By Brooke Schultz
Elm Staff Writer
An opportunity for Washington College students to get involved with their environmental passion is the Chesapeake Semester. Each year, 10 students are given the chance to study four different courses – social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, and interdisciplinary studies. The program is run through WC along with the Center for Environment and Society.
Applications are due by April 6 to CES Project Specialist Benjamin Ford. The course runs from Aug. 22 to Dec. 18, and students with an interest should definitely apply.
Students take lectures from the class and apply them to life outside the classroom. The four classes in history, ecology, and culture of the Chesapeake Bay are taught by 15 different professors in their free time.
Co-Chair and Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Martin Connaughton teaches CRS 240 Estuarine Biology for the Chesapeake Semester. He started a course in 2011, and then taught with Dr. Doug Levin, associate director of CES, from 2012 to 2014.
Dr. Connaughton said that there are some traits he notices in students that participate in the Chesapeake Semester. “A true liberal arts spirit, a willingness to cross intellectual boundaries, and to look at and discuss a problem or issue from multiple perspectives [are all traits students possess]. This is not as easy or common as it seems, since society often drills into us the need for excellence in a field in order to succeed. Real life is just not like that, which is why a liberal arts education in general, and the Chesapeake Semester in particular, are such great learning experiences.”
The Chesapeake Semester forces students to challenge themselves, not just intellectually, but they’re also forced outside of their comfort zones. “…Whether this means traveling and living with others, camping, eating foods you usually would not and/or considering a perspective or opinion you normally would not,” Dr. Connaughton said.
The semester is split into four journeys that each focus on a different component of life in the Bay watershed. The third journey takes students to Belize for a comparative study where they compare not only the ecosystems but also the culture and management of natural resources.
Students are required to complete a series of projects throughout the semester along with a blog, and all of their work culminates in a final project presentation and forum at the end of the semester. Chesapeake Semester courses can count towards a concentration in Chesapeake Regional Studies and fulfill distribution requirements or requirements for the environmental studies major.
The program is an immersive four months that takes students from one end of the watershed to the other and brings in experts outside of the WC faculty to offer a unique educational experience.
“If it were possible to teach students like this, experientially and in small groups, crossing disciplinary boundaries, off campus as often as on, we could take the already excellent liberal arts model and make it even better,” Dr. Connaughton said.