Field Course is an opportunity for each student to immerse themselves in an academic subject in the real world. Instead of studying a topic in the classroom we go to where that subject matter is practically applied and learn it from the source. When we as learners are able to see, touch, hear, apply, use, analyze and experience firsthand, we gain a deeper understanding which sticks with us for life.
If a student is interested in the mathematical design of a snowboard, we go to the Burton Snowboard factory in VT and work with the engineers to learn how they are creating the latest snowboards. If a student is interested in desert plant adaptation we travel to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona to stand next to the famous Saguaro Cactus to observe the cactus visibly expand as it retains water for times of drought. One way for a student to learn about themselves as a leader is to backpack the 100 mile wilderness in Maine leading a group of their peers equally focused on becoming better leaders. The subject matter is endless.
At the root of it, Field Courses are intensive academic learning experiences. They are also a lot of fun! To see a student having an ah-ha moment as they connect the dots to a complex subject because they are in the field learning experientially is one of the great benefits of my job.
– Ted Teegarden, Directer of Outdoor Education
Next week, students and faculty alike will depart on spring field course, the last field course session of the year. WMS students will span out across the country and even across borders, from bustling cities to the wilderness, in search of new experiences and learning opportunities. We have a diverse and exciting array of choices for field course opportunities this year, including:
Avalanche Awareness and Backcountry Skiing in Washington State
We will be traveling to Washington State to learn and practice avalanche awareness skills and study snow science and safety in backcountry terrain. This Field Course is for those students interested in backcountry skiing or snowboarding. Backcountry travel skills and avalanche awareness is a must for those who venture into the backcountry during the winter. We will be engaged in all aspects of avalanche study: identification of avalanche terrain, stability assessment, weather, route finding, search and rescue techniques, and the human factor.
We will be based out of the central Cascade Mountains near Leavenworth, WA, staying in backcountry cabins. This area is known for receiving large amounts of snow every year (over 300 inches this year), and is an excellent setting for teaching the skills necessary to analyze avalanche hazards. We will have access to ideal terrain right outside our cabin doors. In addition to the backcountry experience, students will have the opportunity to ski in bounds at Steven’s Pass Resort for a day. Our visit will include meeting with professional ski patrol and having an opportunity to see their methods of avalanche mitigation at the resort. Participants should expect to be outside, in a winter environment for most of the day. This course is intended to be an introduction to avalanche awareness for the backcountry traveler. An intermediate level of skiing and snowboarding is required.
On this course we will travel to Woodstock, New York to spend five days studying and practicing Tibetan Buddhism. Our days will be spent learning the basics of Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan history, meditating, doing volunteer work – work jobs and kitchen crew – and learning other Buddhist practices. We will be staying in the Karma Triyana Charmachakra monastery and eating vegetarian food in their dining room. Most of the trip will be spent at the monastery, but we’ll spend one morning doing community service and an afternoon in Woodstock.
Because this is a religion-focused trip, it will present some unique challenges. We will spend much of our time in meditation, 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 and Tibetan culture, but is not designed to convert anyone. Students who have taken the Buddhism class are encouraged to come, and students who have not taken the class are welcome, too. There will be an additional cost of approximately $175 per student for food and lodging at the monastery.
Have you ever wondered what makes a ski carve? Why snowboarders get so crazy about powder days? If these are the kind of questions that float around in your head, then this is a field course for you. We will spend the week studying ski and snowboard design with a focus on experiencing the math behind the design. A trip to Burlington, Vermont to tour with engineers at the Burton Snowboard shop, interviewing skiers at Bolton Valley and Cannon Mountains and, of course, some quality skiing are all included.
We will spend one night in a hotel in Burlington and the rest of the time at the scenic Copper Cannon Camp. In addition to studying what equations make skis and snowboards carve, you will also look at the math behind flotation and camber and even get to design your ideal ski or snowboard. The final project will be to survey skiers at Cannon and Bolton Valley about their ski/snowboard preferences and present a report with analysis of your findings. This field course will blend ripping good fun and adventure with hands on math that you can use outside of the classroom.
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 (or bateyes), 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!
