Our Place: A 5-day field environmental philosophy intensive that combines reading, hiking, and writing. Classes are limited to six students to ensure the highest quality educational experience.
“Our place” is the Nonotuck bioregion, a geography bounded on the south by the Holyoke range, the north by Mt. Toby, and on the east and west by the hills that cradle the Connecticut River:
In the philosophical sense of the term, “our place” refers to how we fit in to the ecological processes and systems of our bioregion, and to its human history, past and present.
The question that motivates our 5 day quest is “What is our place?”
To provide you with facts, ideas and experiences you can use to answer our question we will hike, and perceive the subtle differences in character between ,the biomes delineated on this map:
Here is our general itinerary (which might be revised due to weather conditions or serendipity):
Day One: Walking Westhampton
- introduction to Thoreau’s essay Walking
- the colonial roads of Mt. Tob
Day Two: Southern Nonotuck
- the dinosaurs of Holyoke
- the microclimates, and unique ecological communities, of Mt. Tom
- the view from Mt. Nonotuck
Day Three: Into the Western Hills
- visiting the William Cullen Bryant homestead and recovering the first American poem, Thanatopsis
- riverwalking the Westfield River
Day Four: Environmental Aesthetics
- discovering Thomas Cole’s The Ox-Bow from the top of Mt. Skinner
- riverwalking the sandy Connecticut River shallows
Day Five: Northern Nonotuck
- walking the Robert Frost trail to the top of Mt. Toby
Each day, time will be set aside for journal writing. Your writing will sometimes be self-directed and other times arise from your instructor’s questions and prompts. Writing in the field helps you to synthesize your ideas and experiences, which in turn makes you a more articulate and creative thinker. Sharing journal entries during impromptu group readings gives you the opportunity to hear your own words, perceive the effect they have on listeners, and develop your unique style and voice. Given that many of the subjects we investigate and ideas we entertain are on the cutting edge of our popular and academic culture, you can expect to experience some exciting breakthroughs in your intellect and worldview. At the end of our five days in the field, you will produce a portfolio of writing that the instructor will review and comment upon.
During this five-day experiential learning adventure you are introduced to:
—fundamental concepts in ecology, including identification of terrestrial and aquatic flora and fauna, bioclimatology, watershed- and soil- systems, and
—landscape aesthetics, focusing those expressed by 19th century writer Henry David Thoreau and artist Thomas Cole, and by contemporary architecture critic James Kunstler
—field journal writing techniques
—aspects of yourself that that are not so much a product of your culture, but instead of your status as a human being shaped by a three billion year process of evolution.
For more information, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 413-650-3915.