SAIL Seminars

2017 Seminar: Wilderness in the Anthropocene

two canoes with paddlers in the boundary waters
On the canoe trip into the Boundary Waters during the SAIL 2017 Wilderness in the Anthropocene on-site seminar.

On-site portion of the seminar: July 7-16, 2017

When every inch of the earth and its climate have been affected by humans, what does “wilderness” mean?

Wilderness in the Anthropocene, the sixth in a series of Seminars in Advanced Interdiciplinary Learning (SAIL), tackled that question, along with others, such as: What places do wilderness, the wild, and nature have in our communities and campuses today? What is the value of wilderness to a liberal arts education?

Fifteen faculty from six ACM colleges gathered at Coe College’s Wilderness Field Station (WFS) in northern Minnesota on July 7-16 for an intensive off-campus study experience during the on-site portion of the seminar. Surrounded by the Superior National Forest, the field station offers direct access by canoe to the million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).

From this base, they experienced the wilderness by canoe, spending several days afield, and spent time with local residents who make their living in this wilderness, as well as those who make their living off the resources beneath it.

The seminar syllabus included overlapping interdisciplinary, team-taught modules – in boreal ecology, environmental writing, and environmental social science – that touched on the biology of wilderness, its place in our art and mind, and its place in our current society. Faculty approached complex topics from different disciplinary perspectives, combining both specialist and non‐specialist roles.

During the 2017-18 academic year, each participant is working to create a new course, course module, or class assignments and exercises on a topic related to the seminar that advances his or her teaching interests.

Group at Sigurd Olson's cabin
The Wilderness in the Anthropocene seminar group visiting Sigurd Olson's cabin at Listening Point.

Seminar Participants

Fifteen faculty are participating in the Wilderness in the Anthropocene seminar sponsored by the ACM SAIL Program.

The seminar leaders are Jesse Ellis (Coe College), Chris Fink (Beloit College), and Pablo Toral (Beloit College).

The on-site portion in northern Minnesota was held on July 7-16, 2017.

Beloit College

  • Chris Fink, Professor of English (seminar leader)
  • Pablo Toral, Professor of International Relations and Environmental Studies (seminar leader)

Carleton College

Coe College

  • Jesse Ellis, Assistant Professor of Biology and Director of the Wilderness Field Station (seminar leader)

Cornell College

Macalester College

Ripon College

Syllabus and Schedule

river rapids2017 SAIL Seminar: Wilderness in the Anthropocene

On site July 7-16, 2017
Coe College Wilderness Field Station, Ely, MN

Seminar Goals

Interrogate “wilderness”

When every inch of the earth and its climate have been affected by humans, what does “wilderness” mean? Some environmental theorists argue that wilderness itself is a contemporary cultural construction, both a product of modernization and antidote to it. Others argue that, given the gravity of human impact on the earth, “Nature is dead.” Still, human beings continue to seek out what Thoreau called “the tonic of wildness.” We ask: what places do wilderness, the wild, and nature have in our communities and campuses today? What is the value of wilderness to a liberal arts education?

Develop interdisciplinary approaches

Wilderness has not only a biological basis but a long and dynamic history in human thought and art, and is currently a topic of debate for its worth to society. By entering, learning and writing about the Midwest’s one great wilderness — and conversing with those who make their living there — seminar participants will grapple with the question “what is wilderness?” Participants will take part in overlapping interdisciplinary, team-taught modules — in boreal ecology, environmental writing, environmental history, and environmental social science — and will use this experience to augment their classes at their home campuses.

Build learning commons

The Wilderness in the Anthropocene seminar provides ACM faculty an opportunity to develop innovative teaching in the areas of interdisciplinary field research and pedagogy. The Coe Wilderness Field Station affords faculty in every discipline a wealth of excellent teaching resources, and the intimate learning environment allows leaders of different seminars to collaborate on research and their curricular projects: advanced-level coursework and case studies on our home campuses. Interrogating the intersection of environment and community empowers students to build knowledge on their own life experience, to gain the reflective judgement necessary to ethically and respectfully engage the world, and to develop the research skills that they will need after college in work or in graduate school.

Start developing campus project

The learning and teaching resources afforded by the field station and wilderness excursion, and the feedback from other participants, allows each team to build the foundation for the specific curricular projects they will complete after returning to their home campus.

Daily Activity Schedule

Day 1, July 7: Afternoon Arrival. Pick up from Ely or Duluth. Greetings.

Room assignments.
Explore Wilderness Field Station (WFS) and Low Lake
Dinner at WFS
Introductions of teams and curricular plans — 15 minutes to talk about your curricular goals as a group after dinner.

Day 2, July 8: Explore WFS, Low Lake environs. Canoe orientation.

Breakfast at WFS: Wilderness in the Anthropocene discussion.
Reading: Wilderness Act, The Trouble with Wilderness, Wilderness Letter.
Trip to Bass Lake falls. (Pack lunch).
Consi Powell: Visual journaling (lunch at Bass Lake Falls).
Reading: Dillard, “Pilgrim at Low Lake”.
Time for reflection journaling/Collect blueberries (enough for pie tomorrow).
Dinner at WFS.
Evening talk by Tonya Kittelson (Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

Day 3, July 9: Visit Listening Point and Listening Point Foundation

Morning Birdwatching with Jesse Ellis.
Breakfast at WFS.
Trip to Ely and Sigurd Olson’s house and “Listening Point” on Burntside Lake.
Lunch in Ely – Chocolate Moose.
Free time in Ely.
Dinner at WFS.
Readings: Olson, from Listening Point and Meaning of Wilderness

Day 4, July 10: Visit Bois Forte Reservation, and Hull Rust Mahoning mine

Breakfast at WFS.
Trip to Bois Forte Ojibway Reservation in Tower.
Readings about local Native history and wilderness protection by Leo Chosa (1910a and 1910b), Department of Indian Affairs of Canada (included in Chosa 1910a), David T. McNab, Lac La Croix First Nation-Ontario Government, John Wright.
Lunch at Fortune Bay Casino.
Visit Hull Rust Mahoning mine in Chisholm/Hibbing, world’s largest open-pit iron mine.
Readings about local mining by PolyMet, Sustainable Ely, Twin Metals.
Return to Field Station, Time for reflection.
Dinner at WFS.
Pack for Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) trip.

Days 5-8, July 11-14: Excursion in BWCAW.

Bring seminar reader (one per tent).
Early breakfast at WFS on July 11.
Drive to Ely: Tow from Moose Lake entry point to Knife Lake: Gary Gotchnik talk on Native American history/conflict.
All other meals on trail.
Return to WFS on evening of July 14.
Readings: Repko, Rhoten et al, Wardley and Belanger. Browse from course reader.
Discussion and feedback on curricular projects and interdisciplinary approaches while on trail.

Day 9, July 15: Summary Reports

Report from groups (and feedback) on curricular projects.
Reading by Ojibway poet Kim Blaeser.
Readings: Absentee Indians (Kim Blaeser)

Day 10: July 16: Departures to Ely and Duluth

Note on course texts

The SAIL seminar will provide you with three texts: William Cronon’s Uncommon Ground, Sigurd Olson’s The Meaning of Wilderness and Kimberly Blaeser’s Absentee Indians. We are also compiling an interdisciplinary course reader designed to be used at the WFS and on trail in the Boundary Waters. Except for a couple of the core readings in Uncommon Ground, the readings are brief and designed to be portable and read (or reread) the day they’re assigned. We imagine that seminar participants will browse selectively from this reader before during and after the seminar. We invite teams to supplement the reader with suggestions of their own.

Seminar Proposal

canoeing Following are excerpts from the SAIL proposal for Wilderness in the Anthropocene written by seminar leaders Jesse Ellis (biology, Coe College), Chris Fink (English, Beloit College), and Pablo Toral (international relations and environmental studies, Beloit College).

How the Topic and Site Inform One Another

The Coe College Wilderness Field Station (WFS) is a one-of-a-kind setting for exploring the theme of wilderness. Set on remote Low Lake, the station is a natural outdoor lab for learning, and a gateway to the Boundary Waters (BW). From the field station, participants can paddle from lake to river to bog to beaver pond, examining the interactions of plants and animals with their environment without undue human influence.

However, though wild, the area has a long human history, raising questions about what makes it a wilderness. The WFS is only 30 minutes from Ely, Minnesota, where a new international mining venture has exacerbated divisions among various parties with deep-seated views about the mine’s possible benefits and costs, raising urgent and timely questions about how communities use and view wilderness….

Looming over this local conflict is the specter of climate change, which, regardless of the region’s level of protection, could slowly convert the iconic boreal forest to oak savannah. Between actually experiencing the Boundary Waters by canoe and analyzing the conflict over the wilderness in Ely, faculty will have intimate knowledge of a case study that can be used in a wide variety of curricula, whether it’s comparing the chemical impacts of sulfide mining and iron mining on the ecosystem, understanding disagreements in communities over local resources, or considering the connotations of wilderness when an area has already been deeply shaped by human activities.

Components of the Seminar

The seminar leaders imagine offering a suite of overlapping interdisciplinary, team-taught modules built on a set of common readings and experiences in an intimate, collaborative wilderness setting, as follows:

Key readings, both creative and analytical: on wilderness, field-based research, and interdisciplinary learning. We will compile and distribute a seminar reader.

Wilderness experience: Participants will take a four-day long canoeing expedition in the wilderness, where we will explore the physical and biological natural history of the Boundary Waters and visit sites of historic (and pre-historic) importance. Besides this trip, every day time will be available for individuals and teams to explore the wilderness around the field station.

Activities: discussion on common readings, breakout sessions to discuss individual or group projects, development of interdisciplinary projects. Group and individual time allowed every day for contemplation and project development.

Experts: visit to key stakeholders in the community.

Field trips will include selections from the following: Listening Point (environmental writer Sigurd Olson’s cabin); International Wolf Center; Bois Forte Ojibway reservation in Tower; Soudan Mine State Park museum; Hull Rust Mahoney open pit mine in Hibbing (largest open pit iron mine in the world); Twin Metals (Chilean mining company planning to open a sulfide mine in the vicinity of the Boundary Waters); Up North Jobs (local organization that advocates for the rights of veterans and is a leading advocate of the proposed sulfide mine); Sustainable Ely (NGO that opposes mining in the Boundary Waters watershed); Wilderness Outfitters (leading business in town); Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness (NGO created in the 1970s to advocate for the creation of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness), and the Steger Wilderness Center, a unique, off-the-grid sustainable meeting center built by polar explorer Will Steger.

Relevance of the Seminar to Different Disciplines

Given that wilderness has not only a biological basis but a long and dynamic history in human thought and art, and is currently a topic of debate for its worth to society, the seminar topic is intrinsically multi-disciplinary….

Those exploring the natural sciences will find in the Boundary Waters’ unique geology and protected ecosystem an excellent teaching and learning ground to illustrate pre-boreal habitat. Past and recent disturbances have turned the Boundary Waters into a perfect lab to study the impact of wilderness preservation, old-growth and second-growth forest, introduction of non-native species, and evidence of climate change.

Humanities and social science faculty can explore the role that the Boundary Waters area played at different stages of the history of the US. The area’s archives and museums are replete with artifacts, as well as primary and visual documents that tell the story of human settlement in the area. Issues to explore include the role the region’s forests and mines played in the process of economic development and nation-building since the late 19th century; the arrival of European immigrants and the displacement of native American Ojibway communities into reservations; the leadership of local environmental activists, writers, and artists in the conservation movement; the region’s role in the development of new US environmental legislation, including the creation of the “Wilderness Act;” and the challenge of achieving sustainable development.

Insights and Resources for Creating Curricular Materials

The Wilderness in the Anthropocene seminar provides ACM faculty an opportunity to develop innovative teaching in the areas of interdisciplinary field research and pedagogy. The Coe Wilderness Field Station affords faculty in every discipline a wealth of excellent teaching resources to try different field-research teaching techniques, and the intimate learning environment allows leaders of different seminars to collaborate on research and their team projects.

Taking the current tensions in Ely over a proposed mining project as a case study illustrates the possibilities of interdisciplinary inquiry in the seminar: A Chilean mining company plans to open a mine upstream from the Boundary Waters to mine for precious metals.

  • Geology explains why precious metals exist close to the surface that make this an ideal place to mine.
  • Chemistry helps us understand the potential dangers to the water posed by sulfide mining, and biology helps uncover the threats to the ecosystem.
  • Physics explains the engineering challenges of the project.
  • Economics reveals why this project might be either financially viable or destructive. International relations helps explain why a firm from Chile is involved and where the funds are coming from.
  • Social sciences give us tools to study the ways in which the local community is torn over this project along ethnic and class lines.
  • Arts and humanities explore the ways individuals and communities express their relationship to a wilderness area under duress from extractive industry.

Such an interdisciplinary approach will develop advanced-level coursework and case studies on our home campuses to the benefit of our students. Interrogating the intersection of environment and community empowers students to build knowledge on their own life experience, to gain the reflective judgement necessary to ethically and respectfully engage the world, and to develop the research skills that they will need after college in work or in graduate school.

Blog Entries

Wilderness: Closing the Gap

Burntside Lake
Listening Point on Burntside Lake, Sigurd and Elizabeth Olson’s retreat in the woods, was one of the sites visited during the Wilderness in the Anthropocene seminar.

Blog post by Trish Ferrett, Professor of Chemistry, Carleton College

After ten days at the Coe College Wilderness Field Station, I feel an uncomfortable gap between the ideas in the ACM SAIL seminar wilderness reader (thanks Pablo and Chris and Jesse!) and my own experience paddling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Others voiced this. How do I connect these intellectual and experiential poles of my experience?

To me, interdisciplinary and integrative learning have always been centrally about finding insightful connections between seemingly disparate points of view — and then creating something new from this. Boix Mansilla calls this new thing — and we hope it is productive and insightful — a “cognitive advancement.” This new thing could be a solution to a problem, or it could be a richer perspective that acknowledges a diverse set of viewpoints. I think the “advancement” can also cross into affective and subjective domains. And at best, what we learn can help to integrate not only disparate and varied ideas with each other, but also meld these ideas with experience and values. Here I am thinking back to the literature on intellectual development in the college years (and in adult life). Nearly all the development schema at the highest “stages” (none of which are linear or clean) integrate evidence-based reasoning with values and experience. If I can’t do this kind of connecting, how can my students?

So what new can be learned here?

To get started, the intellectual side. I vastly expanded my view of wilderness just with ideas alone, taking in notions of history, law, and cultural construction of the wilderness concept in the US. Drawing upon the definition of wilderness in the 1964 US Wilderness Act, can a place be “untrammeled”? Rarely these days, or in the past several hundred years in the US. First Nations people used the land to live. So do we today. We are, after all, animals — and animals need resources to live. I keep hearing the Twin Metals VP say to me “but we need to live.” We need metals to live with our green technology of electric cars, wind turbines, cell phones, and solar cells.

Animals and people use the land and can, over time and with enough population, deplete resources and degrade the environment. If this depletion becomes severe enough, animals and people can migrate and start the cycle over. I came to think a lot about this cycle, and our changing and limited options for migration and mobility in the US and globally. If there is nowhere else to move and restart, this game of using-degrading-moving is over. Settled people cannot easily move. Yet, refugees, immigration … people are still moving, yet the environmental degradation seems to both stay put and travel.

So, what we have I think is a continuum of trammeling, from the pure idealistic (and unreachable) wilderness all the way to a landscape entirely shaped by humans. The latter I sadly found in a 100% synthetic shopping area in Maple Grove, MN, where I went to get camping gear at REI. Ugh. How can such a trammeled, confusing, chaotic, and horrific place even exist? And between the extremes of “wild” and ugly human-control, there is everything in between. And … when we enter a “wilderness, we change it. Catch 22.

Pure wilderness is today mostly an illusion — but is it a useful one?

group outside
Trish Ferrett (center) with fellow seminar participants (clockwise) Jesse Ellis (Coe), Jim White (Cornell), McKenzie Lamb (Ripon), and Sarah Frohardt-Lane (Ripon) during the canoe trip.

The scientist in me knows much about complex systems, in nature and society and connections between the two. We know so little about how these systems work. Our knowledge is young, just a couple of decades in the making. These complex systems are riddled with what we believe is inherent uncertainty. Uncertainty that is built in; we will not overcome it with knowledge and technology. Yes, we have a pile of ideas — patterns — we claim to understand about how these systems behave. Threshold crossings, abrupt change, large change born from tiny change, feedback loops, one-way processes (going one way is much easier than going back …), and more. We have learned to recognize patterns, yet it is very hard to know when this patterned behavior will strike. Limits to knowledge and prediction.

In this vein, I appreciate the call for wilderness for the sake of “science.” But the value is more than scientific — it is for our survival as a species, and for the survival of other species and the place where we all live. Evolution coupled with time has produced a landscape with life that is, to me, unimaginably complex and wonderful. We would be fools to eliminate such a landscape, the one from which we grew as humans in community with all else. I do not believe we can create a new human-made world that will sustain us with and in a healthy environment. We know too little. We are very small and incapable and harmful. I am not filled with the technological optimism I find at the mining companies. Our technology to date is ignorant of so much that is unexpected — every time. The unexpected is built into nature; it will never go away.

I still stand behind the preservation of some places that are both large in area and as “wild” as we can make them. These places will help us stay humble in the face of nature and restrain our marks on the environments on which we depend. I also much enjoy the small spaces of wildness — in my garden, town parks, and even at the level of molecular machines. How did these molecular motors and rotors and walkers evolve? Incredible wildness at every scale.

And now I see I am crossing over into the experience side — into notions of humility. While paddling and camping and observing all that is the BWCAW, I sense humility, awe, wonder, mystery, and uncertainty. Curiosity, community, friendship, simplicity, vigor, challenge, and good health. Something I could call deep happiness and connection to land, water, wind, critters, and sky. Ah Sigurd, I hear you.

My garden of control, July 2017
Photo by Trish Ferrett

I keep coming back to issues of human control and restraint. In the small wild spaces of my daily life, I sense these things — yet in a smaller way. I still have so much control in my garden, though it does teach me daily about my lack of control. I hear wise lessons, but they do not bang me in the head. In fact, I tend to “fight back” against this loss of control with a new plan to regain control. I take out the weeds, add grass seed, and build a fence to keep bunnies out. I engage in a persistent cycle of control over nature. Yet, there is much to learn here, as Wendell Berry notes. Working the land at least engages us directly with nature and wild processes. This familiarity is a step toward humility, but it is not the largest step I need to take. Nor do the small wild places force me to see the hardest lessons of survival. It is too easy to control my garden, though the control is in part illusion.

When I cross into a deeper and larger wilderness like the BWCAW, my control shrinks much more — undeniably so. Daily. And sometimes in challenging ways. Ah — in the face of waves, wind, and a hard paddle (I am past my limit, no? I need a bar!!!) with no opt-out options.

Oh, my limit is not my limit.

That is a powerful lesson.

I am both weaker and stronger than I thought.

How confusing.

That portage from Knife into Vera Lake with the “water feature.”

Watch a fast-forward view of the challenging portage from Knife Lake to Vera Lake, which was on the itinerary of the seminar canoe trip.

Humility. Grace.

Facing weakness and then strength — though not the same kind of strength in my friends.

Does this matter?

Not so much.

Fear and uncertainty are strong in these most wild places.


Control. Restraint. I have found a new continuum embedded in the one about degrees of wildness. And this control-restraint continuum links up what I feel in the BWCAW to what I read and think about wilderness.

Emotions are said to exist on a continuum from love to fear.

One tries not to live strongly on the fear end.

This can lead over time to anger, rage, control, and power. Harm.


Living on the love end is connected to compassion, generosity, equanimity, patience, restraint, and grace.


misty lakeHow odd that the experience of fear and uncertainty in the BWCAW can bring me to the love end of the emotional continuum. Even these continua are too simple for words. We are wild animals, and we experience everything from love to fear. So it is not that the fear end of emotion is the wild end.

Yet, the BWCAW trip experience and the seminar readings have washed over me with wild, not wild, fear-uncertainty, love-generosity, and more. The whole rich human and nature experience. Sigurd and others might say that this rich, full, integrated deep experience is what it means to feel “fully alive”?

From prose to poetry and back again. Thanks for the ride.

Falling In To Wilder

By Trish Ferrett, Professor of Chemistry, Carleton College

I wrote this poem in July, 2015 while at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. It expresses sentiments about wildness there and in places like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I was exploring the notion of my own wildness.


I am falling in love with …
earthy reds
dusty yellows
dry arid shrubs
and a life built on instinct and love.

Remember to follow the cairns,
the trickle,
the boulders that just fell off
the canyon walls to pile up
like sand in a box.

Above all, stay with play and feeling
along the ranch road
in the Ojo springs
tent pitched by the arroyo
always looking up to a mesa.

Lower your fear,
just try the arrow
fire and aim
do not fear the bird, the flood,
or the lover.

Reach up, out … and finally in.
Ghost cliffs will support me into
the next epoch,
the top layer of dirt,
the part most exposed to
open blue sky.

Wild women always, always
reach the crescent moon.

Pagayez Chers Camarades!

author facing lake
Devan Baty at a contemplative moment during the canoe trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Blog post by Devan Baty, Associate Professor of French, Cornell College

As we paddled out at the start of our four-day canoe trip in the Boundary Waters, a catchy song about rowing, camaraderie, and romance that I have taught many times to students learning French ran through my mind. “Pagayez” or “Paddle” by the Cajun singer and poet, Zachary Richard, recalls the early modern history of French “Coureurs des bois,” renegade travelers who explored deep into the wilderness in pursuit of trade with indigenous peoples.

Pagayez chers camarades, pagayez
Encore loin pour faire la fin de la journée

Author and friend with canoe
Devan Baty and McKenzie Lamb (Ripon College) during a break in the canoeing.

French Voyageurs hired by trading companies continued to paddle, hike, hunt, and negotiate their way across the North American continent, from the Pays d’en haut to the Pays des Illinois through the end of the 19th century. Their legendary history was a source of inspiration for the iconic 20th century defender of the Boundary Waters, Sigurd Olson, who believed that the best way to gain knowledge of their exploits was through experiential learning; putting paddle to water and tending an ear to the silence of the North Woods.

J’suis voyageur des eaux et coureur des bois
Depuis l’nord Manitoba aux Illinois
J’connais toutes les rivières, tous les ruisseaux
Depuis l’ile d’Orléans, jusqu’à la terre haute

Buoyed by the adventurous spirit of the Voyageurs, I began my first-ever canoe trip in the company of supportive colleagues. Our journey would lead us northeast along the line of waters that separate Minnesota from Canada into Knife Lake, looping back southwest through Vera, Ensign and Newfound lakes back to Moose Lake, our point of departure. The weather forecast accurately predicted wind and rain for our adventure, but we were well-equipped for the challenges awaiting us, having armed ourselves with a wealth of amenities available to the 21st century traveler: Gore-Tex apparel, Deet, sunscreen, coffee, and many, many Sharpie-labeled ziploc bags full of meals and snacks.

canoe and lake

Camping, canoeing, and community

My limited experience with camping and canoeing before this seminar was in part due to growing up in a state more known for its miles of soybeans and corn than its wild spaces. Many of the students on our campuses have also not experienced outdoor activities like these nor have they spent much time exploring natural environments. Recreation is more likely to take place in virtual rather than natural spaces and asynchronous, siloed communication has increasingly become the norm for their daily interactions with others.

The opportunity afforded by this seminar to learn about wilderness on site and in community has been extremely powerful. The lack of Wi-Fi and cell phones was refreshing and made space for conversation and reflection I may otherwise have filled with news feeds and e-mail. My experience on the water and in the woods challenged me to connect mind and body in new ways. I have never felt more acutely aware of the need to “pull my own weight” than on this canoe trip. Taking turns at the bow, the middle and the stern, I learned through trial and error that paddling should be steady, smooth and in sync. My small improvements in technique paled, however, in comparison with the competence of others in my group who somehow managed to paddle, navigate, adjust for changes in wind and weather, AND spot birds at great distances — all while explaining the finer nuances of the landscape we passed.

Noticing and naming the details of my natural surroundings did not come as naturally to me as I had hoped. I relied heavily on those with trained eyes and ears to bring to my attention what turned out to be the spectacular highlights of our trip: a bald eagle perched at water’s edge, the rare sight of a group of seven loons swimming together, and aggressive merlins dive-bombing an osprey in mid-flight. We saw a loon coast by with two babies perched on her back and another mother loon perched on her nest barely hidden in the spring-green grass — a mere paddle-length from the bow of my canoe as we floated through water dappled with sunlight and wine-colored lily pads. Glorious, teachable moments.

group in woods
Consi Powell led a discussion of visual journaling during the second day of the seminar.

Portage d’Enfer

Despite my background in French studies, the French term “portage” meant little to me before this trip. While reading Sig Olson’s poetic descriptions of the land bridges connecting one lake to another in a 1936 piece called “The Romance of Portages,” I searched Google for images of what we might encounter and made hopeful choices when packing shoes for the trip. After the first couple yards of the first portage of our trip, however, I quickly learned that the crossings Olson ordained as “part and parcel of a priceless spiritual heritage, the old wilderness” would join forces with wind and water to teach me the physical limits of my own body.

It is quite daunting to paddle up to the mouth of a portage with no clear idea of the topographical challenges that lie ahead. When we reached what many of my travel companions have now deemed the “Portage from Hell” on the third afternoon of our trip (a day intended to be slower-paced, with paddles on small lakes and time to breathe and take in the natural beauty of our surroundings), I anxiously witnessed my colleagues scale treacherous, mud-slick rock faces balancing canoes on their shoulders with impressive agility and strength. A week later, I am still stunned by the difficulty of the portage that joins Knife Lake to the green glass of Vera Lake. Rainsoaked trial by land. Portage fatal.

The experience of crossing that portage on the penultimate day of our trip has, however, left me with a deep, visceral respect for the physical and mental strength of the Voyageurs and their latter-day soulmate, Sig Olson, who carried a canoe far heavier than our own well into his seventies. The memory of this difficult portage will stick with me more than the others from our trip. I feel more connected to the place as a result and take some satisfaction knowing that the Vera Lake portage will continue to be as fierce as the day we crossed it.

Low Lake
Low Lake, near the Coe College Wilderness Field Station, which served as the base for the seminar.

Just visiting

Experience of this beautiful, wild place has now become a part of what I carry with me — a sensory portage of impressions, sights and sounds. With this cargo comes a heavy sense of responsibility to act, to spread the word, to carry forth and protect the natural wonders of the Boundary Waters and the North Woods. The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines “wilderness” as an area “… where man himself is a visitor and does not remain.” My brief visit to the region and participation in this seminar has reminded me of my temporary guest status not only in the Boundary Waters but also back in my home state of Iowa, where I am also just passing through at this particular point of the Anthropocene.

As a teacher of language, literature and culture, my first recourse for sharing what I’ve learned with others will be through words: the essays of Sig Olson, the poetry of Kim Blaser, the textual history of the Voyageurs and their interactions with native American communities. However, the opportunity the canoe trip provided to actually experience wilderness — or at least that which we name as such — helped me connect in a more intimate way to the landscape and history of northern Minnesota. I feel particularly invested in its past, present, and future, and hope to pass this investment on to others.

In gratitude to the ACM and the Mellon Foundation for making this seminar possible and to our seminar leaders and my fellow travelers for making this experience so fun and meaningful, I look forward to creating tangible opportunities for my own students to learn about our Midwest Wilderness and its rich, diverse heritage.

Allez mes braves, allez amis, allons, allez
Encore loin pour faire la fin de la journée …

The Difference between ‘Wildness’ and ‘Wilderness’ – A Perspective post for Northern Public Radio by Chris Fink, Beloit College

2016 Seminar: Silicon Valley as an Innovation Ecosystem

group with Google logo
SAIL 2016 seminar faculty take a short break outside the headquarters of Google.

On-site portion of the seminar: July 11-20, 2016

Silicon Valley as an Innovation Ecosystem was the fifth in a series of Seminars in Advanced Interdisciplinary Learning (SAIL) organized by the ACM colleges and funded through a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This 18-month seminar had a 10-day on-site portion in California’s Silicon Valley in July 2016, bringing ACM faculty together as a small learning community to explore issues related to the connection between innovation and the liberal arts.

The leaders of Silicon Valley as an Innovation Ecosystem, who proposed the topic and site, were Lawrence University professors Adam Galambos (economics), David Hall (chemistry), and Martyn Smith (religious studies). See the list of seminar participants.

Broadly conceived, the seminar addressed the following questions:

  • What can we learn about cross-disciplinary innovation from Silicon Valley?
  • What do liberal arts values and habits bring to an innovation ecosystem?
  • How could the innovations we observe in various fields in Silicon Valley transfer into our curricula and pedagogy?
  • Are there cultural traits or innovative practices that would benefit our liberal arts campuses?

“Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, with the humanities, that yields the results that make our heart sing.”

– Steve Jobs

Silicon Valley is an evolving innovation ecosystem: a cluster of institutions, individuals, and organizations located within a specific region that facilitates innovation through cultural, economic and networking assets. As such, it provided an extraordinary setting for exploring these questions during 10 days on site.