The mountains of southern Arizona offer the naturalist and rock climber a variety of opportunities. Coined “Sky Islands” by Weldon Heald in 1967, the term refers to mountain ranges that are isolated from one another by surrounding valleys and desert flatlands. The Santa Catalina Mountains, within the Coronado National Forest, leave the city of Tucson, AZ at an elevation of 2,643 ft. and peak at the summit of Mt. Lemmon, 9,157 ft. With a range of life zones equivalent to driving from Mexico to Canada on a highway just 27 miles long, we will have the opportunity to experience first-hand each life zone’s unique flora and fauna. Field activities will involve descriptive methods of analysis and interpretation and we will create and keep journals, documenting our field observations.
The desert is a special and mysterious place where beauty is not immediately seen. This course will aim to aid students in forming stronger personal connections with the natural environment. We will be camping in tents and cooking our own meals at a designated National Forest campground right in the heart of the life zones we will be studying and the rocks we will be climbing. We will also be visiting the outdoor Desert Museums in Tucson.
Mt. Lemmon is considered one of the best climbing areas in Arizona; it is home to thousands of routes of varying levels of difficulty appropriate for climbers of all ability and experience levels. While maintaining an eye for the natural environment we will explore cliffs of granite and gneiss along the famous Catalina Highway. Students will be able to practice and learn safe climbing skills and no climbing experience is required. Additional activities may include desert hikes in the National Forest and further naturalist exploration. Prior to departure, we will spend a few days in our climbing gym to learn or review basic climbing skills.
The Declaration of Independence of the United States begins, “All men are created equal.” This field course asks the question, “What about women?” We will consider women’s rights and roles in the United States from the mid-nineteenth century to today, including suffrage (voting rights), sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights and violence against women. Where did the word “feminism” come from? What has it meant in different eras? What does it mean to you? Are we now “post-feminist”?
Most of us would agree that women should have the same freedoms and privileges as men, and many of us would say that in today’s society they do. But women are not guaranteed equal rights under the US Constitution. Though the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced to Congress in 1923, it has never been passed. Read the news headlines and you’ll see the debate continues today. For example, earlier in January, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which supports the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, was not reauthorized, effectively ending the bill after 18 years. And just today (January 23), the US Department of Defense lifted the ban on women in combat so females can now hold positions on the front line. These issues are current and they make for great discussion.
“Gender and Politics” will be based in Washington, DC. Staying overnight with friends of the White Mountain School, we will visit exhibits that will help us understand historical and current events related to women’s rights, including the Alice Paul Institute, the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum and the Smithsonian Museums. We will even have the opportunity to meet with Congresswomen on Capitol Hill! This is a humanities-based field course; we will read historical documents and commentary, responding to them critically through group discussion and individual journals. We seek gender diversity in our group and welcome all perspectives and backgrounds.
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 responsibility. We will stay at Auberge Alternative, an arts-oriented youth hostel. A current passport is required.
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.
Leadership, teamwork, communication, risk and conflict 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.
Winter Photography in The White Mountains
This course will explore the art of photography and the beauty of the White Mountains. Throughout our travels we will be exploring nature photography and camera settings such as aperture and shutter speed, and how they affect photographs, while hiking in the mountains. We will apply our learned skills to the field as we try to capture The Whites. Along the way we will also meet with a nature photographer and visit the Bradford Washburn Museum in Crawford Notch.
Two days will be spent in the rustic Harvard Cabin located in Huntington Ravine, on Mt. Washington within the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. From this location the picturesque Huntington and Tuckerman ravines are a short hike and, if weather permits, we will hike above treeline to shoot photos of some of the most spectacular scenery in the northeast. After our stay in Harvard Cabin, we will then travel to Cardigan Mountain State Park in Orange, New Hampshire and stay at the Cardigan High Cabin, a mere half mile from the summit of Mount Cardigan.
At the end of the course students will select their best photographs to turn into a portfolio. In addition, everyone will choose their favorite photo to be printed and framed. These photos will be put on display for the viewing pleasure of the community. If a student does not own a camera, then there will be an additional fee of $50 to rent a camera for the week.