It is the hope of the Environmental Studies Department that the Watershed-based Integrated Field Semester can serve as a model for faculty from Dickinson and from other institutions interested in offering similar programs. This page presents some of the core materials, as well as a powerpoint presentation on the curricular dimensions of the program. We hope that if you are interested in using this as a model for a program with a similar structure or theme, these materials will be useful to you.
For other examples of integrated semesters in other disciplines, take a look at some of the Mosaic Semesters that have been offered at Dickinson College through the Community Studies Center .
For more information, please feel free to contact either Professor Wilderman or Professor Heiman.
View a presentation on the Luce Semester Model for Integrated Field-Based Curriculum
Wilderman, C.C., 2007. “Participatory and Empirical Learning in the Eye of the Hurricane,” American Association of Colleges and Universities Conference: The Student as Scholar: Undergraduate Research and Creative Practice, April 19-21, 2007, Long Beach, CA.
Read Reports and Assessments on the Luce Semester
Frequently Asked Questions
The watershed-based integrated field semester is a unique educational initiative offered by the Environmental Studies Department in the fall semesters of 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009. Analogous to the College's Mosaic program, participating students take a single integrated course for the equivalent of an entire normal four-course load, combining classroom activities, community-based fieldwork research, independent study, and extensive travel and immersion in two comparative watershed regions: the Chesapeake Bay and the lower Mississippi river basin. The course involves nine weeks of study in the Chesapeake Bay watershed region (including time in residence at Dickinson) and a three-week immersion experience in the lower Mississippi. This initiative was funded by a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation.
The following information is organized by questions you may have. There are five sections:
CURRICULUM AND LOGISTICS
PREREQUISITES AND CREDIT
IMPACT ON OTHER ACTIVITIES
CURRICULUM AND LOGISTICS
Who is teaching this semester and how many other students will be in the program?
Profs. Heiman and Wilderman are the primary faculty for the field semester in fall, 2009 with Professor Howard contributing on a regular basis. In addition, Julie Vastine , Director of ALLARM, and Assistant Director Jinnie Woodward, will be working closely with students in the development of independent research projects and in arranging activities that involve affected communities. Professor Wingert will assist with supervising independent research. There will be numerous guest lecturers, and community leaders both in class and especially in the field . Other faculty will also be involved through guest lectures in their field of expertise.
What kinds of topics are covered in the field semester?
Using the stream continuum as the unifying theme in the course, students examine environmental systems and the communities dependent upon them from the mountain headwater streams, through the agricultural valleys and the urbanized higher order streams, to the estuaries, and finally on to the coastal marine environments. Students are trained in ecosystem analysis field techniques through extensive hands-on experience with study design, and in data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Students examine the cultural, political, and economic contexts wherein environmental problems are created and through which solutions are conceived and implemented, by interacting with a diversity of communities – from Pennsylvania farmers, Maryland Watermen, and West Virginia miners, to Cajun and Native American shrimpers as well as lower-income communities impacted by toxic waste and natural resource depletion in Louisiana.
Students are introduced to environmental disruption and the regulatory response in contemporary industrial nations, with a primary emphasis on U.S. regulation and case studies drawn from the watersheds under investigation.
What is the weekly classroom schedule?
When we are on campus, classes (labs, field trips, and lectures) meet on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Monday is the day devoted to independent research projects. While there are no regularly scheduled classes on Friday, some of these days are used for extended field trips. For details on the schedule, click here.
How are students graded?
Students receive four grades, one for each of the courses for which they receive credit (see below under “How will the credit count towards the major?” to see what those courses may be). Grading includes an evaluation of their performance on exams, with lab exercises, and independent research, as well as their engagement with, and contribution to, field activities.
Why would students want to participate in this program, rather than take courses in the more traditional way?
This is an ideal program for students who learn best through direct experience and hands-on activities. The learning experience in this integrated semester is also interdisciplinary – combining ways of knowing and knowledge from the natural sciences , the social sciences, and the humanities. We approach environmental problems from a variety of perspectives, and are connected directly with affected communities. Such connections lead to a deeper understanding of the cultural context for the problems and their solutions. And finally, while students may experience the local environment through field excursions in other courses, in this course that exposure is widened to issues outside of our local watersheds, preparing them more broadly for a professional career. To read comments from students who have participated in the field semester, click here.
Why do we study the Chesapeake Bay and lower Mississippi regions?