In the on-site portion in July 2016, the seminar’s themes and explorations were anchored by visits to unique Silicon Valley institutions, including tours and talks at major companies and at the more modest headquarters of recent start-ups, as well as conversations with researchers at the labs at Stanford University. The seminar also included visits to other contextually important locations and institutions, such as San Francisco’s Castro district and Haight-Ashbury, and the Insight Meditation Center. This breadth of sites informed a discussion of cross-disciplinary innovation through the lens of the liberal arts.

stanford campus
Day three of the seminar in Silicon Valley focused on Stanford University.

The seminar group also met with alumni from ACM colleges to hear their insights on innovation and the liberal arts, and how their education prepared them (or didn’t) for life in Silicon Valley.

Participants in the seminar pursued active learning about the innovation ecosystem at various field sites. Group discussions permitted faculty, both collectively and individually, to translate their observations into the liberal arts world of teaching and learning.

The plan for site visits explicitly built on the fact that Silicon Valley is not simply a pocket of incredibly successful corporations, but also a location in which rich cultural assets contribute to its ecosystem. Accordingly, the seminar asked as a central question how the social makeup of the region relates to the entrepreneurial environment.

Following the on-site portion of the seminar, each participant created a course module on innovation specific to his or her teaching interests. Faculty from across the ACM can leverage the individual course modules to enhance existing curriculum or put modules together to form an entire course on innovation in the liberal arts context. In addition, seminar participants planned to jointly develop a white paper on innovation and liberal arts colleges.

Seminar Participants

Lawrence University

Leadership Team

  • Adam Galambos, Dwight and Marjorie Peterson Professor of Innovation and Associate Professor of Economics
  • David Hall, Associate Professor of Chemistry
  • Martyn Smith, Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Colorado College

Cornell College

Ripon College

St. Olaf College

  • Irve Dell, Professor of Art
  • Paul Jackson, Associate Professor of Chemistry & Environmental Studies
  • Sian Muir, Director of Management Studies and Entrepreneur in Residence

Seminar Schedule

Silicon Valley as an Innovation Ecosystem

July 11-20, 2016

Monday, July 11Arrival in San Jose

  • Introductory remarks and discussion

Tuesday, July 12Google and Computers

Wednesday, July 13Stanford and Design

  • Tour of the Stanford University campus
  • Talk by Thomas Baer, Executive Director of the Stanford Photonics Research Center, on “Science, Innovation, Stanford and Silicon Valley”
  • Discussion with Terry Winograd, professor of computer science and co-director of the Stanford Human-Computer Interaction Group
  • Workshop at the at Stanford

Thursday, July 14Mapping and Coffee

Friday, July 15Apple and Entrepreneurs

  • Visit: Helix in San Carlos and discussion with Knox College alumnus Akwasi Asabere
  • Lunch with John Gale, Lawrence University alumnus and former employee of Apple
  • Infinity Loop: key innovation sites
  • Workshop at Stanford, led by Lawrence University alumnus Will Meadows
  • Dinner hosted by Will Meadows

Saturday, July 16Innovation and the City

  • Exploring cultural themes in San Francisco, visiting sights including: Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, Castro district, City Lights Booksellers, the Presidio, Haight-Ashbury, and Golden State Park.

Sunday, July 17Mindfulness, Spirituality, Food

Monday, July 18Science in Silicon Valley

  • Visit: QB3@953, a science innovation incubator that offers laboratory space, services, and other assistance to biotech start-ups
  • Visit: Presentation software company Prezi
  • Visit: Sprig, which delivers freshly-cooked meals in San Francisco within 15-20 minutes

Tuesday, July 19Mechanics of Start-Ups

  • Visit: Band of Angels, Silicon Valley’s oldest seed funding organization
  • Conversation with Larry Kelly of Band of Angels

Wednesday, July 20Berkeley and the Hololens

  • Visit and discussion with Ikhlaq Sidhu, Chief Scientist and Founding Director of the University of California-Berkeley’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology
  • Discussion with technology and virtual reality visionary Jaron Lanier, including a demonstration of the Microsoft Hololens, a virtual reality headset

Seminar Proposal

Silicon Valley, Innovation, and the Liberal Arts

Liberal arts as a necessary partner in effective innovation

During his keynote speech introducing the iPad2, Steve Jobs returned to a point he often made: “Technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, with the humanities, that yields the results that make our heart sing.” Behind him was an image of two street signs, pictorially informing us that Apple sees itself at the intersection of Technology and Liberal Arts. Jobs credited his time at Reed College in Portland with allowing him to explore diverse topics such as calligraphy that allowed him to imagine what came to be the personal computer.

Steve Jobs stands as one of the archetypal innovation stories to arise from Silicon Valley, yet he looked to the liberal arts as a necessary partner in effective innovation. Silicon Valley has become an evolving innovation ecosystem: a cluster of institutions, individuals and organizations located within a specific region that facilitates innovation through cultural, economic, and networking assets. As suggested by Steve Jobs, Silicon Valley thrives on the marriage of technology and core liberal arts values, such as interdisciplinary approaches, critical thinking, and passionate but reasoned debate and discussion.

This ecosystem of innovation is envied and emulated all over the world, but Silicon Valley remains the most successful example of its kind by many measures, such as employment in the tech industry, patent generation, and attracting venture capital. Innovation is in the cultural DNA of Silicon Valley, and educational institutions, especially Stanford University, play a central role in shaping that culture.

Understanding the innovation ecosystem

The SAIL seminar designed by Lawrence University faculty members Adam Galambos, David Hall, and Martyn Smith aims first of all to explore and understand the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem, especially with regard to its connection with the liberal arts. A second and equally important goal of the seminar is to bring back to our home institutions some of the practices of innovation encountered in Silicon Valley. Some of these insights will influence our research or how we do research, while other insights will affect what and how we teach.

The daily activities planned for our seminar will be centered around site visitations to the institutions that make up this innovation ecosystem. The visitations will range from the large campuses of major companies such as Apple, Google, Genentech and Pixar to the more modest headquarters of recent startups such as Coursera, and from the campus and science labs of Stanford University to sites of modern spiritual exploration such as the Shambhala Meditation Center. In addition to site visits we will meet with alumni from Lawrence and other ACM colleges so that we can hear from them about how their education prepared them (or didn’t) for a career in Silicon Valley.

Innovation in Silicon Valley has changed our world in many ways. We will set out to understand this major force shaping our world — a force that has fundamental connections to liberal arts. All of our colleagues know about the changes and disruptions that have emanated from Silicon Valley and transformed elements of our world. This seminar offers a chance for faculty to have a closer engagement with developments and ways of thinking that might otherwise seem quite distant. We believe that getting to know Silicon Valley from a variety of angles will allow our teams to think in new ways about education at our liberal arts campuses.

Bringing insights and practices home

Faculty in each discipline will find common ground over questions as to whether and how higher education should change. Participants will encounter novel ways to arrange research space, to establish creative cognitive habits, to encourage interdisciplinary sharing and new ideas as to how to harness technology in the classroom.

At every new site we will try to understand whether features of the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem could be useful at our universities, and if so, how these features might be introduced to our campuses. No doubt we will also encounter values and ways of innovation that do not fit within the liberal arts context, and these negative lessons will be a part of the experience for participants.

In addition, our seminar will directly address a criticism of liberal arts colleges that surfaces regularly: we do not prepare students sufficiently for their lives after college. As faculty we live and breathe liberal arts ideals, but we also hope to prepare them for lives of fulfillment in a rapidly changing world.

It is our belief that a liberal arts education fosters cognitive habits that prepare students for a life of achievement. One unique aspect of this seminar is the time we will take to meet with alumni from our campuses who now work in Silicon Valley. These alumni will give us insight into how a liberal arts education has led to positive results in this innovation ecosystem.

Students at our ACM institutions have a natural affinity for this seminar topic. First, the cultural and economic impact of Silicon Valley is a major point of fascination for them. In addition, many of our students are interested in developing the kind of creative, innovative mindset that we associate closely with Silicon Valley.

Quite a few of our students wish to relocate after graduating from our institutions to places that can be described as an ecosystem of innovation (such as Madison, Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston, or Silicon Valley itself), and foresee a career developed in this type of environment. By no means does that always mean a career in technology, but rather working within this ecosystem that is composed of corporations, start-ups, NGOs, universities, independent culture-producers, and government agencies.

As faculty participants bring modules on innovation or the cultural history of technology back to their home campuses (one of our proposals for this seminar), students will gain entry to the ideas and experiences of this seminar.

2015 Seminar: Sustainability on the Margins: Investigating Adaptation and Change in Jordan

Group on site tour in Jordan
Touring the Citadel historic site in Amman, Jordan.

On-site portion of the seminar: July 20-30, 2015

The fourth SAIL seminar, led by three professors from Knox College with participation by three-person teams of faculty from four other ACM colleges, drew on a variety of disciplinary perspectives to examine how issues of sustainability, broadly conceived, have shaped the peoples and places of Jordan.

Building on their experience together at an intensive, on-site seminar in Jordan during summer 2015, seminar participants have created new, multidisciplinary learning opportunities on their campuses for students at advanced levels.

The seminar topic was developed by the leadership team and all seminar participants were selected by the SAIL Steering Committee through a competitive process.

Seminar Overview

The Sustainability on the Margins seminar focused on the questions: “What do sustainable environmental, cultural, and political practices look like? What are unsustainable practices? How do we engage students in the task of understanding the consequences – immediate and long-term – of decisions made about global resources and of prioritizing competing claims over them?”

The seminar explored these questions in Jordan, where modern and historical groups have struggled to create and maintain sustainable societies. Jordan is a particularly rich place in which to explore the topic of sustainability because it faces ongoing threats to its environment, government, and heritage.

The seminar leaders drew on their disciplinary backgrounds in environmental science, history and classics, and political science to encourage participants to consider the example of the various issues of sustainability that have confronted Jordan throughout its history and that continue to challenge Jordanian society in the modern era.

Seminar participants examined:

  • The natural environment and its effects on human populations from antiquity to the modern day;
  • Responses to economic challenges in the age of global capitalism;
  • Responses to political challenges in the context of resource scarcity, conflict and refugee flows;
  • The role of cultural institutions, such as art and religion, in sustaining human groups historically; and
  • The connections and productive tensions created by the intersections of these topics.

The on-site portion of the seminar in Jordan focused on several case studies in sustainability and made use of opportunities to engage with local experts and government officials. Trips outside of Amman ranged from the wetland at Azraq to the archaeological site of the ancient city of Petra to the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh Ecopark.

Site visits, preparatory readings, and seminar discussions explored sociocultural, historical, and environmental topics. Such a broadly constructed notion of “sustainability” facilitated multidisciplinary discussion about the competing demands on limited resources that students face in life beyond the classroom.

Anchored by the topic of sustainability, the seminar was designed to aid in the development of new interdisciplinary courses and of interdisciplinary components of existing upper-level courses that emphasize problem solving, informed decision-making, and the creation of an active, engaged citizenry capable of making responsible resource choices in a complicated, globally-connected world.

group walking on sandstone path in Petra
Visiting the ancient city of Petra

Seminar Participants

Leadership Team

Katherine A. Adelsberger

The Douglas and Maria Bayer Endowed Chair in Earth Science, Knox College

Katherine Adelsberger
Katherine Adelsberger

Katherine Adelsberger has led off-campus courses in archaeology and geology for ten years, including field schools, study abroad experiences and environmental tours. Her field-based research has focused most recently on North Africa and the Middle East, and she has completed a research fellowship in Amman through the American Schools of Oriental Research in addition to spending several summers on site in Jordan.

She is interested in the geologic side of human-environment interactions. As a geoarchaeologist, she looks at site formation and the taphonomic processes acting on archaeological sites, and also wants to identify the larger-scale paleoenvironmental conditions present during human history and determine how (and whether) societies reacted or adapted to environmental change. Her recent work has focused specifically on understanding desert pavement development, identifying spring deposits and tracking the paleochannels of ancient river systems.

Teaching interests: Geoarchaeology, paleoenvironmental reconstruction, and geographic information systems.

Katherine Adelsberger’s faculty profile

Daniel Beers

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Knox College

Daniel Beers
Daniel Beers

Daniel Beers’ research and teaching focus on understanding how the processes of democratization and development in politically transitioning states work, and how international actors and non-governmental organizations may influence them.

He has extensive international fieldwork experience in developing countries including Haiti, Ukraine, and Romania (where he spent 12 months as a Fulbright-Hays scholar). He has led students in site-specific international travel to Berlin and Istanbul, and participated in the recent ACM site visit to Botswana, where he hopes to serve as a future site director.

More recently, he has become increasingly interested in the role of international organizations in other parts of the developing world, and is currently working on a new project investigating models of foreign aid delivery and implementation in post-earthquake Haiti.

Teaching interests: Comparative politics, democratization, international development, Russian and East European politics, European integration, foreign aid, NGOs, democracy promotion.

Daniel Beers’ faculty profile

Danielle Steen Fatkin

Assistant Professor of History, Knox College

Danielle Steen Fatkin
Danielle Steen Fatkin

Danielle Fatkin has led several off-campus courses in archaeology and history, including field schools in Jordan. She first worked in the region in 1996 and has worked in Jordan since 2004.

In addition to scholarship on the Roman and Byzantine Near East, she has published articles dealing with the issue of cultural heritage management in Jordan and Israel.

Teaching interests: Roman archaeology and history, theory of archaeological and historical methods, Roman religions (especially Second Temple Judaism), cultural heritage management, comparative study of empires.

Danielle Fatkin’s faculty profile


Multidisciplinary, three-person faculty teams from ACM colleges were chosen by the SAIL selection committee through a competitive process. Participants utilized their learning in the on-site portion of the seminar in summer 2015 to design and test multidisciplinary curricular innovations for upper-level students on their home campuses in academic year 2015-16.

Faculty marked with * are members of the leadership team.

Coe College

Cornell College

Knox College

Macalester College

St. Olaf College

Exploring Sustainability in Jordan

Published: July 11, 2015

More than 2,500 years ago, residents of the ancient city of Petra built a sophisticated water management system that sustained a thriving center of commerce in the rocky desert of what is now Jordan.

Today, Petra is an archaeological gem and a World Heritage Site. The designation has spurred a rush of economic development and tourism, which in turn is putting environmental pressure on the fragile structures at the site and displacing local residents who have lived in the area for generations.

How can Jordanians sustain the rich cultural heritage of Petra while addressing current economic and social needs and realities? More broadly, what do sustainable environmental, cultural, and political practices look like?

Those are among the questions that 15 faculty from five ACM colleges will explore this summer in Jordan, a place where people have struggled throughout history to create and maintain sustainable societies in the face of ongoing challenges that continue to the present day.

A learning community in a compelling location

The faculty are participating in the 2015 SAIL professional development seminar, titled Sustainability on the Margins. On July 20-30 they will travel to Jordan’s capital city of Amman, where their itinerary will be packed with visits to sites such as Petra, along with lectures by experts, and discussions with staff from NGOs, government officials, and local residents.

This is the fourth in a series of five Seminars in Advanced Interdisciplinary Learning (SAIL) supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program is designed to build a multi-disciplinary learning community of ACM faculty who explore a broad, compelling topic at a location that provides rich resources for study, and then use that experience as a foundation to create new curricular materials that emphasize advanced, interdisciplinary analysis and problem-solving.

The topic and syllabus have been developed by three Knox College professors who comprise the seminar’s leadership team: Katherine Adelsberger (environmental studies), Daniel Beers (political science), and Danielle Fatkin (history). They will lead most site visits and discussions, with contributions from the other seminar participants from Coe, Cornell, Macalester, and St. Olaf Colleges.

The seminar will address the overarching theme of sustainability by focusing on issues related to water resources, cultural heritage, and refugees – issues that correspond to the expertise and research interests that Adelsberger, Beers, and Fatkin bring to the project.

In the weeks leading up to their departure, the faculty have engaged in online discussions of readings and resources compiled by the leaders. “We’re trying to get the ball rolling with readings that we think would be useful, either as background [for the site visits] or in the future as readings for the upper-level undergraduate students that the course development is aimed at,” said Fatkin.

Once the group arrives in Jordan, more than a dozen site visits are lined up, including:

  • Quseir Amra, a World Heritage Site that includes an early Islamic bathhouse built in the 8th century and elaborately decorated with beautiful fresco paintings influenced by Roman and Byzantine art motifs. An expert on Islamic art will give a talk about the cultural significance of the frescos and the group will also consider how the water management for the complex has been sustained in its desert location over time.

  • A rural village with a large population of refugees, where the group will meet and have lunch with members of the community, and a site visit in Amman to the Collateral Repair Project, an organization that has worked with successive waves of refugees, including Palestinians, Iraqis, and Syrians.
  • The Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark (SHE) in the Jordan River Valley, to learn about efforts to rehabilitate and preserve ecological habitats through sustainable development and ecotourism.

“The point of these SAIL seminars is to develop teaching materials, modules, courses,” Adelsberger noted. “We’re going to try to facilitate that [during our time in Jordan] with some activities where we’re thinking about syllabi and about how this material can be used in a classroom.”

Broad impact on courses, teaching, and research

As part of the SAIL application process, the faculty proposed curricular projects that they plan to work on when they return from Jordan. Comments from the leaders show how the seminar can have a broader impact on the participants’ teaching and research agendas.

Participating in the SAIL seminar is giving Beers the opportunity to expand his knowledge of the Middle East, an area that is crucial to international politics and currently at the forefront of students’ interests. He sees the current refugee crisis in Jordan as an excellent case study to use for a project he assigns in an international development class.

“For that project, the students are researching and finding their own resources on a problem that is perplexing policy-makers at the moment,” he explained, “so information changes and they can find new data that I don’t even have. I think it adds a sense of urgency and a certain element of realism to the case study that I think has been really effective.”

“This seminar has helped me understand better what’s happening [in the Middle East] and make connections to other parts of the world where I have more expertise,” Beers noted. “It’s been really helpful for my development as a scholar.”

Adelsberger aims to engage her students with the complexity of Jordan’s thorny water-related issues through case study modules in her course on hydrology and other courses that deal with research use.

The seminar group will visit the Azraq Wetland Reserve (above) which has undergone dramatic ecological change as water has been pumped from it to supply Amman.

Often there simply are not many, or even any, good solutions to water scarcity in Jordan, and the lack of water places constant stress on the country and its people, she said. “Specifically, I’ll be talking [in my courses] about the reasons for those stresses and how that plays out on the ground in terms of politics and decision-making in the governmental sectors.”

According to Fatkin, working on the SAIL seminar has been an opportunity “to integrate my research into my teaching more, to really think through how I incorporate my research into my pedagogy and make those connections more direct.”

For a seminar she teaches on Roman imperialism, she plans to examine how ancient people in the area that is now Jordan applied engineering techniques to solve local environmental problems and how, in turn, the Roman Empire facilitated the spread of those technologies.

In addition, Fatkin said, “One of the things that we’ll be doing [in Jordan] is thinking through how we balance often opposing priorities in terms of sustainability – the human factor versus the cultural resource factor…. The work I’m doing with cultural resource management will help feed into a new museum studies program that we’re building at Knox, [especially in] the ethics of collecting and finding cultural resources and how that fits into preservation in a museum setting.”

2014 Seminar: Contested Spaces in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado

Hogs555, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

On-site seminar: June 20-30, 2014

The Contested Spaces seminar brought faculty together in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado to engage in multidisciplinary exploration of environmental and land stewardship issues by exploring geographical and ideological “contested spaces,” with a focus on contemplation and mindfulness. Faculty used this on-site experience to develop curricular innovations that foster multidisciplinary learning by advanced undergraduates.

On-site Seminar Overview

In the on-site portion of the Contested Spaces seminar, faculty examined environmental and land stewardship issues while exploring its application to reflective judgment, i.e. the ability to commit to decisions in the face of uncertainty.

The on-site seminar was structured around a variety of regional learning expeditions — in-depth investigations of actual contested spaces through applied fieldwork and service. These expeditions served as models for participants to develop their own case study expeditions during the on-site seminar and afterwards for advanced undergraduates on their home campus.

colorado lakeThe focus on developing reflective judgment through contemplative activities was a key feature of the seminar. In a July 2013 article in The Chronicle Review, William Eaton argues that immersion in nature — fostering modes of contemplative experience free of interpretation and theory — is essential to nurturing innovation in theoretical and interpretive endeavors. Contemplative activities enriched the seminar’s multidisciplinary investigations and deepened participants’ connections with nature.

During the on-site seminar, participants were based at the 9500 ft. Catamount Mountain Campus, an independent field station in Woodland Park, CO, just 20 miles from downtown Colorado Springs. The 177-acre site, surrounded by more than 200,000 acres of protected land, offers an exceptional setting for contemplative work and a central location for gaining access to numerous learning expedition sites.

  • For more information about the context and theory behind this seminar, read an excerpt from the seminar proposal (pdf).

Seminar Participants


The 2014 SAIL leadership team provided the intellectual leadership for the seminar during its residency at the Catamount Mountain Campus and worked with other participants to organize the seminar design and implement activities.

Howard Drossman
Howard Drossman

Howard Drossman has held appointments in the Chemistry Department, Environmental Program and Education Department at Colorado College where he directed the Environmental Program from 2000-2007. Howard’s work in environmental science focuses on systems perspectives of ecology and biogeochemical cycling while his work in environmental education focuses on developing methods to assess whether interdisciplinary conceptions of stewardship promote students’ abilities in mindfulness, reflective judgment and integral thinking. Howard is currently developing a Semester in Environmental Education (SEE) Program, a residential fall semester undergraduate program at the Catamount Mountain Campus dedicated to new approaches to assessing and improving outdoor environmental education programs for K-12 students.

Donna McMillan
Donna McMillan

Donna McMillan is the Chair of the St. Olaf Psychology Department where she has taught since 1994. Donna has long-standing interests in contemplative approaches to the environment. Donna’s work in clinical psychology and environmental psychology addresses the intersection of stewardship from the perspectives of spirit and science. Donna has taught Ecopsychology as a visiting professor at Colorado College, and she teaches a St. Olaf College January-term off-campus course at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado focused on the psychological significance of the natural world. Her research explores subjective experience and meanings found in nature.

Jonathan Lee
Jonathan Lee

Jonathan Lee has devoted much of his career in the ACM — first at Knox College and then at Colorado College — to pursuing for himself and nurturing in his colleagues a devotion to student-centered teaching and learning. Central to his vision of education are wide-ranging class discussions and regular, intensive writing assignments that combine rigorous intellectual analysis with creative and personal reflection. Jonathan’s work in philosophy looks at how the discipline helps frame connections and promotes dialogue across the different epistemological and cultural traditions. His interest in questions of education, grounded in history and culture, provides depth to the team’s perspective on reflective judgment. More generally, his work focuses on the role of subjectivity and its relation to the social, the scientific, and the spiritual domains.


Multidisciplinary, three-person faculty teams from ACM colleges were chosen by the SAIL selection committee through a competitive process. Participants are utilizing their learning in the seminar to design and test multidisciplinary curricular innovations for upper-level students on their home campuses in academic year 2014-15.

Faculty marked with * are members of the leadership team.

Colorado College
Beloit College
  • Chris Fink, Associate Professor of English
  • Jo Ortel, Professor of Art History
  • Pablo Toral, Associate Professor of International Relations
Carleton College
Coe College
St. Olaf College
  • Mark Allister, Professor of English, Environmental Studies, and American Studies
  • * Donna McMillan, Associate Professor of Psychology
  • Matthew Rohn, Associate Professor of Art History and American Studies

2014 Seminar – Curricular Projects

In the 2014-15 academic year following the on-site portion of the Contested Spaces seminar, participants drew from the seminar content and structure to develop innovative, multidisciplinary courses, sequences, modules, exercises, or lesson plans.

Scroll down for full details on the curricular projects submitted by participants in the Contested Spaces seminar.

Beloit College

How to Talk Midwestern

Chris Fink
Professor, Beloit College


Unlike other regions of the country, the Midwest is often described as an “anti-region.” What, in fact, is the Midwest? What are the defining features of its landscape? Are its citizens and its art somehow recognizable as Midwestern?

This course will interrogate the concept of a Midwest aesthetic or sensibility by examining works of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction by writers and artists creating art from and about the Midwest. Many of these works will have an eco-focus that directly addresses the Midwestern landscape. Besides reading, discussing and interpreting the Midwestern-themed works on the syllabus, students in the class will create (and revise through peer workshops) their own creative works of Midwest-inspired art to reveal what the Midwest has come to mean to them personally.

Keywords: Creative Writing; Environmental Studies; Midwestern Literature; Sense of Place

Note: Content adapted from the curricular project


“How to Talk Midwestern” is junior/senior level course for English or Environmental Studies designed to help students think creatively and critically about what it means to be a Midwesterner. It fulfills Beloit College’s capstone requirement in English. The prerequisite for the course is ENGL 190: Introduction to Literary Study.


Updated Feb 17, 2017

Content/Concepts Goals

To interrogate the two questions: Is there a distinct Midwestness? How is it revealed in art?

To test the hypotheses: that “local knowledge is global knowledge,” and that “people who root themselves in places are likely to know and care about those places.” (Sanders, Scott Russell. Staying Put)

Higher order thinking skills goals

Students will

  • Learn workshop pedagogy to improve their work and their classmates’ work through disciplined yet generous group critique
  • Compose their own creative works in at least two genres, including poetry


Updated Feb 17, 2017

Patch of Earth Project & A Midwest Journal

While scientists use quadrats to count and measure species within the quadrat, students in the course will include themselves, as observers and members of the biotic community, as objects of study within the quadrat. Students will create a plot (or quadrat) and map out, mark and “inhabit” their own little patch of the Midwest. They will record their data, observations, and analysis from their “Patch of “Earth” in a notebook called “A Midwest Journal.”

  • Students will create at least one visual project for the class, which will include a physical map of emotional terrain
  • Fieldwork component includes two field trips to regional literary/ecological sites
    • Aldo Leopold’s shack near Baraboo
    • Lorine Niedecker’s cabin near Fort Atkinson

At least two trips to the College’s Liberal Arts in Practice Center will help students reflect on their liberal arts education at Beloit in preparation for graduation.

Dissemination Strategies

Teaching Notes

This was what I call a “thesis seeking” class in which I posed a question—Is there a Midwest aesthetic?—and then the class sought to answer the question. This was a useful approach. Students were very engaged with the course topic and they felt a strong sense of ownership for it, at least in my estimation.  At least a few times during the semester, we would step back from the texts and take a wide-angle look at the question, putting our findings on the board to share and discuss.

This was a new course for me, so a few of the interdisciplinary course projects, such as the “Patch of Earth Project” were assignments that I designed for the first time. I taught the course in the spring semester, and the weather in Beloit was terrible through the first week and March. We had one of the coldest Februaries on record, along with above-average snowfall. This dampened or otherwise chilled the class enthusiasm for sitting and note-take in their plots. Also, I taught the course at night, which made it difficult for me to visit the plots with the students. These two variables combined to make this assignment less productive than it could have been. Also, one of my visions for the capstone class was to have students more responsible for class activities, including some of the content. We began each class with a student presentation on a Midwestern artist or writer of their choosing who was not on the syllabus.  In this way, I hoped to broaden the “reading list.” This part of the class was a bit diffuse, and we didn’t have time to adequately (in my opinion) correlate these presentations with the other course material. In the future, I would drop or alter this requirement.

Finally, while most students were quite receptive to the class content and approaches, at least a couple of the students were resistant to the course’s local/regional/rural focus; they took the course to fulfill the capstone requirement and not because they were drawn to the description.

Resources and Materials

ENG 310-01: How to Talk Midwestern Syllabus

How to Talk Midwestern: A talk about a class (Syllabus PowerPoint)

How to Talk Midwestern: A lecture on a class (YouTube Live-Stream)

Required Texts

Anderson, Sherwood. Winesburg, Ohio. Norton Critical Edition.

Blaeser, Kim. Absentee Indians. Michigan State University.

Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine. Harper Perennial

Leopold, Aldo. Sand County Almanac. Oxford.

Porcellino, John. Map of My Heart. Drawn and Quarterly.



To prepare for visit to Lorine Niedecker’s cabin:

Immortal Cupboard: In Search of Lorine Niedecker (2009) Cathy Cook

To prepare for the visit to the Aldo Leopold Foundation:

Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time (2011) Aldo Leopold Foundation

Outcomes and Significance


The primary course assessment was the peer workshop. Students turn in their written work to their peers, as well as their professor, one class prior to the workshop date. Then the workshop itself is a full half hour peer critique of the manuscript. Besides the oral critiques, the class provides a thorough narrative evaluation of each work before the workshop begins.

Students then revise their major works and resubmit in a final portfolio. At that point I read the revised works and once again provide a narrative assessment of the revisions.

I assessed the Midwest Journal by collecting it at various points in the semester just to see if the students were keeping up. Other than occasional marginal comments, I don’t provide a narrative assessment of student journals.

During individual student conferences, I provided oral assessments of their class presentations and class citizenship. I also included individual revision strategies clarified any confusion about narrative assessments students had received.

