Experiencing the Wilderness
By John Palka — Posted July 31, 2016
I don’t ordinarily post materials that I have not written myself. However, today I can’t help making an exception in the form of an article in the Seattle Times for Sunday, July 31st, that is very close to my heart: http://www.seattletimes.com/life/outdoors/students-trek-a-reset-for-the-human-spirit-as-national-park-service-turns-100/. It deals with nature study in the wilderness.
Here is why this article is special to me and will, I believe, be interesting and informative to the readers of Nature’s Depths.
In the late 1990s I helped design and establish a new, interdisciplinary, university-wide environmental studies program at the University of Washington, formally known as the Program on the Environment (PoE). In this task I had the wonderful collaboration of John M. (Mike) Wallace, a world-renowned atmospheric scientist. We developed a program designed primarily for students who were interested in policy, service, or environmental education careers more than in the details of scientific fields relevant to the environment.
From the beginning, field experiences of one sort or another have been an important part of PoE’s curriculum. Often they have taken the form of collaborative service projects with local or international environment- or agriculture-oriented organizations. The article which I am encouraging you to read describes another kind of field experience, a physically demanding nine-day backpacking field course in the heart of the wilderness of Olympic National Park.
This was a transformative experience for the students. The course also reflected the central goal of Nature’s Depths—cultivating the understanding that we humans are a part of nature through appreciating, at a deeper level, what nature actually is and how it works. I hope that you will take time to read the article, and perhaps imagine yourself having just such a demanding and exhilarating experience!
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