August Wilderness (CIL 110) is a 3-credit, experiential, field-based course that combines wilderness travel with study, observation, and personal reflection. The course has three main emphases: natural and cultural history, environmental ethics, and leadership. Readings, journal writing, skill assessments and group discussion provide the basis for academic credit.
Natural and Cultural History
The areas we will travel through are some of the most remote and pristine in North America, so the opportunity for natural history observation and study is exceptional. Students will learn how to identify key species of plants and animals that make up the biological communities of the areas traveled through as well as an introduction to ecological and geological processes such as fire adaptation and glaciation. In addition to natural history, the cultural history of the area will be explored with a particular emphasis on historical land-use patterns such as fur trading and trapping.
Given contemporary concerns with sustainability and climate change, the course provides an excellent opportunity to critically reflect on both our individual and societal impact on our planet. Students will learn about the Wilderness Act of 1964 that established many of our wilderness areas in the United States as well as contemporary land management and resource usage such as logging, mining, and current conservation efforts in these areas. We will also learn about and practice Leave No Trace- a fundamental skill necessary to travel in pristine environments with minimal environmental impact. Finally, we will connect these concerns back to the level of personal accountability as we consider our own carbon footprint, the footprint of our course and its activities and what what behaviors and attitudes we will seek to change upon returning to the "frontcountry."
This course is also about learning and living in community. We will spend time learning about and practicing the critical elements of successful community living including effective communication, decision-making and problem solving, leadership, and conflict resolution. Students will have the opportunity to develop their own leadership style through "leader of the day" responsibilities and leadership development activities.