Nature at the Confluence

Jo Ortel
Professor of Art History, Beloit College

Using the Lessons of Integral Ecology in the Creation and Implementation of a Student Final Project Assignment

I developed “Nature at the Confluence” a final project assignment for a relatively new course I teach, “Contemporary Art in an Age of Global Warming.” The assignment asks students to work in teams to develop and present proposals for future environmental art initiatives for a 34-acre site, which city of Beloit planners hope eventually to turn into a “destination, nature-based, public open space.” The site, at the confluence of Turtle Creek and the Rock River in South Beloit, is currently bisected by active railroad lines, inhabited by a significant transient population, and contaminated with industrial waste. A series of in-class guest lectures help students gain familiarity with the site from multiple angles, while classes on the history of environmental art (c. 1960 to the present) help students imagine a range of “artistic” solutions and a rubric for assessing the success/failure of environmental art initiatives.


Nature at the Confluence

“Nature at the Confluence” is the culminating final project assignment for students enrolled in “Contemporary Art/Age of Global Warming” an intermediate-level course that asks what role art can play in solving current environmental challenges. In the course, we explore artist-based perspectives on building a more sustainable future – new and exciting territory where the very purpose and practice of art is being redefined. We examine many facets of contemporary art and environmental issues. Through historic and contemporary readings, field trips and hands-on labs and fieldwork, we consider artists’ initiatives within the context and history of environmental thought, and from the perspective of environmental politics. The course is an elective for art history and environmental studies majors. Enrolled students typically have taken at least one course in art, art history, or environmental studies.

In the spirit of integral ecology, I arrange and schedule a series of guest talks and field trips that “unfold” over the course of the entire semester. Designed to help students understand the site from a variety of angles (the four quadrants) and disciplinary perspectives, these include a slide talk by the program manager of the design firm working with the city of Beloit, and talks by historians, botanists and geologists familiar with the region who spoke about the physical and historical dimensions of the site and surrounding environs. The class also embarks on field trips: for example, we go with a renowned Wisconsin sculptor (and member of the Ho-Chunk Nation) to the site itself to consider the aesthetic and spatial “resonance” of the site. We visit the Beloit College Archives to study the history of the city’s founding, and we travel to Buffalo Rock State Park in LaSalle Country, Illinois, to view renowned artist Michael Heizer’s Effigy Tumuli, a series of earthworks commissioned in the 1980s for a contaminated site on the bluffs above the Illinois River. Currently owned and maintained by Illinois State Park system, Effigy Tumuli is widely considered a failed work of public and environmental art. Its troubled history and relationship to the local community inform students’ thinking for their own proposals for the Beloit site.


Updated Mar 25, 2016

Content/Concepts Goals

  • Exploration of the concepts of “public art” and “environmental art.”
  • Exploration of the concepts of “brown fields,” “remediation,” and “open spaces.”

As evidence of learning, I use students’ final projects and their presentations; incorporation in their presentations of the works of public and environmental art that served as inspiration for their projects; and students’ ability to articulate the particular social and environmental challenges that the Beloit site presents. I also invited a professor of political science, the College’s Sustainability Coordinator, and former students in this class to serve as an external review board; their comments and questions to each team further enabled me to assess students’ learning.

Higher Order Thinking Goals

  • Reflection on the value (and obstacles) of inter- and multi-disciplinary collaboration for creative problem solving, particularly for environmental quagmires.
  • Reflection on the “real-world” physical, social and ethical challenges facing environmentalists and artists creating environmental and/or public art initiatives.
  • Reflection on the relationship between theory and praxis.
  • Reflection on best practices for the promotion and advancement of ideas in the public arena.

Again, evidence of learning is drawn from students’ final presentations and projects. For their final presentations, students are required to find effective means of visual and verbal communication, and to cultivate their powers of persuasion to make a compelling case to an audience comprised of both academics and non-academics.

Multidisciplinary Analysis

  • My primary goal is to encourage and develop a kind of “intuitive” integral ecology approach to environmental (and “artful”) problem-solving — to instill in students a sensitivity to and awareness of the four “quadrants” of integral ecology – without using confusing, distracting jargon.
  • Additionally, my goal is for students to connect theory (and history) with practice, through experiential – and localized – learning. The assignment ensures that the abstract ideas and environmental art initiatives we study in the classroom can be assessed, applied (or discarded) and considered in relation to a very immediate, real-life, real-time and local example.


Updated Mar 25, 2016

Final Project Assignment – “Nature at the Confluence”

Develop and present a proposal for a future environmental art initiative for the Beloit “Nature at the Confluence” site. The initiative your team proposes may take any form. Guest lectures in class will help you gain familiarity with the site from multiple angles. Classes on the history of environmental art will help you imagine the range of “artistic” solutions, and develop a rubric for assessing the success/failure of environmental art initiatives.

How to begin? You might find you are inspired by something in/on the site itself. Or there may be an environmental concern in/on the site that warrants attention. Your team may decide to focus on the site’s rich natural and/or human history, or you may be excited by the possibilities the site holds for communities of potential users and/or for future generations.

As your team develops its ideas, you will consult with key faculty and others, to explore (and ensure) the suitability, feasibility and sustainability of your proposed art initiative. Your final proposal may take any form (e.g., drawing or three-dimensional model, powerpoint, photos, website). Ideally, your design will be constructible, but theoretical designs will also be accepted. (We will discuss as a class whether to impose budgetary constraints.)

Your team will present the final proposal to a panel of your peers and outside evaluators in a 15-minute oral in-class presentation during the week of Dec. 1. The goal is to entice your audience and help potential “clients” see the sustainability, feasibility, suitability, and desirability of your art initiative for “Nature at the Confluence.” In the oral presentation, you will describe your proposal in terms of 1.) what it is and where it is to be located; 2.) how it will be made and installed; 3.) its environmental objectives. You will also explain it in terms of 4.) who the potential “users” of your project will be, how your initiative will enable or enhance their experiences and how it will impact other non-targeted potential users of the Confluence site; 5.) how it links to the historical and/or cultural context of the site. 6.) You should also be prepared to explain the science behind your initiative, and/or the ways in which your project crosses disciplinary borders and fosters interdisciplinary approaches to environmental problem-solving. 7.) Finally, you will want to address the ethical implications (or ramifications) of your proposed environmental art initiative.

Resources and Materials

Sean Esbjorn-Hargens and Michael E. Zimmerman, “An Overview of Integral Ecology: A Comprehensive Approach to Today’s Complex Planetary Issues,” Integral Institute, Resource Paper No. 2, March 2009, pp. 1-14.

Ann T. Rosenthal, “Teaching Systems Thinking and Practice through Environmental Art,” Ethics and the Environment, 8 (1), 2001, pp. 153-168.

Global Political Ecology

Pablo Toral
Associate Professor, Beloit College
International Relations, Environmental Studies

Ecological Worldviews Module

My goal was to develop a module in a course called Global Political Ecology (GPE) to help the students reflect on their relationship with the environment. GPE, offered every fall semester, takes an interdisciplinary approach to teach students how to integrate methods from different disciplines when they study environmental topics. The course focused on methods and content from the natural sciences and the social sciences, mostly economics, political science and sociology.

The SAIL workshop introduced me to new terminology, methods and resources from the humanities that helped me develop a full module on ecological worldviews. After the workshop, methods and perspectives from the arts, humanities, and ethics were introduced into the course as well. This new module introduces the students to ways of inquiry grounded in the arts and the humanities to facilitate a reflection on ways of knowing the environment and our personal relationship with it.

This module helps the students engage the following:

  • Different ecological worldviews
  • How to interrogate the students’ own relationship to the environment
  • How to develop the students’ own ecological worldview

What ethical considerations do these ecological worldviews entail


Global Political Ecology (GPE) is an elective for international relations, political science and environmental studies majors.

The only prerequisite is a 100-level political science course to make sure the students are familiar with methods of social inquiry. The prerequisite can be waived if the students have taken an equivalent course. There are no prerequisite skills students must master in this course to complete this module successfully. Rather, the module introduces new skills.

This module is a stand-alone section that takes place during the last four weeks of the semester. By then the students are familiar with environmental law and policy at different levels of analysis, from the local to the international.


Updated Feb 22, 2017

Content/ Concepts Goals

Introduction to the concept of “ecological worldviews”. I use as evidence of learning the students’ ability to articulate the main values/principles of each worldview and to contrast them.

Higher Order Thinking Skills Goals

Familiarity with some of the tools developed in the humanities to study the environment and interrogate our relationship with it. Introduction of the “I” subject in the analysis.

Reflection on the ethical implications of our engagement with the environment.

Reflection on the relationship between knowledge production and normativity. The module helps the students understand the difference between interpretive theory and normative theory.

Multidisciplinary Analysis

The students will understand how methods and knowledge developed in different disciplines (in the case of this module in the humanities) can contribute to a more holistic understanding of environmental issues and, particularly, to our role both as students and agents of the environment. Assessment of learning is based on the students’ addition of ethics to their analysis of environmental issues.


Updated Feb 22, 2017

Activism on Campus Project

Develop, implement, and assess a plan to make our campus more sustainable. (Prospectus, Action Plan, Final Presentation). The main goal of the project is to get the college to institutionalize green practices.

Internship/Consulting Report

Students work in teams for an organization that is conducting a project on an environmental issue.

  • Learn how to write a consulting report
  • Learn what it’s like to work as a consultant
  • Develop teamwork skills
  • Sharpen research and writing skills
Climate Change Simulation

The class will simulate a UNFCCC/COP Conference, to formulate a resolution to inspire a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expired at the end of 2012. The main goal is to help students understand the challenges of collective decision-making by participating in a simulation of an international summit.

Final Essay

A five-page essay that articulates students’ own ecological worldviews. The main goals of this essay are to reflect on your own relationship with nature and facilitate an ethical analysis of topics covered in the course.

Dissemination Strategies

This module comprises the last four weeks of the semester (Week 12 through Week 15).

Week 12

The idea of wilderness

Main goal: To help students learn how understandings of societies’ relation to nature are rooted in their philosophical traditions. To illustrate this, engage in a sort of “archeology of knowledge” assignment to learn how contemporary Western understandings of nature-society relations evolved through the agricultural revolution, Ancient Greece, Judeo-Christian myths and the scientific revolution. The students learn that people’s understanding of society’s relations to the environment are culturally and historically contingent.

Reading: Max Oelschlaeger, “Ancient Mediterranean Ideas of Humankind and Nature” and “The Alchemy of Modernism” in Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1991.

Week 13

Ecological Worldviews

Once we have problematized our own society’s understanding of its relationship with nature the students are ready to learn about alternative conceptions. The readings this week introduce the students to contemporary mainstream ecological worldviews such as utilitarian ecologies and conservationism, but also to alternatives, including authoritarian ecology, misanthropic ecology, ecofeminism, radical ecology, deep ecology, social ecology, and ecosocialism. The students learn that there are many alternative ways to relate to the environment.

Reading: Leferrière and Stoett, “Ecological Thought. A Synopsis”. In Eric Leferrière and Peter J. Stoett, International Relations Theory and Ecological Thought, London, Routledge, 1999, chapter 2. Vandana Shiva, Making Peace with Earth. New Delhi (India): Women Unlimited.

Week 14

Building an ecological worldview

Now that students know different ecological worldviews, Beloit College colleagues Chris Fink (English) and Jo Ortel (Art History) are invited to illustrate how different artists reflect on their own relation to the environment. Chris Fink reads some of his short stories about life in the rural Midwest and Jo Ortel shows us the work of artists who push us to think about our imprint on nature. Their presentations and ensuing discussions invite the students to start exploring their own understanding of society’s relationship to nature.

Reading: Chris Fink (2013), Farmers’ Almanac: a Work of Fiction. Emergency Press, New York.

Week 15

My own ecological worldview

Students are now ready to develop their own ecological worldview. During the last week of the semester the students think about and discuss their own understanding of society’s relation to the environment. They articulate their views in a final essay that works as the capstone assignment for the course.

Teaching Notes

I faced two main challenges when teaching this module in Fall 2014. The first one is my lack of expertise in the arts and the humanities. To ease my discomfort, I disclosed to students that I am also embarking on this project of self-understanding with them and that my role is facilitator. The process of analysis and deconstruction of the assigned texts is a collaborative in nature. The goal is to give everyone arguments they can use to later articulate their own ecological worldview.

The second challenge is how to push the students to articulate and share their own ecological worldview in class. Some of them feel uncomfortable because they see this process as a confession. To overcome this, I follow several strategies. During class we break up into small groups where some students feel more comfortable. We also summarize the main ideas behind each ecological worldview on the board and ask everyone to stand by the one that best matches their own. I also stand by one of them. To help them write their reflection essay, I ask them to build their ecological worldview on some of the arguments provided in the reading or by the guest speakers so that they can see the assignment as a literature review rather than a personal confession.

Resources and Materials

POLS 255-01 Global Political Ecology pdf

Fink, Chris (2013), “Farmers’ Almanac: A Work of Fiction”. Emergency Press, New York.

Leferrière, Eric and Peter J. Stoett (1999), International Relations Theory and Ecological Thought,London, Routledge.

Oelschlaeger, Max (1991) The Idea of Wilderness. New Haven, Yale University Press.

Shiva, Vandana (2012), Making Peace with the Earth. New Delhi (India): Women Unlimited.

Outcomes and Significance

Assessment is based on a final reflection essay in which the students articulate their ecological worldview by building on the readings included in this module. As they articulate their arguments they must reference material covered earlier in the semester (the course focuses on environmental law and policy). By doing this they ground their own thought on specific problems and evidence from current environmental problems and existing decision-making institutions. The assignment thus provides an excellent capstone to the entire course. (See Activities).

Carleton College

Critical Studies in Public Space

Ross Elfline
Associate Professor, Carleton College
Art, Art History

This introductory-level, five-week studio art course is intended to provide students a crash-course in the pragmatics and politics of architectural design, using the Carleton campus as a case study. To propose a solution to a persistent design problem on Carleton’s campus, students will work collaboratively in one of four dedicated research groups:

  • Campus History
  • Drawing and Model-building
  • Research and Interviews
  • Documentation

Through research into the competing and conflicting interests advanced by various campus constituencies, students will develop a physical plan for how to accommodate diverse design requirements.

Note: Content adapted from the curricular project.


This course does not have any prerequisites, but it is intended primarily for juniors and seniors. Advanced sophomore students will also be considered. At Carleton, all studio art courses are subject to an application process, every effort is given to achieve a diverse mix of students with different strengths. For example, some students with strong research skills may serve on the working group dedicated to Carleton’s history; strong studio art majors may find the model-making and drawing group to be a better fit.

The group of roughly 15 students will work in concert with an invited architect or designer who will oversee the project along with the professor.


Updated Feb 16, 2017

Content/Concepts Goals 

The goal of this course is to encourage students to think critically about the design of their physical environment and how it might be improved. Students will consider the competing interests whose needs and desires are brought to bear on the design of any building or environment.

Multidisciplinary Analysis 

It is important that students come away from the course learning that design today employs the expertise of sociologists, economists, ecologists, engineers, politicians, and architects alike. Students will thus learn how to:

  • Work as a team
  • Work across teams
  • Communicate across disciplinary boundaries and discourses
  • Synthesize the perspectives of multiple disciplines to produce the final project

Students will also learn some of the basics about museum gallery display. The results of the short course will be displayed publicly (ideally in the College’s art museum), and for this reason students will need to think carefully about what makes a “successful” exhibition.

Activities should play on students’ existing strengths and require them to work outside their comfort zones. Requiring all students to aid in the final model-making allows everyone to work with their hands. They will understand how the resulting structure functioned at the level of the engineering joint.

Dissemination Strategies

The final manual, produced by N55, the professor and the students, includes:

  • Overview of the project
  • Abstract of the underlying philosophy
  • History of the site under consideration
  • Research investigating user preferences
  • Series of proposals for the ultimate design

It was intended to clearly demonstrate the different components of a comprehensive design scheme that could be easily replicated and applied to a different area of campus design.

The design of the manual is left intentionally somewhat basic. This course used InDesign to produce the document, which was then exported as a PDF file to distribute multiple copies across campus.

Instructors should have relative fluency in design software. Thankfully, Carleton College has resources available to faculty to enroll in computer training programs.

In terms of the technical drawings that were used in the course, these were made available to us via the invited artists. N55 make all their creative materials available online, which can be downloaded and used in a version of this course.

Likewise, the built models, as well as a prototype for the ROOMCYCLE, were made available to us by N55 themselves. They provided the design files for the model components as well as the materials to build the ROOMCYCLE. Most all materials are easily available at any home improvement store (e.g. Menard’s). In future versions of the course, it is our intent to use these open-source manuals in a similar fashion.

Given the wide variety of designs available via N55’s website, and given that they are all universally available for common use, future versions of this course could cede some autonomy to the students to determine which of N55’s available designs is best suited for the design problem they are working on that term.

Resources and Materials

ARTS 185: Critical Studies in Public Space with N55 Syllabus

Developed collaboratively with N55 and Ross Elfline

The theory of “the commons” guides the entire course, as it provides a framework for thinking through how to negotiate multiple functions for a given site or building. Beyond its use value to architects and designers, this literature would also be useful to sociologists, political scientists, as well as others in the humanities.

An Architektur, “On the Commons: A Public Interview with Massimo De Angelis and Stavros Stavrides,” in E-flux 17 (June 2010).

Aureli, P.V.,“The Theology of Tabula Rasa: Walter Benjamin and Architecture in the Age of Precarity,” in Log 27  (Winter/Spring 2013): 111-127.

Aureli, P.V., The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2011).

Bailey, S., “Beyond Ownership – Governing the wealth of urban commons.” Public Lecture presented at the Commoning the City Conference, Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm, April 11, 2013.

Crary, J., 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep (New York: Verso, 2013).

Deutsche, Rosalyn. Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics. (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1996).

Fuller, R. B., Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Jamie Snyder, ed. (Baden, Switzerland: Lars Müller Publishers, 2008).

Helfrich, S. “Common Goods Don’t Simply Exist – They Are Created,” in The Wealth of the Commons – a World beyond Market & State, eds. D. Bollier and S. Helfrich (Amherst and Florence, MA: Levellers Press, 2012)

Negri, A. & Roche, F., “A Dialogue: Negri and Roche,” in Log 25 (Summer 2012): 104–17.

Pearce, P., Structure in Nature is a Strategy for Design (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1978).

Virno, P., A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2004).

Outcomes and Significance


Students are assessed similarly to the methods used for any Studio Art course, attending less to perfection or technical skill than to the arc of improvement over the course of the term. We want to see evidence that students were challenged to acquire new design and research skills. Due to the team-based nature of this work, each student will have to be assessed individually and on their own specific scale. Special emphasis is given to the student’s ability to work collaboratively in a team environment, and their grade will reflect their aptitude for generous collaboration.

Teaching Notes

The coordinator of the course will need to act as a mediator between several constituencies: students, invited architects, gallery director and staff, affiliated faculty in the department, PEPS (Presentation, Events, and Production Support), academic technologists, librarians, etc. The best advice is to act early to set up reasonable expectations for everyone involved.

Perhaps most importantly, though, it is crucial to check in with students to ensure that they are grasping the “big picture”, and not getting lost in the minutiae of their individual projects. The most successful days in the class were when we broke out of the scheduled work routine to discuss and debate the merits of the underlying philosophy of open-ended designing. We found late in the process that many students were put off by the idea of the public sphere as a “commons.”

While we found difference of opinion to be fruitful and energizing, we might have had a more successful enterprise if we made this philosophical questioning of public space and its uses a more integral part of the course.

Some possible solutions:

  • Incorporate a highly-focused discussion of selected readings into the first half hour of each class meeting (ideally with discussion questions emailed ahead of time).
  • Require students to post discussion questions to the course management site (Moodle) over the course of the term as well as respond to X number of questions posted by peers.
  • Schedule the course on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday to ensure more frequent meetings and sustained connection to the material. Fridays could be reserved as discussion days.

Very clear expectations should be established ahead of time with the invited designers. Members of N55 provided the lion’s share of the content, brought initial ideas to be fleshed out by students, and were well-versed in running short, workshop-style courses.

In the future we would like to be more deliberate and purposeful in coordinating this course with ENTS 288 (Environmental Studies 288: Abrupt Climate Change), taught by Trish Ferrett. This past year, students from ARTH 185 developed a plan for a given building, complete with working drawings, site plans, models, and materials specifications. Students in ENTS 288 then analyzed these documents to determine the ecological impact this building might have on the surrounding landscape and beyond.

By linking the two courses in a two-term sequence of classes (and with more lead time and conscious planning) we would have been able to coordinate a more robust and sustained experience for a greater number of students.

Coe College

Ebola in Contested Spaces

Maria Dean
Professor, Coe College


The Coe Team’s SAIL project is multi-pronged endeavor, consisting of both individual modules and a team-taught course offered during our institution’s May term. In this proposal, I will only speak to the individual module I am developing for my junior/senior-level course: CHM 575: Protein Biochemistry. I will be developing curricular resources for a module on “Ebola in Contested Spaces”.

This three-week module will take the place of normal lecture material that would cover the life cycle and explanation of different kinds of viruses. This module will combine lecture with seminar-style discussions based on papers in the current literature covering causes, cures, spread, treatments, politics, and social pressures. It will also approach the spread of Ebola, and hopefully its containment and prevention, from several viewpoints. The module will have a capstone paper and presentation component.

I will be expanding and improving the existing materials I use to teach this course. I have already collected many papers on the Ebola virus but will continue to expand the collection through this fall term. I will also revise the Moodle site for the course to create coherence in terms of the topics explored. The bulk of this revision work has already begun and will continue throughout this semester and winter break. The module will be test driven during the second half of the spring term semester, 2015. I will revise and complete curricular resources by the end of the spring term in early May, 2015.

I will develop an instructor’s guide that includes:

  • A series of topics to be explored during class with learning outcomes for each topic
  • Recommended readings for students
  • Recommended supplemental materials
  • Questions for stimulating student discussion
  • A list of sources for instructors for further reading and course preparation


Updated Mar 07, 2017

Primary Learning Goals

  1. Understand the infectious cycle of a lysogenic versus a lytic virus
  2. Investigate the environmental, social, and political circumstances that impact the prevention, spread, treatment and potential cure of a pathogenic virus like Ebola
  3. Work as a part of a team to share and critique a presentation of a relevant viral case study

I see the benefits of multidisciplinary work as enabling the students to see the same situation from multiple vantage points. To solve a complex problem, multiple approaches can yield discernable results that can positively impact a group. This is applied to a very real viral threat, Ebola. It is not just science that will solve a pathogenic outbreak. Cultural, social, and political forces impact a population and must be considered in solving these issues.

Dissemination Strategies

The Virus Module consists of six, fifty minute meetings (lecture and discussion) and two, three hour labs that meet over a two-week period.

Reading materials: Two short books, several papers and websites, available on Moodle. See Resources & Materials. Students will be responsible for written summaries for each reading assignment. Progress on the final project will be monitored on Google docs, and presented by the class on the last module day.


Monday | Meeting 1 of 6

Introduction:The explanation of the goals of the virus module, expectations, assignments, and assessment (first 25 minutes of class).

Diversity of Viruses: PowerPoint lecture (remaining 25 minutes of class). This material serves as an introductory biochemical background for the classification of viruses based on genome type and infectivity.


Tuesday | Lab 1 of 2

Virus Structure Lab

Examine the Virus Structures Sheet and answer the questions for each of the structures on the sheet. You are encouraged to do this work in a group and compare your answers. List the sources for your answers. Record all sources in your lab notebook. Type up a copy of your answers and post on Google docs. Bring a copy of your information to class for discussion.

Online sources: Protein Data Bank (PDB)


Wednesday | Meeting 2 of 6

Virus Structures Sheet: Follow up, questions and discussion (first 15 minutes of class).

Influenza Case Study: Prepare for discussion by reviewing the website, reading the three topic papers, writing summaries, and answering the review questions on influenza (All materials found on Moodle). Post summaries on Google docs.


Friday | Meeting 3 of 6

Ebola Basics: The Biochemistry and Politics of Ebola (meet with Lynda Barrow’s Political Science class in Stuart Hall) Drs. Dean & Barrow will give short background lectures on Ebola. Use the posted papers and the Power Point information to prepare questions for class. Post paper summaries on Google docs.


Monday | Meeting 4 of 6

Ebola discussion: Vaccines, treatments, ethical considerations, social and cultural norms. Use information from Friday’s class (copies of your paper summaries will be useful!) to prepare for class discussion.

Invited Speaker Laurie Garrett: Remember your tickets! Read the Washington Post article, “Five Myths about Ebola” October 10, 2014. (Due to winter storms, this talk was postponed until April, 2015.)

Tuesday | Lab 2 of 2

Dengue Fever Lab (group presentation preparation): Using information from the Influenza and Ebola outbreaks, prepare a group presentation on Dengue Fever. As in our previous coverage, your presentation must be multidisciplinary, covering the biochemistry as well as social/cultural, political, and economic. All contributions for the presentation must be posted on Google docs. Comments and suggestions will be posted by Thursday morning.


Wednesday | Meeting 5 of 6

Because of the cancellation of the speaker, the class wanted to have a replacement session on Measles vaccination. The class investigated the many reasons families have opted to not vaccinate their children against measles and the resulting measles outbreaks in several communities across the country.

Laurie Garrett: Invited speaker, Laurie Garrett spoke about Ebola in April, 2015. We attended as a class and met with Lynda Barrow’s Political Science class for discussion.


Friday | Meeting 6 of 6

Dengue Fever class presentation and personal reflections


Resources and Materials

Virus Module Syllabus


Quammen, David. Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2014.

Zimmer, Carl. A Planet of Viruses. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 2012.

Online Resources

Protein Data Bank

Examine the molecular structure of viruses

Outcomes and Significance

This module will work best within a science course where context of viral research, treatment and prevention can be understood. This upper division course is taught in a combination of lecture and seminar sessions centered around key papers, appropriate for junior/senior level students. I have a limit of 12 for this class because of its laboratory component, however, the module would work for 16-18 students. The module requires three weeks of class time, or three lab sessions (3 hours for each lab).


Student Assessment

  1. Active participation in class discussion. This module will require students to participate in active discussion about the papers on Ebola being considered in each session.
  2. Students will have a test over the material that covers the life cylce of lysogenic/lytic viruses
  3. An oral and written presentation of a case study of another virus of their choosing, considering multiple perspectives (as done with the Ebola study) will be required at the end of the module. Students will be working in small groups of three. In addition to my assessment each group will do a self-assessment of which features of their case study will make it “successful” in their opinion.

Rhetoric 405: Communicating Public Problems: The Construction and Framing of Contemporary Social Issues

Theresa A. Donofrio
Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, Coe College

RHE 405 – Course Goals & Learning Outcomes

This course explores the role of communication in identifying “public problems.” Students interrogate the strategies through which social ills are marked, framed, and brought to the public’s attention. After an introduction to the theoretical framework guiding the course, the course features a diverse array of case studies (e.g., terrorism, genocide, global warming, poverty & economic recession) designed to illuminate the processes by which these phenomena are imbued with meaning and significance. By the end of the course, I expect that students will be capable of (1) critiquing the ideologies that inform and structure our understandings of what “counts” as local, national, and international “crises,” and (2) authoring cogent written and oral critiques of public discourse.

Environmental Crisis – Module Goals & Learning Outcomes

This three-week course module on environmental “public problems” is designed to centralize the rhetorical, political, and scientific obstacles that complicate the recognition of global warming as a crisis. In other words, I situate this unit so that it showcases the difficulty of capturing (and holding) public attention to mobilize collective action. By the end of this unit, I expect that students will be able to (1) explain why scientific data alone is insufficient as persuasive proof within global warming discourses, (2) discuss the implications of various representational choices made within global warming rhetorics, and (3) compare and contrast the ways communication scholars, scientists, and political scientists approach the problem of global warming.


Updated Mar 25, 2016

Content/Concept Goals

This module develops students’ understanding of certain concepts pertinent to the study of environmental discourse. Students will be able to:

  • Identify apocalyptic framing within global warming rhetorics and discuss the implications of choices to adopt such frames (see Foust and O’Shannon Murphy, 2009);
  • Explain how attempts to visualize the environment and global warming reshape our understanding of these concepts (see Dobrin and Morey, 2009); and
  • Discuss how existing ideologies and narratives complicate efforts to spur action to address global warming (see Lakoff, 2010).

Higher Order Thinking Skills Goals

In line with the goals for the course, this module provides students with another topic area within which to analyze the rhetorical strategies used to normalize a state of affairs as part of the status quo or, alternatively, to punctuate some event or phenomenon as a “crisis.” To do so, students need to be (1) able to conceptualize the world as socially constructed via words and images, and (2) capable of reading discourse with an eye toward the underlying ideologies the discourse promotes or challenges. Although this module offers specific conceptual content, the higher order thinking skills remain the same across the units of the course. Students will be able to:

  • Interrogate visual or verbal messages in order to explain how such messages construct ideologies; and
  • Translate their interrogations into cogent oral and written critiques of public discourse.

