Lessons in the Field…Literally: Honors College Fall Extension Courses Give Students Hands-on Experiences Before Classes Even Start

For Honors College students looking to get an early start on the academic year or just explore topics in intensive, hands-on ways, the fall extension period can be a revelation This past year, the Honors College offered two colloquia during this short window in advance of fall term, Field to Fork Farming and Seeing Climate […]

May 24, 2023

For Honors College students looking to get an early start on the academic year or just explore topics in intensive, hands-on ways, the fall extension period can be a revelation This past year, the Honors College offered two colloquia during this short window in advance of fall term, Field to Fork Farming and Seeing Climate Change in Oregon. These short-form classes allow students to fully immerse themselves in a topic and a community with focus and minimal distractions, creating a unique honors experience.

Field to Fork Farming

Dan Arp, former dean of the Honors College and College of Agricultural Sciences, and his wife Wanda taught Field to Fork Farming. During the three days of the class, the group visited farms and agricultural production sites throughout the Willamette Valley, and in the evening, they returned to Corvallis and prepared a meal together using ingredients from the day’s stops.

While dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, Dan became aware of the limited knowledge students had about where their food came from and the problems farmers face. While Dan knew he wanted to teach a class to change misconceptions about food production and farming, he wasn’t sure how to tie it all together. That’s when Wanda suggested making a meal at the end of the day and reflecting upon where the ingredients came from. They first taught this class four years ago, and after the disruption of the pandemic, fall 2022 was the first time the class was back in full.

The group visited a variety of farms and agricultural production sites across the Willamette Valley, including 2 Towns Ciderhouse, a hobby farm, the North Willamette research experiment center, a boutique creamery and more. At these sites, students learned about different farming and production methods, how different sized farms operate, organic and traditional agricultural methods, community-supported agriculture and agrotourism. They also learned about where their food comes from, how different sizes of agricultural ventures operate and the problems farmers currently face, as well as their passion for what they do. This up close and personal experience with agricultural and food production sites challenged students’ previous conceptions about farming, giving them a newfound appreciation for farmers and other agriculture workers and a deeper insight into how food reaches their table.

“This is not a course with a syllabus. I don’t script what they learn. It’s organic.” Dan Arp

The evening meal, planned by Wanda using ingredients from the day’s visits, was a highlight for the group each night. Students worked in teams to prepare different aspects of the meal. Not only did this show students what goes into their food, it also gave them a chance to bond with each other and make new friends. Dan and Wanda warmly recalled watching the students laughing as they reflected on the day’s activities and lessons each night.

After just three days, students reported walking away from the class with a new perspective on their food, a greater knowledge about how it arrives at their table and an appreciation for those who produce it. Students described this unique course as “inspirational,” “impactful” and “eye-opening,” and many expected to incorporate the lessons they learned whenever they think about what they are eating.

Seeing Climate Change in Oregon

As dean of the Graduate School, Philip Mote doesn’t usually teach. But when he saw a call for fall extension period colloquia, he saw an opportunity to blend learning and adventure. Mote taught Seeing Climate Change in Oregon, a three-day (with a partial prep day before) colloquium that took students across the state to see the impact of climate change on different areas and communities. To prepare for the class, students were split into groups and tasked to become experts on a particular topic related to the class’s themes: wildfire, extreme heat, drought, coastal issues and tribal knowledge. Students prepared brief presentations on their topics and shared their knowledge with their classmates while en route to site visits that gave examples of different effects of climate change in Oregon. At each site, students not only saw the visual impacts of climate change but also met with experts and community members to gain additional insight. They then camped overnight.

The group first visited Detroit and Mayor Jim Trett and learned how the community is working to rebuild following the destruction from wildfires. They then traveled east to Metolius Springs for a brief hike before camping for the evening. The next day, they headed north to Timberline Lodge to learn about the effects of extreme heat on the winter sports industry, continuing to Portland to learn about how drought has impacted the city’s water system  and how the city braces its water system for climate change. The class then headed west to camp and see impacts of climate change on the Oregon coast. They learned about coastal erosion and inundation before heading to Neskowin to discuss coastal resilience. The group’s final stop was in Siletz, where they learned about traditional ecological knowledge’s role in combatting climate change.

Students appreciated the ability to see so many different effects of climate change in vastly different areas that were still relatively local, saying “What made this class so impactful was that it explored climate change on a local scale,” and, “I liked how we were able to drive through almost every region of Oregon – meaning the drier, colder, and coastal regions. It was really eye opening to me that so many of these places were present in one state.” Students enjoyed the diverse perspectives of both their peers and the experts and community leaders brought to understanding the effects of climate change, saying, “I found it very interesting how varied peoples’ experiences with climate change were even just across the state of Oregon.” Overall, both Mote and many of the students considered this first occurrence of the class a success, although Mote knows to pack more marshmallows next time.

Mote’s advice to students interested in the course: have a willingness to be outdoors (no prior camping experience necessary), a sense of adventure and be ready to engage.

Jumping into fall

Both colloquia are being offered again in fall 2023, and students with a taste for adventure, community and group dinners are encouraged to enroll. Additionally, three other courses are also offered prior to fall term for the 2023-2024 year: Science Fiction as Mirror: What We Can Learn from Alien Dilemmas, Exploring the Concept of Belonging and Sport Psychology: A Critical Analysis of Ted Lasso.

By Kate McHugh, Public Information Representative

CATEGORIES: All Stories Community Courses and Faculty Experience Features Homefeature Homestories

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