With spring finally here many working adults are planning a summer vacation. Some of our Adult Degree Program students are combining their summer break from the 9-to-5 with a unique educational opportunity – to study ecology in person, high in the Cascade Mountains or down by the Oregon shoreline.
For several years, Linfield’s ADP Program has offered five-day summer field-based courses for adventurous students. Studying Earth’s life-support system up close has enriched the education of a diverse range of ADP students. Students pursuing majors typically unrelated to nature, such as Accounting and Business Information Systems, have fulfilled the ADP’s Natural World requirement by taking these classes. The classes also count towards the Environmental Studies minor and are an important part of Environmental Studies minors’ education, bringing them up close and personal with the creatures and systems they study.
This summer’s offerings include the early June course Fire History of the Cascades and the mid-July course Shoreline Ecology. In the Fire History course, Tuesday – Sunday, June 3 – 8, 2014, students visit the Cascade Mountains to study the site of the B&B Complex forest fire, which burned 92,000 acres in the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests near the Oregon resort town Sisters. Students learn about the role fire plays in forest ecosystems by studying the remains of the fire and the forest’s regenerating flora and fauna. They also become familiar with different political viewpoints about the extent to which forest fires should be controlled, while balancing the protection of homes and property with a healthy forest’s need for fires as part of their the natural ecological cycle.
Then, it’s down to the beach. In Shoreline Ecology, McMinnville classroom – Sat-Sun June 28-29, Newport field study – Sat July 12 – Wed July 16, students study in person the organisms in coastal terrestrial and marine environments. They become familiar with tide pools, estuaries, sand dunes, and coastal forests. Students often find delightful surprises from this close examination of shoreline life – for instance, one woman was amazed to discover that delicate-looking starfish are spikey to the touch. These experiential insights can’t be gained from books alone.
The field-study professors point to several advantages to the immersive nature of these courses. Dr. Peter Schoonmaker, creator and professor of Fire History of the Cascades, likes teaching field-based courses, where a question is posed and the students pursue an answer in the field. Schoonmaker says that the in-person, on-site courses enable students to internalize the course material in a different way than if they were limited to studying from books. “They are learning the theory holistically, in a hands-on way. At the end of the class they see the whole picture.”
Dr. Ned Knight, instructor in Shoreline Ecology, adds, “Everyone has been so glad to have the field experience, coming away feeling much more enriched beyond their online classes.” These classes provide an invigorating break from the rigor of online courses and many lasting friendships are born during these summer courses.
These field based courses are a meaningful way for many adult students to pursue an online degree, allowing them to travel to beautiful places and explore nature in a new way, while simultaneously receiving college credit. Some students enjoy these courses so much they sign up for both of them in one summer!
Interested? You can claim your spot by registering for your summer “vacation” course during ADP’s open registration, May 12 to June 23. The field study classes fill on a first come, first served basis, so don’t delay.