Multidisciplinary Analysis

This unit teaches students to evaluate the kinds of knowledge produced within various disciplinary structures with special attention to the merits of and limits to each approach. By showcasing the unique contributions each discipline can offer a complex problem such as global warming, I hope to disabuse students of the notion that some disciplines are more important (or more relevant) than others. After completing this unit, students will be able to describe how rhetoric shapes and is shaped by scientific and social scientific knowledge pertinent to global warming.


Updated Mar 25, 2016

Because this class met only twice a week, this three-week unit consisted of only six class sessions.

Day #1

The first day of the module was designed to prompt students to think about existing global warming narratives. In addition to the assigned film (An Inconvenient Truth), students were asked to take stock of the variety of arguments that circulate about global warming. Students were tasked with selecting 2-3 popular “texts” discussing global warming and instructed to offer an evaluation of the texts’ argumentative strategies, use of evidence, and construction of the audience. The film as well as the texts students analyzed provided the basis for a discussion of the kinds of narratives contained in popular global warming discourse and the rhetorical strategies found within such texts.

Day #2

The second day of the module focused on the importance of framing. The content for the day built on previous discussions of temporality and introduced students to the apocalyptic frame via Foust & O’Shannon Murphy. Much of the work that day involved a close reading of the Foust and O’Shannon Murphy article below. Key Reading: Foust, Christina R., and William O’Shannon Murphy. “Revealing and Reframing Apocalyptic Tragedy in Global Warming Discourse.” Environmental Communication 3, no. 2 (2009): 151-67.

Day #3

On day three, students examined the ways images shape how we understand environmental issues broadly and global warming specifically. Dobrin and Morey’s Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, Nature (2009) functioned as the starting point for a discussion of the epistemological properties of images, the affordances of various visual mediums, and the ideologies underpinning select depictions of the environment. Key Reading: Doyle, Julie. “Seeing the Climate? The Problematic Status of Visual Evidence in Climate Change Campaigning.” In Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, Nature, edited by Sidney I. Dobrin and Sean Morey, 279-298. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2009.

Day #4

After three days of combining various disciplinary perspectives within the humanities, the fourth day of the module featured a colleague from chemistry and a colleague from political science to help students discuss the scientific evidence used to establish global warming as a crisis and the political obstacles that work against collective environmental action. The class session was part guest lecture and part interdisciplinary discussion.

Day #5

Given the course’s focus on public problems, I am aware of the potential for students to feel overwhelmed, falling prey to the mindset that certain public problems are intractable. Accordingly, the last day for new content offered a space to explore a simple question: Now what? Course readings encouraged students to think about the implications of the various ways we attempt to advocate for environmental causes while deepening their awareness of the rhetorical, political, and scientific dimensions of contexts in which students could take action. Key Reading: Lakoff, George. “Why it Matters How We Frame the Environment.” Environmental Communication 4, no. 1 (2010): 70-81.

Day #6

The last day of any unit in the course is a writing workshop. In addition to daily preparation for each of the class sessions mentioned above, students are working simultaneously on a piece of ideological criticism relevant to the subject matter explored in the module. The last day of the unit consists of two parts. During the first half of the class, a select number of students orally present their artifact and analysis to the class. During the second half of the class, students read each other’s work and offer written feedback on the strength of the ideological analysis, the coherence of the argument, and the quality of the writing. After the workshop, students are given five days to improve the draft before it is submitted to me for a grade.

Resources and Materials

Selected Readings in Environmental Communication

Cox, Robert and Phaedra C. Pezzullo. Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2015.

DeLuca, Kevin Michael. Image Politics: The New Rhetoric of Environmental Activism. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1999.

DeLuca, Kevin Michael & Anne Teresa Demo. “Imaging Nature: Watkins, Yosemite, and the Birth of Environmentalism.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 17, no. 3 (2000): 241-260.

Dobrin, Sidney I., and Sean Morey, eds. Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, Nature. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009.

Hansen, Anders, and Robert Cox, eds. The Routledge Handbook of Environment and Communication. New York, NY: Routledge, 2015.

Killingsworth, M. Jimmie, and Jacqueline S. Palmer. Ecospeak: Rhetoric and Environmental Politics in America. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992.

Selected Readings on Framing Global Warming

Anshelm, Jonas, and Martin Hultman. Discourses of Global Climate Change: Apocalyptic Framing and Political Antagonisms. New York: Routledge, 2015.

Boykoff, Maxwell T., and Jules M. Boykoff. “Balance as Bias: Global Warming and the US Prestige Press.” Global Environmental Change 14, no. 2 (2004): 125–36.

Foust, Christina R., and William O’Shannon Murphy. “Revealing and Reframing Apocalyptic Tragedy in Global Warming Discourse.” Environmental Communication 3, no. 2 (2009): 151–67.

Lakoff, George. “Why it Matters How We Frame the Environment.” Environmental Communication 4, no. 1 (2010): 70–81.

Spoel, Philippa, David Goforth, Hoi Cheu, and David Pearson. “Public Communication of Climate Change Science: Engaging Citizens Through Apocalyptic Narrative Explanation.” Technical Communication Quarterly 18, no. 1 (2008): 49–81. Selected Analyses of An Inconvenient Truth

Johnson, Laura. “(Environmental) Rhetorics of Tempered Apocalypticism in An Inconvenient Truth.” Rhetoric Review 28, no. 1 (2009): 29–46.

Olson, Kathryn M. “Rhetorical Leadership and Transferable Lessons for Successful Social Advocacy in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.” Argumentation and Advocacy 44, no. 2 (2007): 90-109.

Rosteck, Thomas, and Thomas S. Frentz. “Myth and Multiple Readings in Environmental Rhetoric: The Case of An Inconvenient Truth.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 95, no. 1 (2009): 1–19.

Web Resources for Class Discussion

The web resources below were used in this module as a means of stimulating class discussion.

Midway: Message from the Gyre. (

For additional articles about the film project, see the links below:

McDonald, Mark. “The Fatal Shore, Awash in Plastic.” IHT Rendezvous – New York Times, August 23, 2012,

Wilson, Stiv J. “Dead Plastic Filled Birds: Artist Chris Jordan’s New Mission to Midway Island.” Huffington Post, July 9, 2010,

Contested Spaces: The Arctic

Lynda Barrow
Associate Professor of Political Science, Coe College

As the Arctic ice cap melts, interests are shifting, and the Arctic is quickly becoming a contested space. The melting ice (and improved technologies) have opened the Arctic as never before, creating a scramble for natural resources (especially oil and gas reserves), the opening of shipping routes and issues regarding the freedom of navigation, competing sovereignty claims, security concerns and evidence of the region’s militarization.

This module brings to bear competing interests in and perspectives on the Arctic, including different disciplinary, stakeholder, and theoretical perspectives. In the first rendition of this module (Spring 2015), it covered three class periods and included two central parts: visits from the other two members of Team Coe and a two-day simulation.

Note: Content adapted from curricular project.


I employed this module in World Politics, a writing-emphasis course designed to teach students relevant concepts and theoretical frameworks, so they can “analyze headlines yet to come” (Hastedt et al. 2015, xivii) in order to:

  • Expose them to key thinkers and sources.
  • Push students to think critically about important and enduring ideas and issues in world politics.
  • Understand and explain the alternative perspectives involved in policy debates.
  • Clarify their own perspectives.
  • Consider the connections among basic concepts, their own perspectives and values, and particular issues.

This module touches on numerous “Big Ideas”: the global commons, global and regional governance, globalization, global climate change, and contestation. Students should be familiar with these ideas before this module begins. The skill required to successfully complete the module is the ability to convey – clearly, concisely, and persuasively – a position on a given issue.

This module was used towards the end of the semester as part of a larger analysis of the global commons and global climate change.


Updated Feb 27, 2017

Content/Concepts Goals

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

  1. Explain what makes the Arctic a “contested space,” especially the competing claims to and interests in this region, and an increasingly hot topic.
  2. Understand the impacts of global climate change, both beneficial and harmful.
  3. Better understand issues of global and regional governance, including the roles of international law and multinational forums.
  4. Articulate the political position of one of the state actors with interests and/or claims in the Arctic.

Higher Order Thinking Skills

The module encourages students to apply concepts and theoretical perspectives to a specific case.

Multidisciplinary Analysis

Various analytical frameworks used in international relations, most notably competing paradigms and the levels of analysis, demonstrate how the lens with which one views the world greatly affects one’s perceptions. Bringing other disciplinary perspectives into the picture, in this case rhetorical and scientific, provides additional analytical frameworks. (If I were to spend more time on this topic, I might add an economist’s perspective.)


Updated Feb 28, 2017

Arctic Simulation – S’15

The melting Arctic ice raises the profile of overlapping sovereignty claims[1] and “poses economic, military and environmental challenges to governance of the region.”[2] The central question at the upcoming Arctic Council ministerial meeting is this: What type of governing system should be employed in the Arctic?[3] Should governance be through existing multinational frameworks or should a framework be created anew?[4] If the latter, which states and non-state actors should organize this governing system? Who should have a seat at the table? Should the governing system essentially mean “extending national jurisdictions into the region,” creating a regional agreement, or making a global treaty?[5] Should the governing system establish and follow “hard” or “soft” international law?[6]

Dissemination Strategies

I chose to students provide “confidential” position papers for the country they were representing, rather than having them do the research for themselves; however, other instructors might want to have students write up their own position papers. I choose this route for four reasons: first, having students research their position from the ground up would have made the simulation a more time-consuming, high-stakes part of the course; second, some of the positions are pretty tough to ferret out, and inaccurately stated positions would have further complicated the negotiations; third, students already do another research project in this course (for formal debates), so it did not seem as important to have them conduct all of the research themselves; and, finally, since I was new to this topic, developing position papers was a way of solidifying my own knowledge of where particular stakeholders stood.

As it turned out, since each student had to make a presentation to the class, many did additional research on their own. If I were to require students to do some additional research, I would ask them to contact the relevant stakeholder to get additional information and/or verbiage for the position they are representing.

As the attached briefing papers suggest (see Resources & Materials), five stakeholders were represented in the simulation: Canada, Norway, Russia, the United States, and China. The first four are four of “Artic Five”: five states with territory along the Arctic Ocean’s shorelines. I included China because (a) it is one the non-Arctic states granted observer status on the Arctic Council, (b) it makes evident the Arctic’s rising importance to Asian countries, and (c) it is a key emerging power. Depending on the class size, the next time I use this simulation I would add more stakeholders to the mix. Besides adding other key states – for example, Denmark, the fifth member of the “Arctic Five” – I might add an indigenous group (e.g., the Inuit Circumpolar Council) and/or environmental group (e.g., the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF)). Other state and non-state actors that might be added include the other members of the Arctic Council: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, the Arctic Athabaskan Council, and so on.

For any simulation to succeed, students need to play their parts as accurately and intelligently as they can. I find that small things help. For instance, I suggested that students dress the part. I also made placards for each delegation and decided that, to be recognized by the chair, they had to raise their country’s placard.

The next time I employ this module, I will either better prepare students with regard to the alternative means of governing regional international bodies or shift the focus to something other than the choice of governing system.

Resources and Materials

Artic Simulation – S’15 Instructions

Briefing for Artic Negotiations (Position Papers)

Activity Readings

[1] See Charles K. Ebinger and Evie Zambetakis, “The Geopolitics of Arctic Melt,” International Affairs 85:6 (2009) 1222.

[2] Charles K. Ebinger and Evie Zambetakis, “The Geopolitics of Arctic Melt,” International Affairs 85:6 (Nov., 2009) 1217.

[3] Glenn Hastedt, Donna L. Lybecker, and Vaughn P. Shannon, Cases in International Relations:  Pathways to Conflict and Cooperation (Washington, D.C.:  CQ Press, 2015) 262.

[4] Charles K. Ebinger and Evie Zambetakis, “The Geopolitics of Arctic Melt,” International Affairs 85:6 (2009) 1223.

[5] Hastedt et al., Cases in International Relations (2015) 263.

[6] Hastedt et al., Cases in International Relations (2015) 259.


Course Readings

Stephen J. Blank, “Enter Asia: The Arctic Heats Up,” World Affairs 176:6 (March/April 2014). – Ebsco

Scott Borgerson, “The Coming Arctic Boom,” Foreign Affairs 92:4 (July/Aug 2013) – Ebsco

Lawson Brigham, “The Changing Arctic:  New Realities and Players at the Top of the World,” Asia Policy (2014).

Lawson Brigham, “The Arctic,” Foreign Policy 181 (Sept /Oct 2010). – Ebsco

J. Carlson, et al., “Scramble for the Arctic,” SAIS Review of International Affairs 33:2 (Summer/Fall 2013)– Project Muse

John English, “Arctic Ambitions,” Canada’s History 92:6 (Dec. 2012/Jan. 2013). – Ebsco

Glenn Hastedt, Donna L. Lybecker, and Vaughn P. Shannon, “Governing the Global Commons of the Arctic,” Cases in International Relations:  Pathways to Conflict and Cooperation (Washington, D.C.:  CQ Press, 2015) ch.14.

V. Konyshev and A. Sergunin, “The Arctic at the Crossroads of Geopolitical Interests,” Russian Politics and Law 50:2 (March/Apr. 2012). – Ebsco

Ghulam Mujaddid, “Second Tragedy of Global Commons . . .,” Strategic Studies 32:4 (June 2013) – Ebsco

Ronald O’Rourke, “Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress,” Congressional Research Service (August 4, 2014).  – available on-line:

Andrew Van Wagner, “Comment: It’s Getting Hot In Here, So Take Away All The Arctic’s Resources: A Look at a Melting Arctic and The Hot Competition for Its Resources,” Villanova Environmental Law Journal 21 (2010). – Ebsco

Oran Young, “Arctic Politics in an Era of Global Change,” Brown Journal of World Affairs 19:1 (Fall/Winter 2012).

Outcomes and Significance

As can be seen in the hand-out for students (see Arctic Simulation – S’15 in Resources & Materials), the simulation’s focus was on negotiating a governing structure for the Arctic. The governing structure is important because – with the different interests and perspectives as well as the looming threat of global climate change – decisions must be made. The governing structure will likely determine how those decisions are made.

As it turned out, the class negotiations coincided with an actual ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council. Since Canada chaired the meeting in Nunavut (in northern Canada), I asked our Canadian delegation to chair the meeting in Cedar Rapids, also. This worked surprisingly well. The Canadian delegation ran the meetings and tasked their classmates with presenting proposals during the second day of the simulation.

Since this spring’s course was the first run of this module, I made the simulation a low-stake part of the course. I assessed students primarily on the accuracy of the content they provided in their formal speeches, secondarily on their presentation style and the quality of their participation in the negotiations.

It would be a good idea to create a rubric for the simulation portion of this module.

Members of Team Coe provided two very different disciplinary perspectives on the Arctic. Presenting a view from the natural sciences, Maria Dean explained how changes in the Arctic associated with melting ice, including the loss of habitat and salinity, means changes around the globe. She discussed global climate change and the four-plus million people who live in the Arctic. Terri Donofrio explained the “rhetorical construction of the Arctic,” including the politics of ice and global warming and symbolic means of representing the Arctic. She presented two common rhetorical strategies: “Arctic and awe” and “Arctic and advocacy.”

The next time around, I will ask each of my colleagues to lead an entire class session, rather than splitting one day between them. Doing so would enable each of them to develop more fully the perspective of her discipline.

Contested Spaces: The Brazilian Amazon

Lynda Barrow
Associate Professor of Political Science, Coe College

The Brazilian Amazon is very important, as the rainforest is considered one of the world’s major “lungs,” meaning a carbon sink; such sinks grow ever more important as the concerns mount about global climate change. This case raises a central question regarding land and water resources: Are they to be exploited? Conserved? Shared?

Brazil is one of the emerging countries known as the BRICs: Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Hence, it is an increasingly significant player on the world stage. The issues surrounding the Amazon were developed in such a way that students gained insights into the general matters of sustainability as well as matters specific to the Brazilian context. This context is a democratizing and developing country that is considered a rising global power.

This learning module takes the Brazilian Amazon as a contested space.


Last fall (Fall 2014) this learning module was included in Latin American Politics, a mid-level comparative politics course that focuses primarily on democratization in the region.

Similar modules might be developed to explore issues surrounding copper mining or coffee growing in Latin America, for example (thanks to Team Beloit for this idea.) They would work well as pedagogical tools in courses on Latin American and/or international development.

The module was couched within the broader discussion of Brazilian politics.  In this, the first iteration of this module, it was one of a number of roundtable discussions.  In brief, course roundtables combine oral presentations with discussion, with all attendees (presenters and non-presenters) seated around a table.  In each roundtable, participants individually present summaries and analyses of course readings (listed below), then collectively discuss the day’s topic.


Updated Feb 28, 2017

As stated above, the module is designed, in part, to push students to engage in reflective judgment on the Amazon as a contested space (i.e., think critically about this complex matter; describe, analyze, and respond to it).

At the end of this module, students should be able to:

  1. Identify key stakeholders.
  2. Engage in reflective judgment on the Amazon as a contested space.
  3. Discuss basic features of Brazil’s political institutions and explain how they affect policy making on this and other issues.


Updated Feb 28, 2017

Roundtable on the Amazon

What makes the Brazilian Amazon a contested space? Who are the stakeholders? Who stakes claims to the Amazon’s resources?

See Stakeholders web diagram in Resources & Materials

Michael Reid, “Oil, Farming & the Amazon,” Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power (2014) ch.10

Stephen Aldrich, “Contested Groves…,” Journal of Latin American Geography 11:2 (2012)

Marianne Schmink, “Forest Citizens,” Latin American Research Review 46 (2011)

Maria Carmen Lemos & J. Timmons Roberts, “Environmental Policy-Making Networks & the Future of the Amazon,” Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences 363:1498 (5/27/08)

Resources and Materials

Brazilian Amazon Stakeholders web diagram

Stephen Aldrich, “Contested Groves…,” Journal of Latin American Geography 11:2 (2012).

Paulo M. Brando, Michael T. Coe, Ruth DeFries, Andrea A. Azevedo, “Ecology, Economy and Management of an Agroindustrial Frontier Landscape in the Southeast Amazon,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 368:1619 (6/5/2013).

Maria Carmen Lemos and J. Timmons Roberts, “Environmental Policy-Making Networks and the Future of the Amazon,” Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences 363:1498, (May 27, 2008), 1897-1902. – Among other things, this pieces describes the four periods of environmental policy-making regarding use or conservation of the Amazon.

Rachel M. McCleary, “Development Strategies in Conflict:  Brazil & the Future of the Amazon” (Case #501), Georgetown Institute for the Study of Diplomacy (GUISD), 1990 – Available on-line; log in as instructor to get a free download.

Patrick H. O’Neil, Karl Fields, and Don Share, “Brazil,” Cases in Comparative Politics, 3rd ed. (New York:  W.W. Norton & Co., 2010), ch.12. – Good introduction to Brazilian politics.

Michael Reid, “Oil, Farming and the Amazon,” Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014) ch.10. – In discussing “the trees and the people,” Reid sets out “two opposing Brazilian visions of the Amazon” (p.208), conservation and economic development, and the tough trade-offs involved.

Marianne Schmink, “Forest Citizens,” Latin American Research Review 46 (2011).

Vivian E. Thomson, “Brazil: No More Complexo de Vira-Lata (Mongrel Complex),” Sophisticated Interdependence in Climate Policy: Federalism in the United States, Brazil, and Germany (London:  Anthem Press, 2014), ch.4. – I accessed this through ebrary.

Vinod Thomas, From Inside Brazil Development in the Land of Contrasts (Herndon, VA:  The World Bank, 2006). – I accessed this through ebrary.

Heather L. Youngs, “The Effects of Stakeholder Values on Biofuel Feedstock Choices,” Perspectives on Biofuels: Potential Benefits and Possible Pitfalls (American Chemical Society: Washington, DC, 2012) pp.29-67. – Good source re: biofuels and stakeholders.

Outcomes and Significance

To be honest, this part is still in the works. However, given my teaching and learning goals for this module, I might best assess how well students accomplish these goals by having them write a policy recommendation for Brazil’s federal government. This would require students to consider the Amazon’s status, the key actors and their perspectives, and Brazil’s institutional and political context. It would move students towards reflective judgment – i.e., beyond description and analysis – to arrive at a decision of what is to be done, in the presence of conflicting claims and incomplete information about the implications of various policy options. I might follow this up by setting up a roundtable discussion in which each student presents their policy recommendation and makes the case for embracing it.

Instead of the roundtable format I used (see Activities), this might well be developed into a simulation in which students represent the interests of various stakeholders (see web diagram in Resources & Materials).

Colorado College

Sound Art

Jonathon Scott Lee
Professor of Philosophy, Colorado College

Contemporary culture is increasingly dominated by visual means of communication, often serving the commercial ends of consumer capitalism. This is most apparent in the current moment characterized by a high degree of media convergence. In response to this state of affairs, Ryan Platt (Performance Studies, Colorado College) and I have developed a new course that examines an alternative form of communication, the auditory. Using the history and theory of “sound art” we explore the ways in which auditory expression challenges the immediacy, transparency, and autonomy implied by visual regimes of representation.”Sound art turns spectators into audiences, who must learn to attend to experiences that cannot be immediately understood.” Sound art itself demands that audiences learn to listen, and particular works of sound art can often be considered as modes of teaching this listening skill.

The course focuses on experiments in the emergent field of sound art, which explores a new, non-visually centered sphere of expression. Sound art is an interdisciplinary artistic genre that traverses music, installation art, dance, performance art, theatre, film, and new media: it is, thus, a perfect example of a “contested space” in the aesthetic domain. At the historical level, we explore: musical works by such experimental composers as John Cage, Luc Ferrari, and Alvin Lucier; environmental works such as Max Neuhaus’ site-specific sound installations, Hildegard Westerkamp’s “soundwalks,” Annea Lockwood’s “sound maps,” and Francisco Lopez’s experiments in blindfolded listening; and performance-inflected works such as the “noise-music” of Merzbow and the “deep listening” pieces of Pauline Oliveros.

This historical overview of sound art is contextualized with extensive readings from historiographies of hearing in modernism, from the aesthetic lineage of experimental music, and from recent philosophical inquiries into the relation of sound and listening to questions of technology and the human. Sound art emerges from the radical re-thinking of music in the 20th century, which focused on artistic alternatives to conventional concepts of harmony, dissonance, and noise. In the post-World War Two era, one of the most distinctive challenges to traditional music came with the rise of electronic music, contesting both the historical predominance of the human voice and the centrality of acoustic instruments. These artistic developments, in turn, inspired an extensive body of aesthetic and critical texts exploring the cultural significance of the work of these artists. With the growing interpenetration of artistic production and theoretical reflection and the rise of deeply interdisciplinary, inter-arts work, the contemporary situation of sound art provides a rich field for exploration.


Updated Mar 25, 2016

Content/Concepts Goals

  • Students will understand the role of John Cage in the problematization of the distinctions between music, sound, and noise, by articulating the nature of his influence on a variety of different artistic media.
  • Students will understand musique concrète by articulating its fundamental principles in a variety of different aesthetic contexts.
  • Students will understand noise by articulating its manifestation in different artistic movements and aesthetic contexts.
  • Students will understand microsound and immersive environments by articulating how the digital analysis of sound sources can generate new forms of art and aesthetic experience.
  • Students will understand fidelity by articulating the role of “codecs” (coding/decoding, compression/decompression algorithms) in a variety of different contexts.
  • Students will understand phono-graphy by articulating ways in which recording technologies shape modes of human (self-)understanding.
  • Students will understand dj culture by articulating ways in which recording technologies transform social relationships.
  • Students will understand electromagnetism (in the context of sound art) by articulating how natural processes (at the cosmic, the terrestrial, and the bodily levels) can produce new modes of aesthetic experience.
  • Students will understand acoustic ecology by articulating how the lived experience of soundscapes can change the nature of cognition and inspire new artistic media.
  • Students will understand soundwalks by articulating the complexities involved in circumscribing modes of listening in natural and built environments.
  • Students will understand site-specific installations by articulating the ways that introducing sounds into environments can transform both how we perceive the world around us and how we understand that world.
  • Students will understand the role of Pauline Oliveros in the development of sound art by articulating how careful modes of listening can play a variety of therapeutic roles.

Higher Order Thinking Skills Goals

  • Nurturing the ability to “listen” and to suspend immediate attempts to “understand” works of sound art.
  • To articulate their experiences of listening both orally and in writing, and a key goal here will involve the exploration of alternative modes of discourse, forms of writing more appropriate for these experiences than what we normally find within particular academic disciplines.
  • Students will be encouraged to develop new models of “understanding” itself.

Multidisciplinary Analysis Goals

In fulfilling each of these interlocking, higher order thinking skills/goals, students will effectively be learning on their own new ways of scaffolding multi-disciplinary and even trans-disciplinary analysis. The result will be something like a collective “auditory ecology” of the contemporary world, using the practice of sound art as a privileged moment of access to this ecology.

Other Skills Goals

Other skills/goals pursued in “Sound Art” include the more traditional skills of writing essays, making oral presentations, and working in small groups both to produce a product (in this case a “soundwalk”) and to present the product to the class.

Resources and Materials

The Sound Studies Reader, edited by Jonathan Sterne. London: Routledge, 2012. [SSR]

Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, edited by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner. New York: Bloomsbury, 2011. [AC]

The most useful monographs and essay collections devoted to sound art, to particular movements in sound art, and to sound studies include the following:

Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, translated by Brian Massumi, foreword by Fredric Jameson, afterword by Susan McClary (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985).

Nicholas Collins, Handmade Electronic Music: The Art of Hardware Hacking, second edition (New York: Routledge, 2009)

Joanna Demers, Listening Through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Frances Dyson, The Tone of Our Times: Sound, Sense, Economy, and Ecology (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2014).

Paul Hegarty, Rumour and Radiation: Sound in Video Art (New York: Bloomsbury, 2014).

Paul Hegarty, Noise/Music: A History (New York: Continuum, 2007).

Eleni Ikoniadou, The Rhythmic Event: Art, Media, and the Sonic (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2014).

Brian Kane, Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Douglas Kahn, Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).

Caleb Kelly, Cracked Media: The Sound of Malfunction (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2009).

Friedrich A. Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, translated, with an introduction, by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wutz (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999).

Brandon LaBelle, Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (New York: Continuum, 2006).

David Novak, Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013).

Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound, edited by Tara Rodgers (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010).

Soundings: A Contemporary Score, edited by Barbara London, with an essay by Anne Hilde Neset (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2013).

Jonathan Sterne, MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012).

David Toop, Haunted Weather: Music, Silence, and Memory (London: Serpent’s Tail, 2004).

Salomé Voegelin, Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art (New York: Continuum, 2010).

Sound Art – Leonardo Music Journal, volume 23 (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2013).

Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio, and the Avant-Garde, edited by Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1992).

Particularly helpful and even revelatory monographs and essay collections focusing on particular artists include the following:

John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1961).

The Cambridge Companion to John Cage, edited by David Nicholls (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

Paul DeMarinis, Buried in Noise (Heidelberg/Berlin: Kehrer Verlag, 2010).

Almost Nothing with Luc Ferrari: Interviews with texts and imaginary autobiographies, edited by Jacqueline Caux, translated by Jérôme Hansen (Berlin/Los Angeles, 2012).

Christina Kubisch, Klangraumlichtzeit: Works from 1980 to 2000 (Heidelberg: Kehrer Verlag, 2000).

Alvin Lucier, Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music, forward by Robert Ashley(Middleton: Wesleyan University Press, 2012).

Alvin Lucier, Reflections: Interviews, Scores, Writings (Köln: MusikTexte, 1995).

Christian Marclay, edited by Jennifer González (New York: Phaidon Press, 2005).

Christof Migone, Sonic Somatic: Performances of the Unsound Body (Los Angeles/Berlin: Errant Bodies Press, 2012).

Paul D Miller (aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid), Rhythm Science (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2004).

Max Neuhaus: Times Square, Time Piece Beacon, edited by Lynne Cooke and Karen Kelly, with Barbara Schröder (New York: Dia Art Foundation, 2009).

Pauline Oliveros, Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice (New York: iUniverse, Inc., 2005).

Pauline Oliveros, Software for People: Collected Writings 1963-80 (Baltimore: Smith Publications, 1984).

Pierre Schaeffer, In Search of a Concrete Music, translated by Christine North and John Dack (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).

R. Murray Schafer, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (Rochester, Vermont:  Destiny Books, 1994).

Yasunao Tone, Noise, Media, Language (Los Angeles/Berlin: Errant Bodies Press, 2007).

Edgard Varèse: Composer, Sound Sculptor, Visionary, edited by Felix Meyer and Heidy Zimmermann (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2006).

Sound and Light: La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, edited by William Duckworth and Richard Fleming (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1996).

