Spring Semester in the U.S. Southwest
RESILIENCE & RENEWAL IN THE DESERT SOUTHWEST
In a time when disturbances to our economic, social, and environmental systems are becoming more frequent, unpredictable, and intense, working to create more resilient systems has become imperative. Our studies will take place in the incredible Saguaro-cactus-dominated Sonoran desert, an ecosystem that is a model for resilience in the face of difficult conditions. As we explore the rivers, canyons, and rock formations of the high deserts and learn of the incredible tenacity of the local life, we gain inspiration for, and models of, the kind of changes that we need to make in our human systems.
In our travels, we’ll explore solutions being worked on by local organizations and individuals that address regional, national, and global issues. We visit indigenous communities whose cultures have successfully adapted to local conditions and learn of their efforts to keep their communities strong in the face of environmental and social injustices. We especially focus on the work being done to create new, and adapt existing, systems with the capacity to absorb inevitable change.
Finally, we explore personal resilience and renewal as we develop our own leadership skills and dedication for positive transformation.
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WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
Spring Semester Course Descriptions for Undergraduates and Gap Year Students
Leading and Learning for Transformation and Resilience
Interdisciplinary course designed to fulfill social science, education, leadership, or environmental studies requirements – 3 credits
This course surveys models of education and leadership and their roles in the sustainability movement. It also introduces the holistic, experiential, and progressive education model used by the Expedition Education Institute. The living and learning community provides an excellent opportunity for individuals to develop their skills and practices as leaders, learners, and advocates. Through experiential learning cycles of action and reflection, students collaboratively explore transformative approaches to education and leadership for change.
Learning Community as Personal and Social Change
Interdisciplinary course designed to fulfill social science, education, outdoor leadership, psychology, or environmental studies requirements – 3 credits
This course explores the learning community model and how it supports deep learning, personal development, and cultural change. Students learn group development theory and practice facilitation, decision-making, cooperative communication, and conflict resolution skills. They become skilled in outdoor community living and learning. Trust, including the honoring of our commitments to one another, emerges as a foundation of our efforts. Students gain the experience and knowledge necessary to establish healthy communities in other settings.
Culture and the Environment
Interdisciplinary course designed to fulfill social science, anthropology, sociology, human ecology, or environmental studies requirements – 3 credits
Cultures shape the ways humans interact with the land, and historically, they have been closely adapted to their local environment. Students investigate the ways that culture can support a sustainable society by exploring dominant US culture, regional subcultures, and local indigenous cultures, both historical and current. We look especially at the implied environmental ethics of cultural practices and beliefs. Students consider approaches to changing our culture to promote sustainability and whether their own unexamined beliefs and actions are in line with their environmental values.
Sustainable Solutions to Regional Environmental Concerns
Interdisciplinary course designed to fulfill environmental science, environmental studies, or sustainability requirements – 3 credits
This course explores the social, economic, and ecological conditions that lead to environmental degradation and how these conditions impact potential solutions. Students learn about and experience firsthand numerous regional environmental concerns centered around land use practices, water issues, agricultural practices, and energy production. They also investigate environmental justice issues in rural areas, urban centers, and Native American communities. We will have the opportunity to see innovative approaches at many levels, from the top-down, large-scale approach of Federal policy making to bottom-up, small-scale approaches of permaculture and indigenous seed banks.
Living and Water Systems of the Southwest
Interdisciplinary course designed to fulfill natural science, ecology, or environmental studies requirements – 3 credits
The plains, deserts, and grasslands of the Southwest have a flora and fauna ingeniously adapted to live in its varied and harsh environments. Through investigation and observation, students come to appreciate these adaptations and to see them as a model for creating resilient human societies. The water systems of the Southwest are also severely stressed by climate change and overexploitation. We explore the conflicts between human water use and the maintenance of healthy local ecosystems.
Each course is designed to earn 3 credits, with the full semester program designed to earn 15 credits for enrolled undergraduate students and gap year students opting for credit.
The five courses are a package deal; they cover the breadth and depth of our experiences, supporting each individual and the whole learning community to extend the learning beyond what is possible through single modes of learning in separate courses.