The Chesapeake Bay and lower Mississippi River basin watershed regions were chosen as target areas for comparative study for social, cultural, political, ecological , and environmental reasons. They represent the two largest estuarine regions in the U.S. Both hold great economic, strategic, and environmental significance for the nation. Due to their location in different climatic zones, the two watersheds have a rich array of ecosystems that are similar in structure and function, yet vary in biological, physical, and chemical characteristics. Moreover, both areas are experiencing a loss of biodiversity, as they are being threatened by resource mismanagement, rising sea and subsiding land levels, agricultural runoff, and industrial pollution. Culturally, both regions have subpopulations that depend entirely on water resources for their livelihood, and those populations are threatened by a loss of cultural identity as the resource systems collapse. The threats to these ecosystems are being studied intensively by natural and social scientists, providing a wealth of material informing this program.
What are the pre-requisites for the program?
Students need to have completed ENVST 131 and ENVST 132, have equivalent training, or have special permission from the primary instructors.
Do they have to be an ES major to participate?
No. We welcome students from other majors.
How will the credit count towards the student's major?
ES majors (both BA and BS) will get credit for the following courses:
ES 335 (Aquatic Environment) or ES 375 (Advanced Analysis of Aquatic Systems)
ES 330 (Policy) or ES 370 (Science Policy)
ES 310 (Estuarine Management)
ES 501 (Independent Research)
Students having taken ES 335 before the field semester, receive credit for ES 375 (Advanced Analysis of Aquatic Systems) instead of ES 335, while students who had ES 330 enroll in ES 310 (Special Topics in Environmental Science). However, if you are a BS major, ES 310 will not count towards your major, although it will definitely strengthen your transcript, provide you with important professional skills, and count towards graduation.
In addition, all students will receive credit for the writing-intensive distribution requirement in the major.
If students plan to participate in the Integrated Field Semester, do they need to take Aquatics (ES 335) or Policy (ES 330)?
NO. In fact, we encourage them to wait to take these courses during the integrated field semester. However, if they have already taken ES 335 and/or ES 330, the course material is sufficiently enriched and customized for them so that extensive repetition is avoided and they still receive full 4 credits towards graduation (see also the section above on “How will the course credit count towards my major?”)
Can independent research during this semester be continued during the spring semester? If so, could this research be eligible for departmental honors?
Yes, if you make proper arrangements for a research advisor, you can continue your independent research for a second semester. If you are a senior, and make the appropriate arrangements with an advisor, your research (if continued for a second semester) could be eligible for departmental honors. You need to seek details regarding these requirements from your advisor and the department chair.
Can students take other courses during the semester?
NO. If there are extenuating circumstances, we can discuss this further.
Can I take this program if I work for ALLARM?
YES. There will be no conflict.
How much time will we be off-campus and where are we going?
We spend about 5 days in the Chesapeake Bay and coastal area of MD/VA. We then spend 3 weeks in the lower Mississippi and coastal area of Louisiana, with extended stops to study the environmental and social impact of coal mining in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and the history and culture of the Mississippi Delta region, birthplace of the blues.
We also spend 2 days canoeing on the Western Branch of the Susquehanna River in northcentral PA. In addition, we take a number of day trips in the local area. During this time, we visit a variety of communities, industrial facilities, and natural areas ; and speak with scientists; decision-makers; impacted residents; resource management professionals ; state, federal, and local agency employees ; farmers; business managers; and other stakeholders on a variety of environmental issues, ranging from environmental justice to old growth forest protection.
When do we go to Louisiana?
We go to Louisiana during the first three weeks of November, returning in time for Thanksgiving break.
When do we go to the Chesapeake?
We will go to the Chesapeake for about 5 days in late September.
How do we travel to Louisiana and the Chesapeake, and where will we stay?
We will travel in vans and stay at motels, campsites, and field stations. During extended field trips, room, board, and transportation costs are covered.
Will students be able to hold down a job during the semester?
Yes, but they will need to be sure that their employer is aware of scheduled time off-campus, and is willing to accommodate this.
How will this impact students extra-curricular activities?
Students are usually able to participate in extra-curricular activities, but they need to plan ahead and be sure not to make commitments during the periods when we will be off campus, traveling to the Chesapeake and to Louisiana.
What should I do if I am interested?
Student enrollment for the Fall 2009 semester is complete. The next offering of the field semester has not been scheduled or announced.
Students, Faculty members and others who are interested in future field semester offerings, or in using the Luce Semester as a model for future curricular developments, should contact either Prof. Heiman (Kaufman 110, 245-1338) or Prof. Wilderman (Kaufman 112, 245-1573)