St. Olaf College

Environmental Psychology at Rocky Mountain Park: The Human Relationship with the Natural World

Donna McMillan
Associate Professor of Psychology, St. Olaf College

Environmental Psychology at Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is a St. Olaf College off-campus, January-term course that focuses on understanding the psychological significance of the natural world and examines human relationships with the rest of the natural world. My SAIL Curricular Project focused on increasing the extent to which the course explicitly incorporates interdisciplinary perspectives. In particular, after our “Contested Spaces” SAIL Seminar, I sought to have students use all four quadrants of the Integral Ecology model (Esbjörn-Hargens & Zimmerman, 2009):

  1. Individual Interior (subjective phenomenological experience, represented by academic areas such as English, creative writing, and some approaches to psychology);
  2. Individual Exterior (observation and empiricism, in this course represented particularly by empirical research in psychology);
  3. Collective Interior (culture, represented by cultural anthropology, history, and philosophy);
  4. Collective Exterior (systems, represented by ecology, sociology, and political science).

Note: Content adapted from the curricular project.


Course Context and Description

St. Olaf College’s academic calendar includes a January “Interim” term in which students take only one course intensively. An Interim course credit is equivalent to a semester-length course. Interim courses meet for multiple hours every weekday during January, and because students take only one course in January, it is possible for Interim courses to be taught offcampus. The Environmental Psychology at RMNP course takes place at Rocky Mountain National 2 Park in Estes Park, Colorado. The group stays at the YMCA of the Rockies (which borders the national park) and has its class meetings there. The course is a mid-level course that enrolls a combination of sophomore, junior, and senior students. Maximum enrollment is set at 20 students. For more information about the course, see McMillan (2012).

Because of the focus of the course, Environmental Psychology at RMNP particularly emphasizes the “Individual Interior” and “Individual Exterior” quadrants of the Integral Ecology model. The course does, however, incorporate the other two quadrants as well. Specifically, the course focused on the upper quadrants of 1) subjective experience in nature and 2) empirical research about people’s relationship with the natural environment. However, the course also made use of the lower quadrants by considering 3) how cultural factors and 4) different systems and institutions influence human connection with the natural world. Students explored in-depth, from all four quadrants, their own and others’ relationships to nature. Readings, activities, and assignments addressed each of the four quadrants. During our course in January 2015, students engaged in these readings and activities, and they engaged in substantial reflection on them in writing assignments and in class discussions.


Updated Mar 24, 2016

Content/ Concepts Goals

  • Students will begin to see ways in which each of the four Integral Ecology quadrants can contribute to our understanding of the human relationship with the rest of the natural world.
  • Students will actually use methodological approaches from each of the four quadrants.
  • Students will engage in substantive reflection, considering insights from each of the four quadrants.

Higher Order Thinking Skills Goals

The course addressed each of the four Integral Ecology quadrants through readings, activities, and assignments to help students develop skills in:

  • Observing and reflecting on their own and others’ phenomenological experience in nature (the “Individual Interior” quadrant of Integral Ecology);
  • Reading and understanding empirical research in psychology (the “Individual Exterior” quadrant);
  • Thinking about how culture influences human relationships with nature (the “Collective Interior” quadrant); and
  • Considering how systems play roles in these issues (the “Collective Exterior” quadrant).

Other Skills Goals

Important take-home messages for students about multidisciplinary/ interdisciplinary analysis included:

  • Each perspective has something valuable to contribute;
  • One methodology may be more appropriate than another depending on the given question; and
  • A more complete picture is achieved when we integrate the variety of perspectives.

The overall goal in the course was that students would come to appreciate and understand the contributions of these diverse approaches.

Resources and Materials

Esbjörn-Hargens, S. & Zimmerman, M.E. (2009, March). An overview of integral ecology: A comprehensive approach to today’s complex planetary issues. Integral Institute Resource Paper No. 2, 1-14.

Esbjörn-Hargens, S. (2009, March 12). An all-inclusive framework for the 21st century: An overview of integral theory.

Esbjörn-Hargens, S. & Zimmerman, M.E. (2011). Integral ecology: Uniting multiple perspectives on the natural world. Integral Books.

McMillan, D.K. (2012). Environmental Psychology at Rocky Mountain National Park: An undergraduate academic and experiential course. Ecopsychology, 4, 102-109.

Environmental Studies 381: Contested Spaces: Rivers

Mark Allister
Professor of English, Environmental Studies, and American Studies, St. Olaf College
Environmental Studies and English

Course Summary

An environmental matter. An impasse. One side wants conservation of habitat and sustainable practices. The other side frames the situation through the lens of jobs and autonomy from government regulation. Why do so many sites and practices become environmentally contested spaces? How do we begin to resolve such impasses?

Most work in environmental studies — and nearly all that is natural science and social science based — focuses on exterior or objective perspectives, examining structures such as ecosystems or political and economic systems. This seminar will consider contested spaces and the values that underlie arguments about such spaces by also focusing on interior perspectives: the role of emotion, beauty, ideas about the self, cultural mores, and so forth. We’ll aim to understand an “integral ecology” that might reveal all that is at stake in a contested environmental space.

Module Summary

As a class, we studied together one particular nearby river, The Minnesota. We examined aspects of the river from all the integral ecology perspectives. Students, for this unit, were then expected to construct their own particular project that would require them to take up a contested issue that crosses quadrant lines.


The course, ES 381, is required for humanities-track environmental studies majors, and is optional for natural science- and social science-track ES majors. The course is a junior-senior seminar with a small enrollment, and students must have taken at least two courses in Environmental Studies before they can enroll (though all had taken more than that, and some had taken many many more). Because of the course’s level, I can assume that students are adept at understanding issues from an environmental perspective, which means understanding how practices and information go together. Though students might have varying levels of skill with scientific or statistical data, all students will be able to use data to support arguments; though students might have varying levels of experience with humanities-directed principles or theories, all students will have had some exposure to thinking broadly about values and beliefs and how they are represented in the arts and literature.

This module came after two earlier activities: 1. As a way to think through the principles of reflective judgment and integral ecology, students read articles about these and then mapped their own coursework at St. Olaf in environmental studies to the integral ecology quadrants; and 2. As a way to think through a specific environmental contested space concerning water, we examined the outflow from Skoglund Pond on our campus to its joining the Cannon River in nearby Northfield; the examining came both from in-class discussion and field experience (students had to walk this outflow). As we did our field work, we considered all the stakeholders who were part of decision making about this “river,” from the college and its campus to a retirement home, the city, and other stakeholders.

The next step, with the module I’m describing above, is to expand the scope of the contested spaces in relation to a river, and so we “moved” to consideration of a river still close enough that we could have physical experiences on the river.


Updated Mar 23, 2016

Content/Concept Goals

Students were to learn more about this particular river, including information from all four quadrants of integral ecology (exterior singular, exterior plural, interior plural, interior singular).

Higher Order Thinking Skills Goals

Integral ecology as a model requires the high-order thinking skills of comparison and judgment, as well as analysis and synthesis.

Multidisciplinary Analysis

We “mapped” the river (geography); we read about floating rivers from a philosopher’s point of view (philosophy and literature); we learned water chemistry and turbidity (chemistry); we learned the ecological and geological history of the river (history); we read about the non-governmental organizations who are responding to various problems that the river presents (sociology and economics); we considered Native Americans as stakeholders and how their cultural and religious views gave them a different sense of its utility (history/anthropology) — all of these were put into relation in the class. Then the students had to choose and focus a project that would do something comparable in the way of multidisciplinary analysis.

Other Skills Goals

I believe strongly in students working in groups and presenting their ideas orally, and so students did presentations that I invited the entire campus to; I also believe strongly in developing writing skills (I was Director of Writing at St. Olaf for about ten years), and so we talked considerably about process. Because this course is a small-sized seminar, I also required students to do research that they would bring into class and share.

Integral Ecology

Matt Rohn
Associate Professor, St. Olaf College
Art History, Environmental and American Studies

Integral ecology has origins in philosophy and religion and thus values different ways of knowing in a contemporary environmental studies world, that increasingly privileges scientific knowledge and often treats the arts/humanities as sources of pleasure over knowledge.

These modules are a work-in-progress for introducing students to integral ecology as a tool in environmentally related courses. Early exposure to integral ecology in context-based ways teaches students about the interdisciplinary character of Environmental Studies. Faculty believes there is a triad of liberal arts perspectives crucial for ecologically aware people to know in an integrative way: natural science, social sciences, and arts and humanities. This interdisciplinary approach has always been central to the St. Olaf Environmental Studies program, but it has become increasingly threatened by financial constraints in higher education and notions of expertise that place a premium on specialization and on scientific inquiry.


This project examines modules in three courses:

  1. ENVST 202: The Culture of Nature (essentially an introductory-level course)
  2. ENVST 381: Contested Spaces, Rivers (advanced seminar with Mark Allister)
  3. PSYCH 277: Environmental Psychology (with Donna McMillan)

Special emphasis is given to the latter course, whose module was crafted and taught in collaboration with Professor McMillan in her January 2015, Interim course.

The combination of all three courses helped us test integral ecology in courses with differing relationships to natural science interests. We wanted to see how the approach could

  • Increase all students’ respect for non-scientific ideas in environmental studies
  • Increase respect for interdisciplinarity itself
  • Help non-science students appreciate the importance of scientific perspectives
  • Help non-science students see the value of their perspectives


Updated Feb 22, 2017

Content/Concept Goals

  • ENVST 202 students obtain exposure to integral ecology in the framework of systems thinking.
  • ENVST 381 and PSYCH 277 students develop a basic understanding of integral ecology concepts and domains of knowledge.
  • ENVST 202, ENVST 381, and PSYCH 277 students gain at least minimum appreciation of arts and humanities thinking in the field of Environmental Studies.

Higher Order Thinking Skills Goals

  • ENVST 202 and PSYCH 277 students increase their awareness of how a group of people can pool perspectives to create a learning community.
  • PSYCH 277 and ENVST 281 students gain awareness of the strengths/weaknesses of different perspectives (as they relate to ways of knowing ecological matters).
  • PSYCH 277 and ENVST 381 students obtain means to contemplate the strengths and weaknesses of their favored perspective(s).

Other Goals

  • PSYCH 277 and ENVST 381 students explore self-awareness about perspectives early in the course so they explore it self-reflexively, in relationship to others, and in the context of Environmental Studies for at least the duration of the course.
  • PSYCH 277 students embody integral ecology through the spatial exercise used to introduce it in ways supportive of the course’s emphasis on embodied knowledge.
  • ENVST 202, PSCYH 277 and ENVST 381 students learn respect for different individuals’ perspectives and witness the value of respect for enhancing conversational inquiry.

Dissemination Strategies

Instructors employing this pedagogy require a sound knowledge of Integral Ecology by Sean Esbjörn-Hargens and Michael E. Zimmerman. “An Overview of Integral Ecology, A Comprehensive Approach to Today’s Complex Planetary Issues” is the best, short introduction to the topic and is available online (see Resources & Materials). Instructors employing this pedagogy require sound knowledge in the entire book, Integral Ecology. The reading is best understood along with conversation and study augmented by diagrams and faculty instruction.

The Integral Ecology text heavily employs diagrams and other illustrations to explain various ideas such as the quadrants (and how they remain the same when different specific terminology and perspectives are employed), levels of different ways of knowing, etc. Study and use of these diagrams can be a good way for both an instructor and students to comprehend concepts. Having at hand a variety of diagrams to sketch on a chalk/white board or insert into PowerPoint presentations is valuable.

Having students create their own mappings of perspectives in a readily changeable form works well to engage students and for them to work collectively and take ownership of integral ecology concepts. Because it was an arts and humanities seminar, ENVST 381 had students map all the Environmental Studies courses they had taken onto the integral ecology quadrants as a way of mapping their careers and learning about the group’s collective knowledge. The PSYCH 277 students mapped their majors and academic interests because the class consisted of various majors in fields other than Environmental Studies.

Students in both classes conversed with one another about the nature of the quadrants because of the active means of producing the mappings. This produced more questions of the instructors, and students gained a deeper understanding of the ideas than in ENVST 202 with its emphasis, due to the limited time, on a lecture mode for teaching integral ecology.

All three courses introduced integral ecology shortly after students learned about the basic purpose and structure of the course. This helped them use integral ecology to introduce themselves to one another with a degree of confidence, learn about each other and perceive strengths and aspirations each brings to a course in it becoming a learning community. Those less confident in their ways of knowing gained some assurance about what they brought to each course, and those overconfident about the value of their knowledge could see limits and reasons for greater humility. This combination helped class discussions – both because it increased the number of students willing to participate and because of the ways integral ecology teaches the value of openness to others’ perspectives.

Teaching Notes

The Integral Ecology website (sponsored by the Integral Institute) is a good resource for ideas about integral ecology, illustrations of concepts, pedagogical perspectives, books, conferences and a variety of tools to learn and teach integral ecological ideas.

Integral ecology is based on Ken Wilbur’s integral theory and has been applied to numerous domains additionally. Integral systems can be translated to any number of interdisciplinary approaches without study of integral theory itself and used to counter the lure of specialization.

Esbjörn-Hargens’ and Zimmerman’sbook also spends much time advocating for using integral ecology to contend with environmental disputes. The authors provide theoretical and case study support for this, though the concept does not appear to have a strong reputation in the realm of environmental conflict resolution.

PSYCH 277 students’ continual referencing of the integral ecology quadrants showed the value of returning to the topic occasionally throughout the semester. It helped students not only grasp the concepts better through practice, but this also helped them understand and better appreciate material they studied as they contemplated the perspectives of thinkers or creators when they encountered material they initially found uninteresting or confusing. Integral ecology broadens students’ responsiveness to ideas by helping them to become empathetic readers and alert to the dangers of thinking narrowly. PSYCH 277 students also had the benefit of working with two instructors versed in integral ecology from different fields and watching us map our positions and take part with the students in trying to figure out the concepts.

Resources and Materials

Esbjörn-Hargens, Sean and . Zimmerman, Michael E. Integral Ecology. Boston and London: Integral Books, 2009.

Esbjörn-Hargens, Sean and Zimmernan, Michael E. “ An Overview of Integral Ecology, A Comprehensive Approach to Today’s Complex Planetary Issues.”

The Integral Institute’s Integral Ecology Center website

PSYCH 277 Student Course Evaluations

Outcomes and Significance

Student Assessment

Donna McMillan asked a narrative, assessment question about integral ecology in the online course evaluation for PSYCH 277:

Question 7: What did you think of the ideas of Integral Ecology (e.g., the quadrants)? Should it be included in the course in the future?

The student responses strongly endorsed its use in the course and for many of the reasons of intellectual self-awareness and interdisciplinarity we sought.

See PSYCH 277 Student Course Evaluations in Resources & Materials.

Discussion of Reflective Judgment

Refining the Purpose of Liberal Arts Education:

Assessing the relation between reflective judgment and interdisciplinary learning

by Howard Drossman
Professor of Environmental Science and Education, Colorado College
Member of the Contested Spaces seminar leadership team

Howard Drossman
Howard Drossman

One of the most important goals and enduring themes of a liberal arts education is the need for educating informed citizens who can understand and effectively address complex, difficult issues. John Dewey (1933) suggested that these reflective judgment skills are essential for a democratic society and defined them as the ability to bring closure to uncertain situations. Though reflective judgment is related to critical thinking, the latter may include problems that have correct answers while the former is specific to complex problems with no single correct answer. The Association of American Colleges defines the need for reflective judgment when they suggest that: “[college] students need to learn … to be able to state why a question or argument is significant and for whom; determine what the difference is between developing and justifying a position and merely asserting one; and how to develop and apply warrants for their own interpretations and judgments” (cited by King and Kitchener 1994, p. 19).

One way to conceptualize reflective judgment is through Kurt Fischer’s (1980) skill theory, which provides a cognitive model for how we learn new skills in any domain. Fischer’s model hypothesizes that we learn skills through first expressing them as representations, then relating these to form abstractions and finally creating overarching principles. King and Kitchener (1994) applied Fischer’s skill theory to describe the acquisition of reflective judgment skills. They posit that reflective judgment requires relating the abstractions knowledge and justification. King and Kitchener’s (1994) long-time work assessing reflective judgment indicates that most entering college students understand knowledge and justification but can only begin to relate the two, while most graduating seniors can successfully relate knowledge and justification, at least in their disciplinary major. But, how do students come to master reflective judgment skills and what might be the role of interdisciplinary learning in promoting such skills?

Our working hypothesis in the Contested Spaces seminar is that explicitly using multiple perspectives to address complex problems like environmental issues will promote students’ skills in seeing connections among the different ways that various disciplines relate knowledge and justification. The multiple perspectival seminar approach towards land stewardship issues embodies the goals of a liberal arts education, which are often defined by classic philosophical conceptions of knowledge that include understanding the “Good,” “Truth,” and “Beauty.” By collaborating across their different domains of knowledge as they develop their Contested Spaces learning expeditions, participants will ask whether a multiple perspectival conception of stewardship can enhance their students’ understanding of sustainability and their skills in reflective judgment, as well as how they might assess their understanding.

If using multiple perspectives to address environmental problems does promote students’ reflective judgment skills, and we have the appropriate assessment tools, we should be able to measure gains in reflective judgment for students more grounded in interdisciplinary study relative to students who might relate knowledge and justification from a single disciplinary perspective. If this hypothesis has merit, we believe that methodological pluralism, the application of multiple epistemological approaches to open-ended problems, provides an organizing principle for guiding curriculum development of new advanced interdisciplinary classes.

Though King and Kitchener (1994) developed the reflective judgment interview more than 20 years ago to assess college students’ reflective judgment skills, we propose using a more practical assessment tool called the Lectical Reflective Judgment Assessment (LRJA), which was first developed eight years ago, and provides calibrated developmental scores based on written responses to open-ended questions. Contested Spaces seminar participants will have the opportunity to take and be scored (anonymously) on the LRJA before the Contested Spaces seminar begins to become familiar with this new research and learning instrument. During the seminar, participants will discuss how they might use such tools to more effectively help their students learn reflective judgment skills. Lectical assessments have also been created to assess leadership, ethics, self-understanding, mindfulness, multiple perspectival thinking and developmental pedagogy. With a better understanding of these new assessment tools, seminar participants might consider, as a long-term goal, collaborating on a future ACM-wide proposal for studying the relation between interdisciplinary learning and students’ reflective judgment skills.


  • Dewey, J. (1933). How We Think: A Restatement of the Relation of Reflective Thinking to the Educative Process. Lexington, MA: Heath.
  • Fischer, K. W. (1980). A Theory of Cognitive Development: The Control and Construction of Hierarchies of Skills. Psychological Review, 87(6), 477-531.
  • King, P., & Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Developing Reflective Judgment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • The Lectical Reflective Judgment Assessment (LRJA)

Additional reference:

  • King, P. M. & Kitchener, K. S. (2004). Reflective judgment: Theory and research on the development of epistemic assumptions through adulthood. Educational Psychologist, 39(1), 5-18.

2013 Seminar: Mediterranean Trivium: Earth, Sea, and Culture in Italy


On-site seminar: June 24 – July 4, 2013

The Mediterranean Trivium seminar brought 15 faculty from five ACM colleges together in Italy to see firsthand how the singular geological framework and distinctive ecology of the Mediterranean region shaped Classical, Renaissance, and modern cultures.

Reading and communication among participants before and after the on-site portion of the seminar was directed at using the topic and site to create new multidisciplinary curricular materials for advanced undergraduates at ACM colleges, which could also serve as models for other faculty.

Seminar in Italy

The faculty spent ten days on-site in Italy on June 24-July 4, 2013. The seminar itinerary began and ended in Rome, but the group was primarily based in Florence, with day trips to other cities and sites.

The leadership team divided responsibilities for seminar sessions according to their expertise, and each participant prepared a short presentation on some aspect of the seminar.

In addition, time was set aside for campus teams and individuals to work on their curricular projects and to talk together about these plans, about ways of incorporating seminar material into courses, and about strategies for interdisciplinary teaching.

Mediterranean Trivium group website

The leadership team and participants created a seminar website with detailed information about the on-site seminar in Italy, including:

Documents about the 2013 seminar

Seminar Participants


Susan Ashley
Susan Ashley

Susan Ashley is Professor of History with interests in Italian and French intellectual and political history. She just completed a seven-year stint as Dean of the College/Dean of the Faculty at Colorado College. She has taught on-site courses on Renaissance society and culture, the city, and on nature and society for the Florence and London-Florence programs and for CC students. Making Liberalism Work (2003) examines how liberal politicians squared principle and practice in the early decades of United Italy. Her current research and publications explore conceptions of marginality in late 19th and early 20th century Italy and France.

Colorado College profile

Christine Siddoway
Christine Siddoway

Christine Siddoway is Professor of Geology at Colorado College, who teaches courses focused on the geological context for human civilizations. Her specializations in plate tectonics and the geological evolution of Antarctica acquaint her with global dynamic cycles that bear on the favorable conditions for development of organized societies. She has enduring ties with Tuscan geology and university colleagues, established during a Fulbright Post-doctoral Fellowship in 1996.


Colorado College profile

Sanjay Thakur
Sanjay Thakur

Sanjay Thakur is Assistant Professor of Classics at Colorado College. His research interests and publications focus on Roman literature and culture, particularly during the reigns of emperors Augustus and Tiberius. He also holds a degree in classical art and archaeology, and regularly teaches a course in Italy titled Rome, Naples, Sicily: Crossroads of the Ancient Mediterranean.


Colorado College profile


Carleton College

Coe College

  • Andrea Kann, Assistant Professor of Art
  • Martin St. Clair, Professor of Chemistry
  • Angela Ziskowski, Assistant Professor of History

Colorado College (leadership team)

Luther College

St. Olaf College

2013 Seminar – Curricular Projects

The Mediterranean Trivium seminar itinerary included a visit to Pompeii, Mt. Vesuvius, and Herculaneum.

In the year following the on-site portion of the Mediterranean Trivium seminar, participants drew from the seminar content and structure to develop innovative, multidisciplinary courses, sequences, modules, exercises, or lesson plans.

In some cases, all three members of a campus team worked collaboratively on curricular materials, while other projects were undertaken by one or two faculty.

Many of the links below are to curricular materials presented using the SAIL project submission form, which includes such information as a project description, learning goals, teaching materials, assessment, and resources.

Carleton College

American Transcendentalists

Peter Balaam
Associate Professor of English, Carleton College

Attempts to discern the spirit of the 19th-century, Emerson says, come down to a “practical question of the conduct of life. How shall I live?”

This 200-level, interdisciplinary course investigates the works of the American Transcendentalist movement in its restless discontent with the conventional, its eclectic search for better ways of thinking and living. It engages students with the major works of Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, Whitman and others alongside documents of the scientific, religious, and political changes that shaped their era and provoked their responses.


Course Summary

Helping students to understand the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, to grasp his wide public appeal through the 19thcentury, and assess what we can learn from him today entails significant pedagogical challenges. To get anywhere with such goals in the setting of a single course, students need to be made effective readers of Emerson’s notoriously difficult prose, and quickly. Teaching Emerson interdisciplinarily by emphasizing his life-long interest in science and scientific authority can help undergraduates to see beyond the old classroom clichés of nature-love, individualism, non-conformism, and American exceptionalism that some will bring with them into the course and that most will reinforce through cursory readings of his work. Encouraged to note and analyze the effects of scientific metaphors and allusion in his work, students gain a powerful key to his logic and so can more rapidly become better readers of his demanding prose.

One key here lies in Emerson’s post-Enlightenment historical situation. In this course, students read of the vocational crisis of the young and not-yet-famous Emerson in the late-1820s, and use the facts of his crisis and its provisional solution in his becoming a public lecturer and Transcendentalist to approach the stylistic and idealist excesses of “Nature” (1836), his career-making Romantic manifesto. Another key is the notion of “correspondence,” through which Romantics such as the American Transcendentalists posited a relationship between matter and mind, the material world and human interiority. Many major texts of the Transcendentalists may best be understood as sustained acts of correspondence thinking. Attempts to enjoy or interpret Walden or Nature without a sense of this mode of thought—the one Thoreau and Emerson used in writing them—are likely to mislead. A final key is the distinction Emerson makes between the understanding and the Reason, both of which are operative in healthy minds but of which, the latter is far superior and even the thing that makes us human. In lecture, discussion, and small group work in class, students learn to track the arguments Emerson makes about materialist understanding and the idealist mode of the Reason he favors and to note and unpack his frequent mention of scientific heroes and innovations and their contributions to human knowing. When science-related footings such as these undergird the rest of the course’s structure, more students will come to grasp and appreciate Emerson’s and the other Transcendentalists’ Romantic thinking as what it was: an invitation to imagine the world we perceive as not just materially, inertly there but also acted upon in every perceptive action of the individual mind.

Course Context

“American Transcendentalists” is a 200-level English course at Carleton College, without prerequisites, which I describe in the online course catalog as follows:

Attempts to discern the spirit of the nineteenth-century, Emerson says, come down to a “practical question of the conduct of life. How shall I live?” This interdisciplinary course will investigate the works of the American Transcendentalist movement in its restless discontent with the conventional, its eclectic search for better ways of thinking and living. We will engage major works of Emerson, Thoreau, Fuller, Whitman and others alongside documents of the scientific, religious, and political changes that shaped their era and provoked their responses.
No prerequisites means that students’ levels of ability with difficult reading and thinking will vary widely, a price I willingly pay in order to buy the many benefits of a larger enrollment and a mixed constituency. Such tradeoffs are manageable in this case because this unusual course is in part a sustained investigation of an ethical challenge from “Self-Reliance” that in many respects sums up Emerson’s Transcendentalist project; namely, “A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages.” Students come to the course in various states of preparation, but all can begin here, with the work of awakening to the mind’s involuntary actions and the inescapable role these actions play in the production and support of the individual.

What we read and discuss

After an overview on the first day, the course begins in search of some definitions of Transcendentalism with substantial consideration of Emerson’s and Thoreau’s early journals, then jumps ahead in time to analyze two works of their maturity (Emerson’s “The Transcendentalist” and Thoreau’s “Walking”). A three-week long dive into Emerson follows, with early vocational crisis, major addresses and essays of the early phase, ending with the crucial but poorly understood “Self-Reliance.” Next, we explore both Walden and Fuller’s Woman in the 19th Century as potential experiments in “self-reliance” launched from new, individual perspectives and starting points. Next: influence—on one hand, aesthetics and the responses of poets and artists; on the other, communal living experiments such as the Fruitlands commune in works of Bronson and Louisa May Alcott. Then, works from the late Emerson, “Experience” and “Fate.” Transcendentalist politics is next, with Thoreau and Emerson on abolition and Fuller’s Dispatches from revolutionary Rome. We end our readings with late essays of Thoreau such as “Wild Apples” in which his prophetic view upon culture combines powerfully with the objectivities and authority of his work as a significant naturalist.

What students do

For keeping track of their “gleam[s] of light” in response to their reading and other experience, students keep a journal (checked for progress twice in the term); in the course’s more analytical work, they submit very brief reading responses (due every session at first, then relaxing to once a week), write two short analytical essays; individually research, write, and deliver a 7-minute context report. At the end of the course, to some extent combining the subjective and objective forms of work in the course, students formally propose, create, and report on a final longer essay or project.

My interdisciplinary curricular project

Interdisciplinary revisions made to the course taught in the fall of 2014 were focused on bringing students further into the task of gauging the role of science in Emerson’s thinking. This entailed new texts, new moves, and several new emphases. I reduced an emphasis in earlier iterations of the course upon 19th-century religious change, replacing it with the story of and texts related to Emerson’s vocational crisis, travels in Europe, scientific epiphany in Paris in 1833 (“I shall be a naturalist!”), the science backgrounds evident within Nature and the influence on that text of Emerson’s earliest public lectures on topics in natural history as exemplified by “Humanity of Science” (1836).

In remaining weeks on Emerson, I emphasized his critique of “empirical science” in Nature as a means to discerning the kinds of “sight” he favors. Then, we grounded our consideration of a handful of important addresses essays of his early phase in appreciation of their connections to science or the history of science. “Method of Nature” updates Heraclitus’ conception of perpetual flow and change. “Circles” and “Compensation” take as their starting points major figures of Euclidean geometry and principles from Newtonian physics. With these emphases, I was able to get students to realize that when Emerson invokes “nature,” he doesn’t mean trees and ponds– or not really. He means “reality” in much the same sense that Newton means it—the laws and foundational structures that govern all phenomena, including human moral life.

We read Walden too quickly, constantly bumping up against how Thoreau uses his own brand of empiricism as naturalist and surveyor to generate endlessly fruitful emanations of correspondence. A missed opportunity here to read more slowly and allow students to really read Walden for a change. He regards the pond; he emulates the pond. He chases the loon, trying to predict its course; failing, he yearns to capture for himself its splendidly evasive nature, the confidence of its laughter. Springtime thaws the world and unfolds him and his neighbors from within. Walden is about empiricism used as a springboard toward higher realities than the workaday achievements of advanced capitalism.

In the late phase of Emerson’s work (“Experience” and “Fate”), he courageously and voluntarily tests the success of his idealist project against the severe authority of experience, including that of burgeoning scientific explanations: he suffers the ravages to human meaning of the geologists’ uniformitarian world of deep time; he resists the “impudent knowingness” of physiognomy and phrenology; he concedes the authoritative revelations of statistics; he learns from “the traveling geologist”; he ventriloquizes so as to expose the self-serving and circular reasoning of 19th-century racial science. Conceding ground to such authoritative material explanations from contemporary scientific discourse, Emerson posits a “stupendous antagonism” within the human knower, who tracks but may also resist, who is implicated in but not quite comprehended by such material reasoning.

