schools and orphanages, an evening visiting and touring the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo, spending a night with a local family, and taking some time to explore the small Caribbean country. Not only will students contribute significantly to the local Dominican community in which we will be staying through genuine service work, but they will also gain first-hand experience in important development issues through talks with local leaders, community members, and our Dominican friends. They will learn about Dominican history and culture and hopefully pick up some skills in dancing the merengue and bachata, and learn some Spanish along the way!

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