My revisions in this direction are a work in progress and will be on-going in future iterations of the course, but the initial results were very good. While in future I will be seeking better ways to enable students to use Transcendentalism’s underlying connections and contentions with science to unpack its ideas and ideals on their own, in this round, relevant scientific aspects entered the course chiefly through me, by way of lecture and discussion questions at the points underlined above. That said, there was enthusiastic student interest in this material and palpable enthusiasm for the wonders of the Transcendentalists’ works.

Moreover, several of the best final projects replicated the spirit of this debate running through the course. In this assignment students are asked to experiment with emulating Transcendentalist habits of reading, thinking, analysis, and creative response. Two very successful projects are of note: a neuroscience/English double major tested the viability of Emersonian idealism as expressed in Nature and “Experience” against the material emphases of current neuroscience models of mind; an undeclared future biology major investigated, from scientific perspective, the dangers and risks and possible usefulness to science of Transcendentalist “correspondence.” These projects led their student creators to grapple deeply with Emerson’s texts and to respond to and assess it with a relevant and generative response of their own.


Updated May 02, 2016

Learning Goals

These changes to the course were designed to help students to…

  1. Understand the paradoxical nature of Transcendentalist writing and thinking in which multiple sources and discourses are taken as expressions of one truth;
  2. Demonstrate proficiency in interpreting the Transcendentalists’ overlapping vocabularies of matter and mind;
  3. Enhance their abilities to read and analyze Transcendentalist prose;
  4. Increase their competence in following the logic inherent to metaphors;
  5. Cultivate an informed sensitivity to the losses and gains, the limits and opportunities, entailed in Emerson’s demanding ways of thinking and writing.


Updated May 02, 2016

Description and Teaching Materials

To make effective use of this approach, an instructor would probably need to be interested as I am not just in Emerson’s ideas but in the contexts of his thinking, the idea of Romanticism as a legitimate critique of Enlightenment rationality, and especially his works’ textuality, the effect of allusions and the appropriations that occur within what Emerson called “creative reading.” For a start on Emerson’s compositional methods and the roles played by reading and journaling in his work, see Richardson in Resources below. For what science contributed to Emerson’s sense of the real, see Richardson, Rossi, and Walls. For discerning Emerson’s amateur devotion to science as a part of a wider international appreciation for “Romantic Science” that combined poetic and technical ways of thinking hard for some of us nowadays to imagine, see Richard Holmes. For a relevant primary source discussed by Holmes and deeply influential to Emerson, see John Herschel’s Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1831). The latter, which at one point inspired Emerson’s sense of the authority of science, is a highly accessible and fascinating parallel text to have students read alongside Emerson’s address, “The Humanity of Science” (1836). For one, Emerson seems to borrow lavishly from, without mentioning, it. Students will be very intrigued and quite willing to debate whether Emerson’s “creative reading” could in other rooms and offices on campus be called “plagiarism.”


Finding room within this already crammed course to add an explicitly interdisciplinary component was a challenge that, fortunately, produced immediate payoff. Highly satisfied with the results of this first round, I’m eager to refine the attempt and improve upon it. Articulating an optimal set of learning goals and more effectively assessing student’s success in meeting them will take another iteration or two. Anecdotally, I can say that launching this course from questions of epistemology implicit to the history of science served this group of students far more effectively than my old strategy of launching from questions of religious reform. Though the 10-week course really has too much material to cover, the successes of these interdisciplinary innovations have led me to envision ways to make students more responsible for the course’s interdisciplinary aspects and challenges. As noted above, we read Walden in this round much too quickly, and in doing so let a great deal of potential learning, discovery, wonder, and debate slip through our fingers. Though I revere Margaret Fuller’s project and find it both useful and politically responsible to have students grapple with such a difficult proto-feminist expression of Transcendentalism, I now believe this course might be better served to focus on Emerson and Thoreau only. That shift would produce more room for students to develop facility working up the interdisciplinary connections of the course themselves.

While the learning goals articulated above structured my moves in the course, I did not use a rubric or other explicit means of assessment to determine whether students had met them. If I were teaching the course again starting tomorrow, I would use for assessing the final exercise a rubric something like the one that follows here below—which has been informed by and liberally borrows from rubrics of Jacobs, Mansilla et al, the Colorado College SAIL-Florence curricular plan, and the following, brief overview of assessment design:

The Pompeii Project: A Case Study in Space and Gender/Sexuality

Clara Hardy
Professor of Classical Languages, Carleton College

The Pompeii Project: A Case Study in Space and Gender/Sexuality is a one-week module within a 10-week, 200-level course titled Gender and Sexuality in Classical Antiquity. While the course mainly focuses on textual sources, there is enormous power in looking at the material sources available to us; Pompeii provides an appealing case study by providing many such sources in proximity (domestic architecture; public architecture; wall-painting; sculpture; city plan; biological/organic remains; natural environment; etc.). In the module, groups of students will be assigned a specific building/region within Pompeii and will analyze the way in which the gender/sexuality of people inhabiting or using that space affected their use/experience of it. They will produce a gendered map both of their own building/region and the way in which their building/region fits into the town as a whole.


Module Summary

This is a one-week module within a 10-week course on gender and sexuality in the ancient world. While the course mainly focuses on textual sources, there is enormous power in looking at the material sources available to us; Pompeii provides an appealing case study by providing many such sources in proximity (domestic architecture; public architecture; wall-painting; sculpture; city plan; biological/organic remains; natural environment; etc.). Groups of students will be assigned a specific building/region within Pompeii and will analyze the way in which the gender/sexuality of people inhabiting or using that space affected their use/experience of it. They will produce a gendered map both of their own building/region and the way in which their building/region fits into the town as a whole.

Module Context

The course is Classics/Women’s and Gender Studies 214: Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World. The course description is “In both ancient Greece and Rome, gender (along with class and citizenship status) largely determined what people did, where they spent their time, and how they related to others. This course will examine the ways in which Greek and Roman societies defined categories of gender and sexuality, and how they used them to think about larger social, political, and religious issues. Primary readings from Greek and Roman epic, lyric, and drama, as well as ancient historical, philosophical, and medical writers; in addition we will explore a range of secondary work on the topic from the perspectives of Classics and Gender Studies.” The course is at the 200 level not because it has a pre-requisite, but because it requires reading of both primary and secondary sources, and overall has a more demanding workload than courses at the 100 level. It enrolls a mix of students interested in Classics and in Women’s and Gender Studies, which makes for stimulating class discussions but can be challenging as well in terms of baseline student expertise.

The module on Pompeii will come at the beginning of the second half of the course; in the first half (focusing on the Greek world) we will have spent considerable time learning to read the texts for their implicit assumptions about gender and sexuality, and thinking about some of the basic debates in the field (social construction v. essentialism). The Pompeii Project will allow students to bring these skills and concepts to a new category of evidence: material remains.

The module is a group exercise occupying the sixth of the course’s ten weeks. Students will have two class days for research/discussion of their assigned building/region, as well as construction of their map, and then will present their findings on the third class day. The module will thus both function as an introduction to the Roman context, and as a way of thinking about analyzing new kinds of evidence. It will also function as an introduction to library research on the ancient world, which students will be required to carry further in their final research projects.


Updated May 02, 2016

Learning Goals

  1. Content/concepts: To begin mastering gender-specific aspects of Roman social history – these will vary by research group (e.g. prostitution; finance of public buildings; performance and spectacle; religious ritual; domestic economy; etc.).
  2. Higher order thinking skills: To practice thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of source materials.
  3. Learning multidisciplinary analysis: To practice synthesizing literary with material sources and assessing the values and challenges of each.
  4. Other skills: To present complex analysis using visuals that convey multiple kinds of information.


Updated May 02, 2016

Description of Module Activities

Large Question: how did issues of gender/sexuality play out in three dimensions in the daily life of the people of Pompeii in the first century CE?

For this module, the students will be working in groups of 3-4. As my course is usually somewhere between 20-30 students, I would designate 5-10 building/area options and assign one to each group. The number and size of the groups, clearly, could vary depending upon class size: several of the suggested assignments below could be split.

Possible assigned buildings/areas:
  • Amphitheater/Palaestra/Gladiators’ barracks
  • Forum: east side (Macellum and Eumachia building)
  • Forum: west side (temples of Jupiter, Apollo or Venus)
  • Theaters (large or covered)
  • Cemeteries (Nuceria Gate or Herculaneum Gate)
  • Baths (Suburban, Forum, Stabian or Central)
  • Lupanar
  • Inn of Euxinus
  • Fullery of Stephanus
  • Villa of the Mysteries
  • Region VI (private houses: choose one or two from house of the surgeon, house of Sallust, house of Pansa, house of the Tragic Poet, house of the Faun, house of the Vetii)

Before Day One: Groups would be assigned and topics distributed.

For Day One: Everyone would read one of the general introductions (e.g. Beard 2008 Berry 2013, Bradley 2013, De Albentiis, etc.) and do some preliminary research on their building from the books that will be on Closed Reserve at the Library (see list below).

Students will have the full class time on day one, and then prep and class time on day two, to carry out and discuss the implications of their research on the assigned building. Each group member will locate, read, and report back to the group on one or two articles on the building or its context: thus each group will have the benefit of several articles.

In advance of Day Three the groups will create visual(s) to support their presentation to the rest of the class on their building and how it expands our understanding of gender/sexuality.

On Day Three the groups will present the results of their research and the visuals they have created to answer the following questions:

  • Who primarily inhabited/used your space or the spaces within it: men, women, or both together? of what social class(es)? age(s)?
  • What activities would have taken place in your space? To what extent are these gendered?
  • If your space includes art (wall painting, sculpture, objects), what was its purpose, and what sort of experience was involved in viewing it?
  • What route(s) to and from your space would be most likely? Choose two locations from the plan and give routes to your space from them: what/whom would someone see along this route? How public or private would the journey be? At what times of day or night would it likely occur?
  • How might ancient textual sources supplement our interpretation of your space?
  • What are the biggest questions remaining concerning your space, and what gaps in the material record determine what we can and can’t know about it?


The visuals produced by the groups, and their presentations to the rest of the class, will be the means of assessing how well students have met both the content and the skills the goals for the project. I anticipate developing a rubric which I can distribute to the students at the outset of the module.

Resources and Materials

Sources to be kept on Closed Reserve:
  • Allison, Penelope (2004). Pompeian Households: an analysis of material culture.
  • Amery, Colin (2002). The Lost World of Pompeii.
  • Beard, Mary (2008). The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found.
  • Berry, Joanne (2013). The Complete Pompeii.
  • Bradley, Pamela (2013). Cities of Vesuvius: Pompeii and Herculaneum.
  • De Albentiis, Emidio (2009). Secrets of Pompeii: everyday life in ancient Rome.
  • Lazer, Estelle (2009). Resurrecting Pompeii.
  • Ling, Roger (2005). Pompeii: history, life and afterlife.
  • Varone, Antonio (2001). Eroticism in Pompeii.
  • Zanker, Paul (1998). Pompeii: public and private life.
Some web resources:

Rivers in Space and Time

Mary Savina
Charles L. Denison Professor of Geology, Carleton College

A comparative study with digital posters. This module, used in a course on Geomorphology (Geology 210), examines maps as human constructs that portray features in relationship to each other for specific purposes, for example, to show the position of Mediterranean cities in relation to Jerusalem or Mecca (as the keystones of particular religions), or to represent  relationships between stations in a subway system. Maps which show particular features, such as a river, in a time sequence, may be useful in discerning how that river has changed with time. In order to use maps in such a way, the historical reasons for the maps must be understood.


Context for Assignment

This assignment is part of Geomorphology, Geology 210, a course that is taught two of every three years. Course enrollment generally runs between 20 and 36 students. In most years, about half the students are junior and senior geology majors and half are undeclared sophomores or majors in other fields (especially Environmental Studies and also Archaeology  (concentrators) and others). In this course, students spend about a month mapping and measuring various aspects of the Cannon River in the Carleton Arboretum. This assignment complements that field study by having students compare the Cannon to two other rivers. After this assignment is completed, students move on to study hillslope and glacial deposits, completing small assignments in each of these areas and a major final project.

Geomorphology has a prerequisite of one of several introductory geology courses, though junior and senior non-majors can be admitted without that pre-requisite. Some field work on rivers and directed readings are essential to student success in the module. Because it is a small group project, it’s helpful if students already know each other.

Although this module is a stand-alone exercise, it follows a major project and set of readings and class discussions on river systems. However, I believe it can be adapted to be either an introductory assignment on rivers or a culminating project in the course. It may also be adaptable to introductory geoscience, physical geography, and environmental studies courses.

In 2013, this project continued a collaboration that will result in an exhibit in 2015-16 in the Perlman Teaching Museum at Carleton. Other parts of this collaboration include work done in Victoria Morse’s Cartography course in winter 2014 and ongoing discussions among Savina, Morse and Carleton exhibits coordinator Laurel Bradley. The Cartography and Geomorphology classes in fall 2015 will contribute explanatory material to the exhibition, conduct tours, and participate in other ways.


Updated May 02, 2016

Learning Goals

  • Students will use historical and contemporary maps (and other images, including air photos) and government records to compare features of the Arno, Lower Mississippi and Cannon River at different periods;
  • Students will relate topography and flood histories of the three rivers to the ways humans use the rivers and to changes in the rivers over time;
  • Students will work in groups to create digital posters to illustrate the changes that have occurred along the Arno or one of the other rivers;
  • Through their poster, students will demonstrate that they have grappled with some of the following “content” questions:

•  What was the nature of the river before human intervention?
•  In what ways have humans intervened on the river and how are these interventions represented on maps?
•  How have human interventions affected the river:  hydraulic geometry (width, depth, gradient, velocity, discharge, sediment transport), plan form (e.g., sinuosity) connections with the floodplain, effects on flood frequency, etc.?
•  How, in turn, are these changes represented on the historical maps?
•  How do maps of different periods represent “reality” in an urban river setting?
•  For what purpose have such maps been constructed and how well do they serve those purposes?

Higher order thinking skills:
  • By relating directly observable features of rivers to accounts of rivers drawn from historical and cartographic sources, students will learn to operate on different scales of space and time.
  • Students will compare different rivers, synthesizing the information in a way that others can understand.
Multidisciplinary analysis:

In the Mediterranean, humans have modified rivers for a variety of purposes (navigation, irrigation, energy, food processing, etc.) at least since the Bronze Age. Millenial-scale climate changes have also affected rivers.  Sorting out what’s natural and what’s not – and the specific effects of humans on river systems – is a central task for geomorphologists, one that requires understanding human settlement and economy in collaboration with historians, social scientists, and interpreters of literature.

In comparing maps of rivers are made for different purposes, students will be practicing multidisciplinary analysis. For instance, the navigational maps of the lower Mississippi from today’s Army Corps of Engineers differ from earlier maps of the same stretches of river. The same is true for the Arno and other Mediterranean rivers. Maps made by sailors show the exact position of the river mouths and the obstacles ships will encounter coming into port. Maps made by individuals living along the rivers may show the variety of daily activities around the river, or may emphasize the bucolic surroundings,  fortifications or plans for improvements, depending on the audience for whom the map was made.

For instance, Leonardo da Vinci created maps of two sections of the Arno. Upstream, in the Val-di-Chiana, Leonardo imagined a lake to replace the malarial marshes (Alexander, David, 1984, The Reclamation of Val-di-Chiana (Tuscany):  Annals of the Association of American Geographers, v. 74, p. 527-550.) Downstream of Florence, while Florence was sparring with Pisa (a marginal battle in the larger fight between local city-states and foreign powers), Leonardo drew up plans to divert the Arno southward through the Funcecchio marshes, isolating Pisa and potentially providing Florence with access to the ocean (Masters, R., 1999, Fortune Is a River: Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolò Machiavelli’s Magnificent Dream to Change the Course of Florentine History, (New York: Free Press). Recently, artist Florent Morellet’s re-imagined the lower Arno Basin as it would look now if the Machiavelli/Da Vinci project had succeeded four centuries early. Pisa is a shriveled-up little town isolated from the river and the ocean.

Other skills:
  • Learning to read and interpret maps is a central skill for geoscience students and for many other students.  Maps form the basis of spatial analysis of all forms, including Geographic Information Systems.


Updated May 02, 2016

Description of Activity

  • Rivers in Space and Time – digital poster assignment (Fall 2013) – This handout was given to the students in fall 2013 to explain the assignment, list the topics and explain how to use Prezi, the on-line tool for creating digital posters.
  • Rubric for grading digital posters in geomorphology (Fall 2013) – This handout, created by the two student project managers, was used to evaluate the posters created by the student groups.
  • How to design an attractive (electronic) poster by Bart M. ter Haar Romeny and Jelle Barentsz  – This handout was prepared for radiologists submitting posters to a 2003 conference in Europe.  Although these submitters did not use Prezi, the handout has great tips for those of us who are used to static posters at scientific meetings.  I’ve searched without success for the original citation.

Teaching Notes

Students were given two 70-minute class periods and a four-hour lab period to work together on the assignment. The assignment was scheduled during a section of the course when I was away at a professional meeting. I’ve found that with group projects it’s helpful to use scheduled class and lab time for at least part of the work, because students have trouble coordinating schedules to work together at other times.

After I described the different topics, students were asked to choose three or four that interested them. They were also asked if they wanted to be project managers. Based on these preferences, I formed the groups. In this way, each of the students worked on a topic of interest. Because this assignment came midway during the course and students had worked in groups from the start, they knew each other pretty well.

I created folders in the course management system with some starting resources for each of the three river systems. My main goals for this relatively short project – having students compare the river systems and design a poster to communicate those comparisons – did not include having students search comprehensively through library and on-line sources. The assignment could be modified to increase the amount of literature searching students are required to do. In that case, the assignment might be used as a culminating course project, rather than one of several assignments. I found that students did search beyond the resources provided to them, particularly on the internet. In fact, I didn’t think all the student groups made enough use of the materials that were provided.

I found that it was hard to keep the student groups from converging around certain specific elements, such as the effects of major floods, even though my intent was to minimize the overlap between topics. When I do this project again, I will ask the project managers to be more attuned to the possibility of overlap and perhaps ask each group for a progress report halfway through. I’ll also provide a slightly longer statement of what each topic means.


The rubric that was used for this assignment is attached.  It covers content and design features of the poster. Posters are explicitly evaluated on the strength and detail of the comparative and contrasting information about three rivers. All topics were interdisciplinary in the sense that they required students to examine both the physical features and the human uses of river systems. Students were encouraged to include materials from a range of sources from different disciplines (e.g. literature, news accounts, scientific data), but this aspect was not explicitly covered in the rubric.

Resources and Materials

I think that readers of this assignment can still get to one of the 2013 geomorphology posters through the following url:

Examples of web sites discussing digital posters:

Examples of resources specific to this river assignment:

Coe College

Environment and Resiliency in Italy

Andrea Kann
Assistant Professor of Art, Coe College

Martin St. Clair
Professor of Chemistry, Coe College

Angela Ziskowski
Assistant Professor of History, Coe College

Our common module brought together three different courses to model the interactions between individual disciplinary approaches to larger cultural and environmental questions about resiliency in Italy. More specifically, we modeled interdisciplinary inquiry for our students by explaining how the tools of each discipline could be applied to specific issues of disaster, recovery, and sustainability in Florence and its vicinity. After individual presentations from each of the faculty in their field, we then divided the students into interdisciplinary groups, and asked them to work together using these tools to solve a similar problem situated in Rome.

Our larger goal was for students to understand the complex intersections between environments and communities over large spans of time, and the ways that elements both tangible and intangible have coalesced in a variety of ways to create and sustain meanings. To this end, we focused on the following questions:

  • How do human and environmental elements or factors combine to sustain communities over time, from the ancient world to today?
  • How do the communal/collective identities of these cities adhere to natural or human-made elements associated with place?
  • What is the connection between places, both natural and human, and the meanings they hold for us (and generations of people) over time?


Context for the Module

The three courses and instructors participating in the shared module:

  • Angela Ziskowski – Archaeology of Waste and Recycling
  • Marty St. Clair – Environmental Studies Seminar
  • Andrea Kann – Public Art, Space, and Memory

Prerequisites for the three courses integrating the module:

  • ANT-225 Archaeology of Waste and Recycling – An archaeological and anthropological survey of an array of approaches to the study of waste and pollution as well as practices of disposal and reuse in ancient and modern societies. Prerequisite: junior or senior standing.
  • EVS-515 Environmental Studies Seminar – An intensive examination of selected works and subjects dealing with environmental issues. Specific topics vary from year to year. Prerequisite: junior standing.
  • ARH-495 Advanced Topics in Art History: Public Art, Space, & Memory – Advanced study of a selected topic or theme in art history. Topics vary. May be taken more than once for credit, provided the topics are substantially different. Prerequisite: Introduction to Art History (ARH-208) or consent of instructor.

The shared module was incorporated in the fourth through sixth weeks of the semester. This allowed each instructor to establish a basic framework of knowledge for the course and prepare their students for the module. Each instructor was then able to incorporate the module into the individual course in an appropriate fashion.


Updated May 02, 2016

Learning Goals


To understand resilience in its social, historical, environmental, and aesthetic forms.

Multidisciplinary analysis:
  • To recognize that different disciplines provide varied perspectives on social identity when a community is challenged with the natural environment
  • To introduce students to the variety of tools and methods that different disciplines employ in problem solving
  • To model collaborative work across disciplines to the students from three fields


Updated May 02, 2016

Teaching Notes

All three courses were scheduled on the same day and time (T/TH 9:30-11:00 AM) during the spring semester of 2014 so meeting for the shared unit (and any subsequent interactions) did not require additional planning. The unit consisted of five separate class meetings, with an extra evening guest lecture from a Florence “Flood Angel” who came and shared her experiences with the group.

In the first class meeting, Angela demonstrated to the combined classes how archaeologists discover and study the ancient or historic roots that anchored communities to the environment around Florence, Fiesole, and Roman/Etruscan Italy in general. Students learned that these early inhabitants of the area often chose their locations because of specific environmental features such as rivers, and also how these communities created foundation myths to explain their own origins in these exact sites.

In the second class meeting, Marty used the 1966 flood in Florence and the 2008 flood in Cedar Rapids to show students environmentally how and why such natural catastrophes can occur. In a wide ranging discussion, he demonstrated how scientific tools, information sharing, and disaster preparedness plans can help communities learn from the past in planning for the future.

In the third class meeting, Andrea discussed how visual culture and its layered meanings have created and sustained individual and community identities in Italy, both past and present. Her class session focused on the ways that public art and spaces have connected natural environments to those constructed by humans, and the past to the present in ways that unify peoples (as well as sometimes excluding “Others.”)

A special addition to the unit was an evening presentation by a local resident who served as one of Florence’s famous “Flood Angels.” Students were able to hear a firsthand account of life in Florence immediately after the devastating 1966 flood, and then to ask questions about what it was like to experience this historic event.


At the end of the third class, we divided students into three pre-assigned interdisciplinary groups, and distributed the unit assessment. This group project asked them to develop a plan in response to a hypothetical, projected flood of the Tiber River. More specifically, they were asked to consider the area of St. Peter’s and its immediate surroundings and to determine what should and can be preserved in the event of such a disaster. The groups were presented with the assignment, and directed to a collection of readings, documents and interdisciplinary tools that could help them research, gather information, and plan for projected levels of disaster.

The fourth class was devoted to group meetings, with all three faculty members available to consult on disciplinary-specific questions. In the fifth class, the three groups presented their plans to the combined classes, supporting their cases with combined interdisciplinary solutions supported by evidence. Each group presented a strong and well-developed plan, as well as demonstrating productive collaboration through shared responsibility for the content and visual presentation.

Resources and Materials

Readings for the shared module

Day 1:
  • Brian Campbell, Rivers and the Power of Ancient Rome (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012) Ch. 1
Day 2:
  • Caporali, Rinaldi and Casagli, “The Arno River Floods” Giornale di Geologia Applicata 1 (2005) 177-192
  • Ken Shulman, “30 Years Later, Florence Warily Watches the Arno” New York Times(February 9, 1997)
  • “Flood Risk in Florence: Forty Years On” Disaster Planning and Emergency Management (blog posting 27 Oct 2008)
Day 3:
  • Robert Clark, Dark Water: Art, Disaster, and Redemption in Florence (New York, Anchor: 2008) 1-10; 129-90.

Readings and Resources for the Collaborative Group Presentations

  • Allesandroni, Maria Gabriella and Gianrenzo Remedia. “The most severe floods of the Tiber River in Rome” The Extremes of the Extremes: Extraordinary Floods (Proceedings of a symposium held at Reykjavik, Iceland, July 2000) IAHS Publ. no. 272, 2002
  • “The Floods the Plan did not Foresee” Economic and Political Weekly 1:15 (Nov 26, 1966) 617.
  • Hall, Jonathan. “The Bones of St. Peter,” in Artifact and Artifice: Classical Archaeology and the Ancient Historian (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013) 187-206.
  • McClendon, Charles. “The History of the Site of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome,” Perspecta 25 (1989) 32-65.
  • Natale, L. and F. Savi. “Monte Carlo analysis of probability of inundation of Rome” Environmental Modelling & Software 22 (2007) 1409-1416
  • Sharing Conservation Decisions. Ed. Rosalia Varoli-Piazza. Rome: ICCROM, 2007. 175 pages.

Useful websites – site has pictures of various historical markers of Rome flooding, as well as discussion of current possibilities for flooding. – again, pictures of historical flood markers around Rome, as well as pictures of high water in 2008. – more of the same; discussion of the role of human buildings along the river exacerbating the flooding problems – nice piece about the effects of flooding on historic preservation in Rome – very interesting piece on designing public spaces along the Tiber – very interesting project with lots of historical resources on water infrastructure of Rome;  includes a peer-reviewed journal on the topic, with an interesting paper on common spaces “Rome’s Uncertain Tiberscape: Tevereterno and the Urban Commons” by Kay Bea Jones ( – “During the 18th century, Rome built the embankments along the Tiber River to prevent flooding in the city, but suffered from a side effect of severing a historic link between the city and the riverfront. In response to the damaged ecosystem that suffers from pollution and a sheer condition created by a straightened river, this project brings the river into the city to create fluvian and riparian habitat amidst the site of the historical Villa Farnesina gardens. ”

Vatican City in its entirety is a World Heritage Site – The details of what this entails (descriptions, maps, documents, images, and a table of threat indicators) can found here:

The Inventory and Catalogue of the Cultural Heritage of the Church – This documents steps that the Catholic Church is taking to preserve its art historical patrimony, and speaks to the importance of these objects of cultural heritage:

Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums –

Vatican Museums – The Vatican Museums contain some of the most famous and unique artistic treasures in the world today. These works of art are irreplaceable, from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling to Caravaggio’s Deposition to the Augustus of Primaporta. This link provides access online to some of these objects:

The large number of visitors even in ordinary times has threatened the stability of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, leaving the frescoes vulnerable to atmospheric damage:

If these objects were to be destroyed, would a virtual experience be enough for future generations to appreciate their meaning and beauty?

Protection of Art in Vatican City – Vatican police chief talks to Interpol about protecting religious art:

Colorado College

Italy and the Mediterranean: Earth, Sea, and Culture

Susan Ashley
Professor of History, Colorado College

Christine Siddoway
Professor of Geology, Colorado College

Sanjay Thakur
Assistant Professor of Classics, Colorado College

This international course examines the interrelationship between the occupants of the Italian Peninsula and the Peninsula’s distinctive landscape, geology, and ecology. It focuses on the influence of nature on how people lived in the ancient, Renaissance, and modern periods, and how people perceived and tried to manage nature.

Sites for study include Rome and Florence, the Bay of Naples and Venice, with additional short visits to the Maremma in southern Tuscany, Pisa, and Orvieto. By examining three time periods that can be ‘read’ and retrieved from a common physiographic and urban setting (e.g. Rome, or Venice), the course seeks to provide the means for students to experience the scholarly excitement that derives from intellectual exploration, synthesis and integration, and thereby to instill a passion for interdisciplinary inquiry.


Context for Use of this Course

The design of the course is most suitable for intensive, immersive learning and a one-month format of the type that is employed for J-term, interim, Block Plan, and summer courses at many ACM schools and other liberal arts colleges.  The course is intended to be taught on-site in Italy, for students at sophomore level or higher who have developed an affiliation or an initial preference for a disciplinary focus within an academic major.

Using geospatial and internet resources, faculty members who wish to offer this course on the home campus could readily do so by making use of GoogleEarth, GeoMapApp and other interactive geospatial resources, together with web-based materials such as the Google Art Project. For an example of the latter, brought to bear on interdisciplinary learning, see our web resource entitled “Landscape and the imagination in Florence.”

An ideal class size would be determined on the basis of faculty to student ratio, with one faculty member per six students (or so), and the possibility for students to work on group projects in teams of three or four. Hence, an optimal class size that is guided by three faculty members would be 18 students.


Updated May 02, 2016

Learning Goals

Drawing upon the perspectives of history, classics and archaeology, and geology, the learning goals for the Italy and the Mediterranean: Earth, Sea, and Culture course are to:

  1. Examine how natural phenomena affected/affect society. The distinction will be drawn between continuous and catastrophic phenomena, for purpose of comparison and contrast.
  2. Use primary sources to discover how individuals and societies affected the environment in ancient and Renaissance societies, and to compare those effects to the impacts of contemporary society on the environment. Primary sources will include rock and sediment exposures, archeological sites, and literature in English translation. Communicate about and discuss the rationale for use of primary materials.
  3. Examine domestic objects, art and ritual objects, architecture and urban design, and primary literature sources to determine how people imagined and understood nature.
  4. Center investigation on three major periods in history: ancient, Renaissance, and contemporary.
  5. Educate students and collectively explore the meaning, motivations for, and drawbacks of an interdisciplinary approach.
  6. Communicate about and discuss practical aspects of interdisciplinary learning:

• Obtain sufficient breadth, depth and acquaintance with foundational knowledge and methods in each discipline to function at a professional (not amateur) level. Avoid reducing the foundational knowledge, best practices, and intellectual framework of each discipline  in order to have acquaintance with multiple disciplines.
• Monitor and record the process in achieving interdisciplinarity, and be conscious of impediments that exist to interdisciplinary work. Track the steps by which we achieve important realizations or discover new knowledge.
• Achieve a degree of balance between disciplinary standpoints and respect/implement the best practices of each discipline.
• The ability to working interdisciplinarily grows with experience. It takes practice to become adept at identifying new relationships among disparate types of information, from which we may attain knowledge.


Updated May 02, 2016

Curricular Plan

Curricular Plan for Italy and the Mediterranean: Earth, Sea, and Culture

  • Developed by: Colorado College faculty Susan Ashley (history), Christine Siddoway (geology), and Sanjay Thakur (classics, archaeology
  • Includes: Introduction; Course goals and approach; Course syllabus, itinerary, and primary sources


For assessment of the degree of proficiency with interdisciplinarity that students achieve during the course, we will adapt and apply the  targeted assessment rubric of Mansilla et al. (2009). Specific to our course, we have identified five learning objectives for the course (see list on p. 4), to be developed over 20 days of interdisciplinary inquiry in varied geological, historical, urban and extraurban settings in Italy. Five approaches to learning (p. 4) are prioritized for development and application. The degree to which students fulfill the learning objectives and attain proficiency with the learning approaches will be assessed using the rubric that appears on pages 10-12 of this document. Learning objectives 2 through 4 are, in our view, essential to interdisciplinary inquiry. They serve to instill traits of curiosity, critical thinking and reasoning that are at the core of liberal arts education that lead to tendencies for lifelong learning. Instructors who share this view may apply our rubric as it is or with some adaptation to align with course content.

Resources and Materials

Curricular Plan

Curricular Plan for Italy and the Mediterranean: Earth, Sea, and Culture

  • Developed by: Colorado College faculty Susan Ashley (history), Christine Siddoway (geology), and Sanjay Thakur (classics, archaeology)
  • Includes: Introduction; Course goals and approach; Course syllabus, itinerary, and primary sources

See also, related course modules:

  • Module: The Arithmetic of Distance. Contributed by Susan Ashley, Colorado College.
  • Module: Platform for Interdisciplinary Inquiry – GIS: Putting ‘place,’ ‘space,’ and humanity into a shared frame of reference. Contributed by Christine Siddoway, Colorado College.

The Arithmetic of Distance: A Module

Susan Ashley
Professor of History, Colorado College

This module invites students to consider the relativity of distance. How big is the Mediterranean? It can, of course, be measured and the size rendered in numbers. But size also depends on perception and experience. This is especially true before the development of sophisticated tools for measuring distance.

Even now, but especially in the past, people measured the sea relative to other bodies of water they knew or heard about. They also calculated its size in terms of the time it took to travel from one point to another. To understand distance as travel time, the module asked students to use Orbis: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Ancient World. The exercise involved calculating distances in order to imagine how the ancients experienced the size of the Mediterranean.


Context of the Module

  1. I used this module in two courses: Culture, Society, and History: The Mediterranean, a course for first- year students, and Senior Seminar: Nature in History, for senior history majors.
  2. In each course, the module happened early in the course after students had read introductory material on the geography of the Mediterranean. (Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, trans. Siân Reynolds, vol. 1 (New York: Harper: 1972). They read the prefaces, a section of Part 1, and they summarized and reported back on the sections.
  3. In the first-year iteration, it served as one activity in a six-hour unit on Geology, Ecology, and Society, and in the Senior Seminar it illustrated one method, among others, of doing environmental history, specifically, in this case, of the Mediterranean region.


Updated May 02, 2016

Learning Goals

Content/concepts: Using Orbis, measure and compare travel times between Rome and four other cities, in summer and winter. Experiment with other variables including cost and speed. Compare to modern figures for air and sea transport. Work with an historical data base.

Higher order thinking skills: Figure out the meaning of the results. In some cases, they do not correspond with expectations. For example, it takes longer to reach some destinations in the summer than the winter. Why?

Multidisciplinary analysis: The database students used reconstructed routes and times based on archaeological, historical, and literary evidence. They did this exercise in the context of a study of ancient cartography.

Other skills: Students worked with partners in order to develop collaborative techniques useful for discussion and, in the case of the seniors, for class discussion and for collaborative research workshops.


Updated May 02, 2016

Teaching Materials and Activities

  • Orbis: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Ancient World:
  • Braudel, Fernand, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, trans. Siân Reynolds, vol. 1 (New York: Harper: 1972).

Instructions: Go to; click on Orbis; Mapping Orbis; Interactive distance cartogram

Students received a work sheet ( Arithmetic of Distance-Appendix, #1) asking them to calculate the fastest travel time, in number of days, in winter and summer to and from the cities of Rome, Antioch, Constantinople, and London.

  • Another hand-out ( Arithmetic of Distance-Appendix, #2) compared travel times from Rome to Constantinople, Alexandria, Verona, and Carthage in the ancient world and now by air and by sea.
  • Results led to a discussion of the impact of weather, winds, and currents on sea travel in the ancient period and to the implications of the large distances (measured in time traveled) for trade, control of the Empire, and the exchange of people and ideas.
  • For the first-year class, the Orbis exercise accompanied a study of descriptions of the earth and the place of the Mediterranean in it including those of Hecateus (550-480 BCE); Strabo (18 CE), Claudius Ptolemy (90-168 CE), Christian T-O maps; Piri Reis (c1470-1553/4), the Mercator (1569), Google Earth globe. (See Resources section.)

Teaching Notes

I used a PowerPoint supported lecture/discussion for the maps. It took about an hour. Reserve at least one hour for the Orbis exercise and another hour for the discussion. I allotted less and found that it took students more time than I anticipated to figure out the program and to calculate the distances.

Having students work in pairs is a good idea because they can share computers, technical expertise, and talk some about what they find. Orbis is reasonably easy to use, but it generated some frustrations. For example, it is hard to calculate the distances to London, because they fall off the screen. Next time, I would omit London.

I should also have allotted more time to the discussion, particularly to the comparison of how ancients understood the geography of the Mediterranean and how they experienced it.

Consider adding time or a complementary homework assignment to allow them to explore some of the other features of the site, including calculating overland trade routes for goods and for military maneuvers. The site also offers studies based on the data which could have been useful either for content or for research methodologies.


Post-exercise discussion determined how well students used the results to identify patterns and how well they identified the variables most useful in explaining them.

Resources and Materials


GIS as a Platform for Interdisciplinary Education and Research

Christine Siddoway
Professor of Geology, Colorado College

Geospatial tools offer a means to organize and analyze disparate types of information from diverse fields within a geographic framework. Collaboration on the integrative effort, by a number of academics and students who bring differing expertise and perspectives, has great potential to produce breakthroughs in multidisciplinary education and research.

This project includes three activities: The first involves close observation and inquiry using the interactive digital elevation model for Italy; the second makes use of GoogleEarth; the third uses a free software application developed at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.

Luther College

Multidimensional Ethical Dilemmas: Sacred & Commoditized Water in Atacama

Anita Carrasco
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Luther College

This assignment was created for a study abroad course called The Impacts of Mining and Tourism on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment in Northern Chile. In this activity, students are asked to write a reflective essay to think about how native Atacameños manage to keep water sacred in spite of and in the midst of its commodification for the advance of mining and tourist industries in the region.


Background to the Assignment

In 2003, I had the opportunity to interview an Atacameño, whom I will call Pablo, about his particular view of the canal cleaning ritual, sacred mountains and their relation to water. He said:

Mountains are alive like people. You can have a conversation with a mountain. Mount Quimal is a tutelary mountain. I will tell you a story so you can understand what I mean. One of the most beautiful fiestas we have is the cleaning of canals. For us it is a pact we made with the Earth Mother when, eight thousand years ago, we became sedentary peoples, and settled in this desert. Then we made a pact with the Earth Mother to bring the mountains and have mountains provide water for the people. We see canals as equivalent to human veins. If we do not take care of our diet, we get ill with high cholesterol, our veins will get clogged. There will come the time when clean blood will not be able to flow through our veins and we will suffer an imbalance in our body. The same occurs in the cleaning of canals. What we are doing is complying with a millenary pact of cleaning our veins so our culture continues to reproduce and so the blood can flow through the veins so we can water the roots of our plants, but also our roots as humans. (Interview, Calama 2003)

For native Atacameño water is sacred. They engage in an annual ritual called the canal cleaning ceremony, to secure the wellbeing of the community and the environment. In this ritual they make offerings to the Earth Mother and ask for water. Atacameño live in a nation-state that disregards this sacred view and defines water in legal terms. Mining corporations adopt the nation-state’s water code that allows for the commoditization of water.

In this activity students will be asked to write a reflective essay to think about how native Atacameños manage to keep water sacred in spite of and in the midst of its commodification for the advance of mining and tourist industries in the region. As part of the assignment students will also need to turn in all associated field-notes written in the process of this assignment.

Context for the Assignment

This activity will be used in the study abroad course titled The Impacts of Mining and Tourism on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment in Northern Chile.

To complete the activity all students will have to read the manuscript titled: “Mining Uncertainties: the Social Life of Water and Indigenous Peoples in the Atacama Desert, Northern Chile.” (forthcoming)

In addition to the above article, each student will be asked to identify one or two additional peer-reviewed article in one of the local regional journals (Estudios Atacameños or Chungara). They will select a case study addressing some of the strategies Atacameños have employed to deal with mining and other extractive encroachments that make it difficult for them to protect the sacred character of water and or their culture and environment as a whole.

A native ritual specialist in charge of leading the canal cleaning ceremony will offer a formal talk about the importance and the meanings of the canal cleaning ceremony. As part of this talk, students will have to engage in a 3-hour hike in the village of Caspana, that will follow the path of the ritual and will culminate at the place where Atacameño make their offerings to the Earth Mother. This hike will give students the opportunity to ask specific questions to the ritual specialist and visualize the place where the ceremony actually takes place.


Updated May 02, 2016

Learning Goals

Concept goals:
  • Students will learn that there are competing cultural logics about water in the Atacama Desert.
  • Students will learn that indigenous peoples face serious challenges to maintain the sustainability of the environment and their culture.
  • Students will learn about the manifold ethical dilemmas faced by communities struggling to keep their culture, but also to make a living thus facing tough decisions regarding troublesome offers made by extractive industries.
  • Students will learn about the manifold ethical dilemmas faced by corporations and how they deal with them or fail to deal with them in the advance of their business.
  • Students will understand that the winners and losers that result from multidimensional ethical controversies are defined by the decisions of very concrete and specific human beings.
Higher order thinking skills:
  • Students will learn ‘to see’ society: how to identify the role that society at large plays in the resolution of these socio-cultural, economic, ecological and ethical dilemmas.
Multidisciplinary analysis:
  • Students will understand that complex problems may never be answered from single disciplinary lenses.
Other skills:
  • Students will learn systematic documentation of field observations.
  • Students will learn to compare and contrast data from a variety of different sources (written, conversational, experiential, observational).


Updated May 02, 2016

Adapting the Activity for Another Course

If another faculty member would like to teach or modify this course activity, they could do so successfully in the context of a course that was field based and they had strong connections with natives that were willing to give a talk to the students about particular sacred practices and places. If not possible, then they would have to base their activity on secondary sources that describe ritual practices challenged by competing cultural hegemonic logics imposed by nation-states over minority groups.



Students will have to give a 10-15 minute presentation to the group and will be asked to address one or two of the following issues:

  • Who pays the price for mining and tourist development (Tourist? Corporations? Nature? Natives?)
  • Should mining companies take advantage of their economic power?
  • Whose duty is it to defend the weak from corporations that take advantage of their power? (The government, Chilean society, United Nations, the Church, NGOs, etc.).
  • Economic pressures may lead certain communities to sell or lease water to mining or tourist corporations. What are the social and ecological implications of such transactions?
Writing Assignment

Students will write a 2-3 page single spaced essay discussing the following questions:

  • How does the commoditization of water affect its sacred character (anthropology)?
  • How does the commoditization of water affect the environment (biology)?
  • What are the ethical dilemmas of imposing a legal view of water over a sacred view?

More specifically, a successful assignment completion will be assessed based on the following rubric:

  1. Identifies a social problem;
  2. Asks a question(s) that can be responded to with evidence;
  3. Provides evidence from a variety of source types and perspectives;
  4. Ideas are well organized and clearly written;
  5. Clearly establishes difference between own opinion and what the evidence says;
  6. Demonstrates curiosity and initiative in completing the assignment.

Broadly speaking, we are assessing whether students were successful in describing the ethical complexities of the impacts of the mining industry on indigenous communities and the environment drawing on a multidisciplinary perspective.

Resources and Materials


Home page of Journal Estudios Atacameños:

Home page of Journal Chungara:

Social Impacts of Tourism in San Pedro de Atacama

Anita Carrasco
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Luther College

This activity was created for a January term study abroad course titled The Impacts of Mining and Tourism on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment in Northern Chile. In the activity, students find and analyze a variety of sources of information to develop estimates of the ecological impacts of tourism on local indigenous communities.


Context of the Activity

  1. This activity will be used in the study abroad course The impacts of Mining and Tourism on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment in Northern Chile.  One of the goals of this course is to ask students to problematize the role of tourism and how it impacts native cultures and the environment.
  2. Students will have already started or completed an assignment to study the ecological impacts of tourism.
  3. To complete the activity students will have had to watch the documentary film Cannibal Tours by Dennis O’Rourke and it will be recommended that they read the essay “On the making of Cannibal Tours” by the same author. In addition, they will have spent several days in the village of San Pedro de Atacama conducting participant observation by visiting at least two or three tourist attractions in the village and keeping daily fieldnotes. Students must engage in at least three informal conversations with other tourists and if Spanish skill allows, they should also speak with a couple of natives. Students will also make detailed notes of a visit places like the artisanal market, the archaeological museum and examine two or three restaurant menus and to see if they fit the ‘stereotype’ they had of ‘Andean Culture’ before their visit to the village.


Updated May 03, 2016

Learning Goals

  • Students will understand that there is a stereotype about native peoples and places that influences what we look for as tourists and how the natives and the tourist industry respond to our stereotype.
  • Students will understand that the tourist industry creates socio-economic inequalities and serious ecological pressures on scarce resources such as water.
  • Students should be able to document in written form the world of appearances (what they think, pre-conceptions and stereotypes).
  • Students be able to contrast their first impressions with what they think after they dig beneath the surface.
Multidisciplinary analysis:
  • Students will be asked to make connections between their and other tourists’ stereotypes about what it means to be ‘Andean’.
  • Students will make connections between the social and ecological consequences that result from the efforts the tourist industry and the natives make to provide for these stereotypes.
Other skills:
  • Students will learn systematic documentation of field observations.
  • Students will learn some basic interviewing skills to talk with other tourists.
  • Students will learn to compare and contrast data from a variety of different sources (written, conversational, experiential, observational).


Updated May 03, 2016

Activity Summary

First students will watch the documentary film Cannibal Tours by Dennis O’Rourke (available free on Youtube). Documentary filmmaker Dennis O’Rourke is convinced that humans are not interested in reality or truth. He argues that we seek truth, which is our fantasy of it (just listen to the discourses of the tourists and the natives in Cannibal Tours). If we really want to understand the world in which we live, we must transcend simplicity and slogans and seek meaning in chaos and complexity. Students will have to write an essay responding to the following interconnected issues:

  1. How do we move past our own fantasies and emotions to understand the realities of people and places we visit? How do we see past appearances to understand the social problems that tourism brings to the community?
  2. How does the inequality between you, the tourist, and the native people of San Pedro affect your interactions with them? Film-maker Dennis O’Rourke argued that: “The promoted idea of tourism as ‘a dialogue between cultures’ is a myth; because there exists such an economic and cultural disparity between the protagonists, that all human encounter is inevitably distorted.” Read the attached anecdote (see the Resources section) O’Rourke shares about the process of making his documentary Cannibal Toursand reflect whether you think what O’Rourke describes for the case of Papua New Guinea (inequality between the observer and the observed distorting all interactions) is to some extent also happening (or not) in the relationship between natives and tourists interactions in San Pedro de Atacama.

Using the Activity in Another Course

If another faculty member would like to teach or modify this activity, they could do so successfully in the context of a course that is examining the relationship between the transnational tourist industry and native cultures and the environment around the world. Essential materials for this activity are the documentary film available at the url address provided below:



Students will give a 10-15 minute presentation to the group where they address at least two of the following issues:

  • What they thought about “Andean culture” before and after this activity.
  • Describe their and other tourists’ stereotypes of native peoples and the environment.
  • What efforts did they see natives and tourist industry making to meet these fantasies of Andean society and environment.
  • How does something that could be taken as ‘anecdotal’ as someone’s private fantasy, affect natural resources like water (ecology).
  • How does the commoditization of culture affect authenticity (anthropology).

After each student has presented, we will engage in a group discussion addressing major points.

Writing Assignment:

Students will write a 2-3 page single spaced essay on their understanding of Andean culture, tourism and the environment. They will detail their concerns regarding their needs as tourists and the needs of the natives and the environment. They will ask who pays the cost of tourism and who benefits from this industry. They will discuss their concerns and potential solutions. In sum, they will discuss ethical issues in the tourist industry they are experiencing in Atacama.

More specifically, a successful assignment completion will be assessed based on the following rubric:

  1. Identifies a social problem;
  2. Asks a question(s) that can be responded to with evidence;
  3. Provides evidence from a variety of source types and perspectives;
  4. Ideas are well organized and clearly written;
  5. Clearly establishes difference between own opinion and what the evidence says;
  6. Demonstrates curiosity and initiative in completing the assignment.
  7. Broadly speaking, we are assessing whether students were successful in describing the ethical complexities of the tourist experience.

Resources and Materials


For faculty interested in replicating this assignment, it is recommended that they read the essay titled, On The Making of Cannibal Tours by Dennis D’Rourke.

Cannibal Tours Anecdote

From “On the making of Cannibal Tours” by Dennis O’Rourke, pp. 15-16.

The following anecdote will (only obliquely, I hope) illuminate some of what I have been saying. When I was filming Cannibal Tours, I had to negotiate with the leaders of the various villages along the river and explain my film to them at a series of community meetings. This was made a little easier for me because I speak Melanesian Pidgin, and because I had a history of involvement with the Sepik Province going back to before Papua New Guinea achieved its independence. I had visited some of the villagers with Mr Michael Somare who was the first and long time Prime Minister of the country, and who is a Sepik chief.

Agreement to film was achieved easily and amicably at all places except for one village, Tambunam. This was the place where the redoubtable American anthropologist, Margaret Mead, had done a lot of her famous work. The villagers were angry, they told me that they resented how she had profited from them and that, despite promises, she had not even returned copies of her books. I promised, as I always do, to supply the village with copies of the finished film. Some of the younger men were distrustful and so, as a gesture of sincerity, I offered to provide them with several copies my other films about Papua New Guinea. The offer was accepted and I was told how useful the 16 videocassettes would be for showing in the community (the tourists also saw my other films – the tour operator had them on the ship and they were watched in the evenings as part of their itinerary).

A few weeks later, when I returned to the village of Tambunam with a different group of tourists, I was astounded when, as we were leaving the village, one of the tourists came up to me on the ship, proudly holding one of those videocassettes, saying: “Guess what! A young man was selling your films and I bargained him down from fifty to twenty Kina!”

Ecological Impacts of Tourism in and Around San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Beth Lynch
Associate Professor of Biology, Luther College

This activity was created for the study abroad course titled The Impacts of Mining and Tourism on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment in Northern Chile. In the activity, students will find and analyze a variety of sources of information to develop estimates of the ecological impacts of tourism on local indigenous communities.


Context of the Activity

This activity is one of several that students will be asked to complete during a 3.5 week long January-term course, Paideia 450: The Impacts of Mining and Tourism on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment of Northern Chile, that I will teach in 2015 with Anita Carrasco, Anthropology, Luther College.


Updated May 03, 2016

Learning Goals

After completing this assignment students should be able to:

  1. Predict the sources of ecological impacts resulting from tourism and what information would be need to assess these impacts. (concepts: tourism has a variety of often overlooked impacts on air, water, wildlife, energy use, solid waste production; ecosystem services; economic externalities)
  2. Find and analyze a variety of sources of information to develop estimates of ecological impacts. (skills: find information from reliable internet sources, journal articles, and interviews; analyze a variety of kinds of data from these sources; make estimates of ecological impacts from incomplete information)
  3. Summarize the ecological impacts in oral and written formats (skills: oral and written communication; interdisciplinary learning: anticipate how environmental impacts of tourism will impact indigenous communities, recognize the ethical issues related to tourism)


Updated May 03, 2016

Activity Description

In June, 2014, we will visit San Pedro de Atacama (in my case for the first time in 35 years) and we will not teach the course until January, 2015. These teaching materials will be updated including teaching notes after we teach the class.

The assignment is designed to take place several days. It begins with a lecture to provide some context. To begin answering the central question of the assignment, the students will break into small groups to make a list of potential environmental impacts of tourism and how they might be measured. Small groups will investigate one type of environmental impact assigned to them.  After conferring with one or both the faculty about a research plan, each small group will make observations and/or collect data.  Table 2 from Gössling et al. (2012) and tables 3 and 6 from Saito (2013) will be provided to the students.

After the research and analysis phase, one student from each resource group will be put in a group made of up students who are experts in different ecological impacts. After sharing the results of their research in small groups, the class will come together a final time for a lecture/discussion to explore the concepts of ecosystems services and economic externalities within the context of tourism. Students will complete the module by writing 750-word essay addressing the prompt in the assignment.


We will assess the depth of students’ understanding of the issues, how effectively they use evidence, how they handle the difficulty of making conclusions from incomplete information, how effectively they can explain the issues to their peers, and their ability to identify the ethical dimensions of tourism.

Resources and Materials


  • Gössling, S., P. Peeters, C. M. Hall, J.-P. Ceron, G. Dubois, L. V. Lehmann, and D. Scott. 2012. Tourism and water use: Supply, demand, and security. An international review. Tourism Management 33:1-15. Table 2: Water use per tourist per day, various tourism contexts.
  • RIDES. 2005. Millenium Ecosystem Assessment: Human well-being and sustainable management in San Pedro de Atacama – Executive Summary. RIDES, Santiago, Chile.
  • Saito, O. 2013. Resource Use and Waste Generation by the Tourism Industry on the Big Island of Hawaii. Journal of Industrial Ecology 17:578-589.  Table 3: Specific resource consumption and waste generation derived from survey samples. Table 6: see bottom two rows for daily per visitor demand for electricity, fuel, oil, water, food, waste generation.

Rio Loa Water Chemistry

Beth Lynch
Associate Professor of Biology, Luther College

This activity was created for a January Term study abroad course, titled The Impacts of Mining and Tourism on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment in Northern Chile. Students will learn to interpret water chemistry data collected from along a river gradient. They will use the data from a previous study to ask whether a copper mine located part way down the river is the primary source of arsenic in the river.  The primary goal is for students to practice skills needed for scientific literacy and to build confidence interpreting and discussing chemical data. Key terms: water chemistry, arsenic, river basin.


Context of the Activity

This activity is one of several that students will be asked to complete during a three- to five-week-long January Term course, Paideia 450: The Impacts of Mining and Tourism on Indigenous Peoples and the Environment of Northern Chile, that I will teach in 2015 with Anita Carrasco, Anthropology, Luther College.


Updated May 03, 2016

Learning Goals

After completing this assignment students should be able to:

  • Interpret maps, graphs, and data tables from a scientific journal article.  (skills:interpretation of scientific data in various formats)
  • Convert units used to report water chemistry measurements. (skills: converting units necessary to compare water quality measures to standards)
  • Understand the source(s) of heavy metals and other contaminants in the Rio Loa. (concepts: hydrology, concentration, salinity)


Updated May 03, 2016

Activity Description

In June, 2014, we will visit San Pedro de Atacama (in my case for the first time in 35 years) and we will not teach the course until January, 2015.  These teaching materials will be updated including teaching notes after we teach the class.

Prior to beginning the assignment students will be introduced to the hydrology of the Rio Loa and to the health impacts of arsenic in drinking water. At some point during the course (before or after the assignment) they will visit heavy metal rich thermal springs near the river’s source, see irrigated fields for vegetable production, see drinking water sources for communities in the basin, and learn about the health impacts of arsenic consumption.

The assignment begins with a lecture to provide some context for the study and to remind students why scientific literacy is an important skill for many careers and life situations. Students will break into small groups (2-3 students) to complete the assignment.  An attempt will be made to pair students with strong quantitative skills with those who are less experienced.

After completing the assignment, the students will come together for a discussion to share what they learned about the impacts of the Chuquicamata copper mine on water quality and to clarify any confusion students may have about the data.

Key references
  • Romero, L., H. Alonso, P. Campano, L. Fanfani, R. Cidu, C. Dadea, T. Keegan, I. Thornton, and M. Farago. 2003. Arsenic enrichment in waters and sediments of the Rio Loa (Second Region, Chile).  Applied Geochemistry 18:1399-1416. doi:
  • Rudolph, W. E. 1927. The Rio Loa of Northern Chile. Geographical Review 17:553-585.


Students will turn in the completed assignment.  We will assess how well their understanding of the data and their ability to use the data to answer the questions.

Resources and Materials


  • Romero, L., H. Alonso, P. Campano, L. Fanfani, R. Cidu, C. Dadea, T. Keegan, I. Thornton, and M. Farago. 2003. Arsenic enrichment in waters and sediments of the Rio Loa (Second Region, Chile).  Applied Geochemistry 18:1399-1416. doi:
  • Rudolph, W. E. 1927. The Rio Loa of Northern Chile. Geographical Review 17:553-585.
  • Ng, J. C., J. Wang, and A. Shraim. 2003. A global health problem caused by arsenic from natural sources. Chemosphere 52:1353-1359.
  • Oyarzun, R., J. Lillo, P. Higueras, J. Oyarzún, and H. Maturana. 2004. Strong arsenic enrichment in sediments from the Elqui watershed, Northern Chile: industrial (gold mining at El Indio–Tambo district) vs. geologic processes. Journal of Geochemical Exploration84:53-64.

Paideia 450: Crowds, Culture, and Cuisine: The Ancient and Modern City

Matthew Simpson
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Luther College

This was a January Term study abroad course (Paideia 450) offered in 2014 by Luther College professors Matthew Simpson (philosophy) and Ruth Caldwell (modern languages), including travel to Italy (Rome and Florence) and France (Lyon and Paris). A Paideia 450 is a team-taught course for juniors and seniors devoted to interdisciplinary study of an ethical issue that confronts us in our lives as learners and citizens.

The overarching goal of this course was for students to begin to develop a sense of the ways in which scholars and creative writers have responded to the experience of urbanism in several European cities in periods of great historical significance.


Course Summary

The rebuilding of Paris in the 1860’s created perhaps the first modern city: a rationalized environment for organizing vast populations. This project has since become the norm for modern societies — in apartment complexes, subdivisions, amusement parks, shopping malls, sports stadiums, and entire planned cities. Yet urban life is not a purely modern experience. Rome is thought to have reached a population of one million in the first century BCE, a size not achieved again on the European continent until the 19th century.

This course will visit four European cities that reached the height of their influence in successive periods of European history from ancient to modern times: Rome, Florence, Lyon, and Paris. By reading some of the classic literature from these cities produced during these periods (such as Boccaccio in Florence and Baudelaire in Paris), and by experiencing the cities themselves, we will ask: How does the built environment of the city affect our relationships to each other, to ourselves, and to the natural world?

This course will ask students to reflect on questions of value: what is created and what is lost with density of population, comprehensive built environments, mixing of ethnicities, control of nature, the separation yet mixing of classes, the availability of spectacle, the growth of the arts, the overarching regimentation of life (movement, work, and leisure, etc.)? What ways of thinking, and what ways of life, are enabled or precluded by urban experience? And how can we understand the paradoxical phenomena of the self in the city: isolation and the crowd; freedom and regimentation; stimulation and boredom; social mobility and class structure?

Course Context

All Luther graduates are required to take at least one course with the designation Paideia 450. This is (as stated in the college catalog), “a team-taught course for juniors and seniors devoted to interdisciplinary study of an ethical issue that confronts us in our lives as learners and citizens. Paideia 450 courses pay special attention to the nature of moral decision making and to the continued development of students’ writing skills.”


Updated May 03, 2016

Learning Goals

Our overarching goal was that students begin to develop a sense of the ways in which scholars and creative writers have responded to the experience of urbanism in several European cities in periods of great historical significance. We intended that this would be a step towards helping students heighten their understanding of urban experience in general and of the ways that cities work (and fail to work), and also of the ways in which thinkers and writers have been influenced by, and responded to, urban experience.

This course investigated urban experience in various stages of European history by studying key written and visual works in the metropolitan contexts in which they were produced. We looked at literature, visual art, and the cities themselves as expressions of (and responses to) the cultures and ways of life of their creators and builders. By the end of the course students should have gained:

  • Greater understanding of the ways in which human subjectivity and the built environment mutually shape one another
  • Skill in interpreting written and visual texts as expressions of the world-view and personality of authors and their wider cultures
  • Practice in examining built environments to investigate both the values, beliefs, and aspirations of their makers, and also their affects on the people who live, work, and move through them
  • A greater knowledge of European culture and history


Updated May 03, 2016

Course Description

Paideia 450 courses focus on ethical reflection and on writing skills. Our course mixed traditional reading, writing, and classroom work with site visits. Most working days of the term had a classroom session for which students read primary and secondary sources relating to urbanism and prepared written responses to given prompts; we then visited locations (often with guides) connected to the day’s reading.

The capstone activity was a term paper, written when students returned to Luther, that asked them to incorporate their experience of urbanism and the background and secondary readings into an interpretive essay on one of the major literary works or sites that we encountered.

As for interdisciplinarity, I am a historian of early modern philosophy, and Professor Caldwell is literary scholar who focuses on French and Italian literature. The disciplines are similar in that they focus on the interpretation of texts, yet their objects of analysis and approaches tend to be quite different. We had shared readings (both primary and secondary sources), which we each approached in our own way. Furthermore, with the help of scientific and social scientific literature, we stretched our usual work by treating these cities themselves as texts to be interpreted, in an effort to enrich our understanding of the written texts, thus incorporating new disciplinary perspectives into our course.

  • Materials: We provided students with a reader and also a packet of photocopies (see the Resources for Students section).
  • Schedule: Here is the travel schedule for the course.

Teaching Notes

We began the course by providing students with the following statement giving the background and goals of our work together. This provided a good reference point for them and us as we moved through the busy month. I think having such a statement, more detailed than the course description, helped maintain the intellectual focus during a multi-city study abroad course such as ours.

Initial Statement to Students

In everyday life, much of our time and attention is focused on the objects around us, things we encounter and interact with as part of our ordinary experience: furniture, computers, automobiles, sidewalks, clothing, buildings, etc. We can, however, also turn our attention away from the outer world of objects to the inner world of our own experience. We can observe our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, desires, emotions, and other aspects of our selves. In short, each of us can ask, “What is it like to be me?”

The term for the experience of being a person in the world is “subjectivity.” It is, as the philosopher Robert Solomon put it, the “perspective, experiences, feelings, beliefs, and desires” that make a person who he or she is. Once you understand the idea of subjectivity, you will begin to discover a vast universe inside of yourself. Questions emerge such as: Who am I? How did I get to be this way? What exactly do I believe and feel and do? Why do I believe and feel and do these things?

One reason subjectivity is fascinating is that much of the self lies below the level of consciousness. To use the example I brought up during one of our orientation sessions: when you sit down in a classroom you have all kinds of thoughts and feelings that you probably don’t even notice you are having. You know that you should sit in a chair (rather than standing up or sitting on the floor); you have a sense of how close you can sit to others; you know you shouldn’t sit in the chair behind the teacher’s desk; you have feelings about who you want to sit near or sit far away from; you decide whether or not to take off your coat; you decide whether to sit up straight or slouch. Every day we have thousands of thoughts and feelings like this. They make us who we are, but we hardly notice them; the thing that is closest to us, our own subjectivity, is hard to see. Once you get used to paying attention to it, however, you will probably find that it (namely you) is quite fascinating.

As soon as you understand that you are a subject, that there is something it is like to be you, you will see that everyone else can say the same thing. There is something that it is like to be them. And their experience of being a person might be very different from yours. As you travel, and read about other places, and study history, you will find that human subjectivity is diverse. All aspects of selfhood (beliefs, values, desires, emotions, aspirations, attractions, aversions, ambitions, physical sensations, etc.) change from person to person and place to place. (They can even change within the same person from moment to moment.) One way to begin understanding the subjectivity of people from other times and places is through works of human creativity. A function of the arts is to express, describe, and examine the experience of being human in a certain time, place, and social situation.

Many forces shape a person’s subjectivity; the most obvious of them come from the environment in which a person grows up and lives. This includes family relationships, religious assumptions and practices, political ideologies, accepted and unaccepted forms of behavior, economic arrangements, forms of normalization and marginalization, and of course the physical environment in which one lives. Right now is the first time in history that more than half of the people in the world live in cities. Urban experience is becoming the rule rather than the exception in the formation of human subjectivity. This Paideia course is designed to explore human subjectivity in the urban environment through the analysis of artistic creations that were made in four major European cities at the times of their greatest historical influence. We will study ancient Rome (c. 100-300), late medieval and Renaissance Florence (c. 1300-1500), early modern Lyon (c. 1500-1700), and 19th century Paris.

What makes this course different from an on-campus class is that we will examine these artistic creations in the cities in which they were produced or which form their subject-matter. This is a special opportunity because cities are both a cause and an effect of human subjectivity. People make cities; but in turn cities shape the people who live there. The reciprocal relationship between the self and the built environment is a unique aspect of urban experience. We will study primarily works of literature and visual art, and we will move through the urban spaces that are their context and subject. By studying creative works in the urban settings in which they were produced we can hope to gain a better understanding not only of how the city shapes the self but of why (and how) people create and respond to urban environments.


The basis of assessment was as follows:

  • Participation: 40%
  • Daily Critical Reflections: 40%
  • Final Paper: 20%

For each critical reflection, we provided students with a prompt as a starting point for that day’s writing. For the final paper we asked them to enlarge one of their reflections into a substantial thesis-driven essay with detailed reference to primary and secondary sources. The paper was evaluated according to a standard rubric for interpretive essays in the humanities: thesis, organization, argument, mechanics, etc.

The prompts given to students included:

  • Over the last two days we spent a great deal of time in an iconic modern space (Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport) and also in an iconic ancient space (Rome’s Coliseum). Compare and contrast these two built environments: what ideologies and values seem to be expressed in these buildings, what vision of human life?
  • On our walking tour of Rome today, we saw several important buildings and sites. Choose one, and reflect on the following questions: How was it placed with respect to the surrounding neighborhood? What message did it seem to convey? What uses would it be good for, and what uses would be inappropriate? How were people interacting with it? Feel free to add any other reflections that you wish.
  • Based on you self-guided walking tour of Paris, compare the experience of movement in this city to your experience in Rome: What forms of transportation did you use? How did these shape your experience of the cities?
  • The assumption of French “naturalist” literature is that human subjectivity is a product of environment, just as much as the traits of plants and animals. How does your reading of these works, and your experience in the cities we have visited, confirm or refute this principle?
  • Impressionist painting has been interpreted as a bourgeois art form that naively celebrated vanity and consumerism, and which contributed to the invisibility of poverty and oppression in belle époque Paris. Conversely, it has been interpreted as a courageous attempt to introduce realism (including the depiction of prostitution and drug abuse) into classical painting. Based on your time in the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, what do you see in impressionist art?
  • We have visited many busy museums this semester. Reflect on the techniques (architectural and otherwise) used to manage such large numbers of people.

Resources and Materials

Resources for Students

Provided by the instructors to students in the course.

  • Grant Heiken, et al., The Seven Hills of Rome: A Geological Tour of the Eternal City (Princeton, 2005), Chapter 1
  • Catharine Edwards, Writing Rome: Textual Approaches to the City (Cambridge, 1996), Introduction
  • Richard Sennett, Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization (Norton, 1994), Chapter 3
  • David Harvey, Paris: Capital of Modernity (Routledge, 2006), Chapter 1
  • T. J. Clark, The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers (Knopf, 1984), Chapter 1
  • Dante Aleghieri, Divine Comedy (selections)
  • Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron (selections)
  • Clément Marot, Selected Poems
  • François Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel (selections)
  • Honoré Balzac, Père Goriot (selections)
  • Charles Baudelaire, Selected Poems

St. Olaf College

Catastrophe and Apocalypse in Herculaneum

Douglas Casson
Associate Professor of Political Science, St. Olaf College

Nancy Thompson
Associate Professor of Art History, St. Olaf College

Mary Trull
Associate Professor of English, St. Olaf College

This is a nine-session module at the 200-level which emphasizes the links  between natural environment, material conditions, and political thought. It is designed to take about nine class hours to complete, during the middle or end of the term, after  introductory concepts are established. The module has a great deal of flexibility; components may be adapted to courses in diverse departments, and components may be positioned at various points in a semester.

At St. Olaf College, the module has been used in a literary course taught off-campus, an art history course in Italy, and in a Classical Political Thought course  that in the past has focused exclusively on philosophical texts.


Context for This Module

Students should have taken a first-year college writing course or have attained the equivalent writing experience, so that they can complete a short paper that develops a thesis by choosing relevant evidence and making logical arguments in support of their analysis.

Students should have some experience with public speaking, in order to plan and execute their parts in the class debate. They will continue learning to present their ideas effectively and connect with an audience in an oral presentation.

Before the module is undertaken, instructors should discuss key background information and concepts with students. Students should understand the rationale behind undertaking interdisciplinary study and should have mastered the concept of empire, the basic historical background of imperial Rome, and the general geography of Italy and the Mediterranean.

The module is designed for juniors and seniors with a strong liberal arts background that includes intensive writing and public speaking, and that allows them to engage in informed interdisciplinary reflection. However, the course requires little background knowledge in the fields it covers. The course can also be adapted to suit an audience of advanced majors in one of the disciplines it addresses.

How the Module Fits within a Course

The module is designed to take about nine class hours to complete (approximately three weeks of class in a standard semester), and to occur towards the middle or end of the term, after coverage of the introductory concepts mentioned above. But the module has a great deal of flexibility; it can be positioned at various points in a semester. See the Outcomes section for more about these courses.

  • Mary Trull (ENGL 260: Imagining Urban Ecologies) adapted the module to fit a literary course by focusing one activity on a poem rather than a fresco, while keeping the general concepts and skills intact.
  • Nancy Thompson (Art 255: Italian Art in Context: The City of Florence) plans to condense the unit while teaching on site in Italy in January 2015 and to adapt the module with little change when covering ancient Rome and Pompeii in her fall 2015 course, of which the module will comprise a little less than a quarter.
  • Doug Casson plans to use this module in a Political Science 259: History of Classical Political Thought course that in the past has focused exclusively on philosophical texts. The module will help emphasize the links between natural environment, material conditions, and political thought.


Updated May 02, 2016

Learning Goals


Our goal in this module is to analyze the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. This topic allows us to consider important questions from both ancient and modern times that range from philosophy and religion (How should a person respond to suffering? Why do catastrophes occur?) to political science and economics (What role do catastrophes play in undermining and/or centralizing political power? How do empires function through the exchange of ideas and material goods?) to art and culture (How and why do people plan cities in areas prone to natural disaster? How do visual images convey commercial and religious significance?). The module combines lectures, discussions, mapping, writing, and debate assignments, class presentations, and group and individual work.

Higher order thinking skills:
  1. Think critically about the political and religious consequences of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE.
  2. Apply the principles of Roman city planning to the urban remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
  3. Consider possible religious responses to natural catastrophes and understand links between religious views and the natural world.
  4. Understand the book of Revelation as a Christian response to Roman political and religious practices.
  5. Make connections among built environments, visual arts, and geology, geography and economics.
  6. Undertake basic GIS mapping, write a basic visual analysis of a painting, and write a point paper and debate their position in class.
Multidisciplinary analysis:

After completing the module, students should understand some differences between the various disciplines and how researchers in each discipline ask and answer questions. An art historian looking at the wine jug fresco could ask questions about the artist’s training and use of pigments, and/or about the composition of the fresco and its effectiveness in promoting the wineseller’s goods. A social scientist might ask what the social, economic, and political arrangements are presupposed in a community in which this jug fresco is publicly displayed. What sort of gathering does it signal? What sort of power relationships are fostered in this space? And what sort of exclusions does this space perpetuate? Overall, we want students to bring together questions from various disciplines in order to arrive at a more nuanced and richer understanding of the wine jug fresco. We want them to learn to “read” this material artifact from a variety of disciplinary perspectives so that they can recognize how art, commerce, and politics are intertwined.

Other skills:

This module helps students develop or refine a variety of general skills that are taught in all of our courses.

  1. In addition to learning how to make connections across disciplines, students will develop their oral communication skills through the debate as well as class presentations.
  2. Students will also have the opportunity to hone their analytic and synthetic skills as they think through the implications of their work and articulate them in writing.
  3. Finally students will learn to work in groups, brainstorming ideas, collecting data, researching arguments, and finalizing their projects in collaboration with other students who approach the same material from different perspectives.


Updated May 02, 2016

Daily Class Plan for the Module

See the Resources section for full citations of readings and other resources.

Day 1 – Lecture on volcanic geology of Mt. Vesuvius


  • Doug Stewart, “Resurrecting Pompeii,” from Smithsonian Magazine
  • Pliny the Younger, letters 6.16 and 6.20

Day 2 – Lecture on cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum: art and city planning. Explain links among geology, city planning and philosophical issues. At the end, introduce the wine jug fresco (image below) and ask students to come to the next class with questions about it.

Day 3 – Introduce assignment, “Understanding Art through Place and Material Culture” (see supplementary materials for an adaptation of this assignment, “Understanding Poetry through Place and Material Culture”). The assignment asks students to think about how goods and natural resources travel through the Mediterranean. This assignment brings together geology, economics, religion, geography and art history. It also teaches students to develop geospatial skills and put these to work in a historical context.

Using the Herculanean wine jug fresco, groups will be assigned to map places and routes for the following:

  1. Wine regions and transport routes in the are
  2. Sources for clay for the jugs
  3. Sources of materials for currency
  4. Sources of paint and materials in the fresco
  5. Urban spaces for wine consumption in Pompeii and Herculaneum
  6. The spread of the cult of Bacchus

Day 4 – Epicurus and Epicureans


  • Introduction to Epicureanism
  • Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, Book 3

Day 5 – Stoics


  • Epictetus, The Handbook
  • Cicero, On Obligations, Book 2
  • Revisit Pliny the Younger’s letters

Day 6 – Mapping assignment due; class discussion of projects.

Day 7 – Christian Apocalypse


  • The Bible: The Book of Revelation
  • Elaine Pagels, Revelations: Vision, Prophecy, and Politics

Day 8 – Point papers are due; in-class debate. The debate assignment teaches students to analyze philosophical, religious and political texts critically. Big question: How can human beings bear the inescapable suffering of life on earth? (See attachments for examples of debate assignments and rubrics.)

Create three philosophical camps among the students: Christians, Stoics, and Epicureans.

  1. Point paper: argue your position and offer counter-arguments to the other two points of view. Each student will be required to write a 5-page dialectical essay in which they lay out an assigned position (thesis), offer one or more persuasive critiques of that position (antithesis), and then arrive at some sort of resolution of the thesis and antithesis positions (synthesis). In the final section, they will not need to defend the position that they have been assigned for the in-class debate. They can follow the argument wherever it takes them. The paper should be structured around a clear, coherent, contestable thesis and supported by evidence from our readings. These papers must be written before the in-class debate.
  2. In-class debate: students must orally represent their assigned philosophical point of view. They will be asked to present their positions, cross-examine other groups, defend their views, and summarize the debate in a closing statement.

Day 9 – Multidisciplinary synthesis. This is a non-graded assessment of the extent to which students have been able to integrate disciplinary perspectives. Students should come to this final discussion with questions about the ways in which the movement of goods and ideas throughout the region might relate to the philosophical, religious, and political attempts to come to terms with natural catastrophe. This structured discussion will begin with the following question: What are the connections between our understanding of the material and ideological foundations of community? (See Resources section for a description of structured discussion and assessment).

Teaching Notes

Interdisciplinary learning involves entering uncharted waters. Unforeseen questions and unplanned discoveries make this module both challenging and potentially rewarding. In order to create an atmosphere of cooperative learning at the very beginning, we have found it important to convey to students that we are not simply their guides, but also fellow explorers. There are sections of this module that are beyond the particular expertise of each of us. One way to encourage interdisciplinary discussion is to draft particular students into the common project, encouraging those with special interest in geology or economics or philosophy, for example, to research and report on particular aspects of the module.

However we also think that it will be important to support especially anxious students as they venture into new territory, pointing them toward helpful resources during the mapping exercise and debate (See Resources section below). With the help of a few resources, most students should be able to find basic information concerning material culture, trade, and geography in the period. Yet they will generally need help with basic GIS mapping. Make sure you have everything prepared to make the technical side of this assignment as seamless as possible.


  1. The debate assignment teaches students to think critically about philosophical and religious responses to the eruption of Vesuvius. A rubric will be provided and discussed prior to the assignment (See Resources section). Faculty will use this rubric while grading both the written and oral components of the assignment and return the rubric with feedback to the students.
  2. The point paper requires students to analyze religious and philosophical responses to catastrophe. The instructor will give students written feedback along with the debate assessment rubric.
  3. The mapping assignment requires students to make connections between urban environments, visual arts, geology, geography and economics. The instructor will use a rubric shared with students beforehand to assess their ability to apply geospatial analysis to visual arts, economic exchanges, and social and political structures. This assignment involves peer review as well as instructor feedback, so that students can learn from assessing others’ work.
  4. The final discussion will allow faculty to assess the degree to which students understood the module material from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Students will prepare their own questions or ideas before the discussion (see multidisciplinarity section above), and we will develop a set of questions for instructors. The student-provided questions will be used as data for assessment of their ability to ask complex, relevant questions crossing multiple disciplines. In this exercise, we are focusing on the ability to ask key questions as much as on the adequacy of the answers.

Resources and Materials

Module Resources

Fresco in HerculaneumFresco from a wall in Herculaneum, that is the focus of an assignment, “Understanding Art through Place and Material Culture.”

Wine Jug Fresco – The fresco that serves as the centerpiece of the module is located in Herculaneum, on the exterior wall of the “House of the Black Hall” (Case el Salone Nero) facing a street called Decumanus Maximus (Insula VI 13). The fresco advertises the price of drinks for a shop next door (Insula VI 10).


Geology of Rome

  • Grant Heiken et al., The Seven Hills of Rome: A Geological Tour of the Eternal City(Princeton University Press, 2007; 978-0691130385)

Roman Geology and Hydrology

Roman Trade and Material Culture

  • Walter Scheidel, Ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Economy (2012).
  • Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, Herculaneum: Past and Future (2011)
  • Alan Bowman and Andrew Wilson, Eds., The Roman Agricultural Economy: Organization, Investment, and Production (2013)
  • Neville Morley, Trade in Classical Antiquity (2007)
  • Peter Temin, The Roman Market Economy (2012)
  • Orbis: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World: Wonderful interactive map of trade routes that calculates time and cost of travel between locations in ancient world.

Stoicism and Epicurianism – Overview



The Bible and the Book of Revelations

Roman Literature and Myth

Roman Architecture and City Planning

Mt. Vesuvius Erupts

Outcomes and Significance

Use of this Module in Three Courses

English 260: Imagining Urban Ecologies

The module has been adapted for Mary Trull’s course in Imagining Urban Ecologies (2014). This course explores urban ecology through interdisciplinary readings and activities, with special attention to understanding how a city and its literature are shaped by land, water, technology, and natural catastrophes in specific places and times. Starting with ancient Rome, the course moves to 17th- and 18th-century London, and ends with contemporary Los Angeles. We pay special attention to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE, the Great Fire of London in 1666, and Rodney King’s beating and the social upheaval of 1992, viewing these as historical and ecological events.

Art 255: Italian Art in Context: The City of Florence

The module will be adapted in part for the 2015 version of Nancy Thompson’s course Art 255 (Italian Art in Context: The City of Florence), taught in Florence during the January interim. This course will include even more materials from the summer 2013 SAIL seminar (that syllabus will be submitted in the fall). The course is an intensive introduction to the history of the art and architecture of Florence. Through a study of Florence’s topography and geography, its built environment and painted and sculpted imagery, students study first-hand the history of Florence from its inception as a Roman colony through the 19th century when Florence was the capital of the newly unified Italian nation. A central focus of the month-long study is the ways that human-built cities interact with and are affected by rivers, mountains, hills and volcanoes. Students’ study of Florence is enriched by travel to other cities such as Siena, Pisa, Rome, and Pompeii, where they hike to the top of Mt. Vesuvius.

Political Science 259: History of Classical Political Thought

The model will also be adapted for Doug Casson’s semester-length course, Political Science 259: History of Classical Political Thought, in Fall 2015. The course begins with Socrates’ fundamental question: “What is justice?”, which founded political philosophy. Students study the responses of different ancient Greek, Roman, and early Christian philosophers to Socrates’ question, focusing especially on the relationship between truth-seeking and community-formation. The module will help students move beyond traditional approaches to ancient philosophy and engage them in an interdisciplinary study of ethics and justice in the ancient world. By combining close readings of philosophical texts with historical, environmental, economic, and political considerations, students will be encouraged to draw connections between these ancient texts and contemporary political themes.

2012 Seminar: Considering Animals in Washington, DC

horses and people at farm
2012 SAIL participants visiting the Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary.

On-site seminar: July 8-18, 2012

The Considering Animals seminar brought together faculty in the Washington, DC, area to explore how humans and animals interconnect and how understanding animals helps us better understand human nature.

Following the on-site portion of the seminar, participants developed innovative, interdisciplinary curricula for juniors and seniors.

Seminar Overview

Cross-Disciplinary Approaches

Investigating the meanings of animal-human relationships raises a host of broad and compelling questions and draws on a wide range of disciplinary perspectives.

Billie Holiday and dog, black and white
Billie Holiday with her dog, Mister.
William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress. Flickr Commons.

William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress. Flickr Commons.

  • The topic is grounded in ecology and biology: Homo sapiens have evolved from relatively animalistic beginnings to become more fully human, in part because of the range of both positive and negative interactions with animals.
  • Works of literature and art, from The Iliad to Guernica, reveal new layers of meaning when the focus shifts to how they produce or deconstruct “animalness.” And animals as literary symbols, such as Keats’ nightingale, reinforce the tie between humans and animals while helping to build new, imaginative connections.
  • From the perspectives of history and political science, human-animal interactions have been significant factors in social life and political development; animal management, from the military use of animal power to the preservation of endangered species, continues to be a complex and dynamic area of public policy.
  • The nature of human obligations to animals is a hot-button issue in philosophy and has recently been brought into the public consciousness by the Michael Vick dog-fighting case.

Resources in the DC Area

The nation’s capital and its environs are home to a striking confluence of places and resources related to animals, many of which will be visited and utilized during the seminar.

man and ostrich, black and white
Ostrich reading newspaper of caretaker. National Archive of the Netherlands. Flickr Commons.

Seminar Participants


Glenn Adelson
Glenn Adelson

Glenn Adelson is Associate Professor and Director of Environmental Studies at Lake Forest College. He holds a Ph.D. in Organismal and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University and is an editor of Environment: An Interdisciplinary Anthologyfrom Yale University Press and co-author of Biodiversity: Exploring Values and Priorities in Conservation from Blackwell Science. His doctoral thesis was a study of the phylogenetic relationships and ecology within a family of butterflies, the Lycaenidae. As the scientific chair of the Carr Foundation , he worked on the restoration of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, Africa, which included capture and transport of big game (e.g., black rhinoceros, cape buffalo, zebra, and several antelope species) from other African national parks.

Janet McCracken
Janet McCracken

Janet McCracken is immediate past-Provost and Dean of the Faculty at Lake Forest College. She is also a Professor of Philosophy, and has published a variety of works in that field, including Taste and the Household: The Domestic Aesthetic and Moral Reasoning from SUNY Press and Thinking About Gender: A Historical Anthology from Wadsworth Publishing. Her more recent work on animal studies includes an article on images of animals in Plato’s Republic under submission; she is also currently teaching a senior seminar at Lake Forest College on the philosophy of humans and animals.


Kimberly Smith
Kimberly Smith

Kimberly Smith is Professor of Political Science and Environmental Studies at Carleton College, and is the President of the Association for Environmental Studies and Science. She is the author of Governing Animals, to be published by Oxford University Press as part of its Animal Studies series in 2012. This book revises liberal political theory to accommodate the moral status of animals. It addresses central liberal concepts such as the social contract, property rights and representation, and engages several important issues of animal policy. Professor Smith has also written the articles “A Pluralist-Expressivist Critique of the Pet Trade” and “Animals and the Social Contract: A Reply to Nussbaum.”


Faculty marked with * are members of the leadership team.

Beloit College

  • Kristin Bonnie, Assistant Professor of Psychology
  • Kathryn Johnson, Assistant Professor of Biology
  • Matt Tedesco, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Carleton College

  • *Kimberly Smith, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of Environmental Studies

Grinnell College

  • Vicki Bentley-Condit, Professor of Anthropology
  • Jonathan (Jackie) Brown, Professor of Biology
  • Lesley Wright, Director, Faulconer Gallery and Lecturer in Art History

Lake Forest College

  • *Glenn Adleson, Environmental Studies (Lake Forest College)
  • *Janet McCracken, Philosophy (Lake Forest College)

Luther College

  • Brian Caton, Associate Professor of History
  • Ellen Drewes-Stoen, Assistant Professor of Health and Physical Education
  • Scott Hurley, Adjunct Professor of Religion

Macalester College

  • Andrew Billing, Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies
  • Scott Legge, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
  • Eric Wiertelak, Professor of Psychology and Director of Neuroscience Studies


Sunday, July 8

Arrival and check-in

Monday, July 9

9:00 a.m.–noon — Campus team presentations of curricular plans

Noon — Group Lunch at Founding Farmers

1:30–3:00 p.m. — Glenn Adelson, Lake Forest College: “What is an Animal?”

4:00–6:00 p.m. — Keynote lecture: Wayne Pacelle, CEO & President, The Humane Society of the United States

6:00 pm — Dinner with group and Mr. Pacelle

Tuesday, July 10

10:00 a.m.–noon — National Gallery of Art: Discussing Calder Animal Stabiles with Dr. Elizabeth Turner, Vice Provost for the Arts, University of Virginia

Noon — Lunch

1:00–3:00 p.m. — Open time at National Mall

3:00–5:00 p.m. — Breakout group work on outlines

7:30–9:30 p.m. — Glenn Adelson, Lake Forest College: Discussion of Poems about Animals: Burns, Keats, Dickinson, Moore, Stevens

Wednesday, July 11

9:00–10:00 a.m. — Lesley Wright, Grinnell College: Discussion of animals in art

10:00 a.m.–noon — Janet McCracken, Lake Forest College: “Animals, Art, and Eating: Coeztee’s The Lives of Animals”

2:00–4:00 p.m. — Janet McCracken, Lake Forest College: Discussion of Zoo Readings

6:00–8:30 p.m. — Dinner followed by talk sponsored by Animal Welfare League of Arlington

Thursday, July 12

10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. — Behind-the-scenes tour of the National Zoo with Don Moore

Friday, July 13

9:00–10:30 a.m. — Vicki Bentley-Condit, Grinnell College: Zoo discussion

Noon — Lunch

1:00–4:00 p.m. — Panel and speakers

  • Dr. Angela Black, Coordinator for Animal Care, Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, University of Maryland-College Park
  • Tim Allen, Technical Information Specialist (Biological Science) Animal Welfare Information Center National Agricultural Library, United States Department of Agriculture
  • Dr. Jamie Boehmer, Research Biologist, Division of Applied Veterinary Research, Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine Office of Research, and Chair of the CVM/OR Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee

Evening — Group dinner and discussion of animal testing an research

Saturday, July 14

9:30 a.m.–11:30 a.m. — Kimberly Smith. Carleton College: Discussion of Governing Animals

Noon–1:30 p.m. — Discussion of Charlotte Dumas Exhibition with Isa Leshko and Frank Noelker, Corcoran Gallery of Art

2:00–5:00 p.m. — Discussion of Animal Photography with Isa Leshko and Frank Noelker

Sunday, July 15

Noon–1:30 p.m. — Tour of Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary with Terry Cummings, Director

Monday, July 16

10:00 a.m.–noon — Discussion on developments in public and corporate veterinary medicine, with Valerie Ragan, Director, Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, Virgina-Maryland Regional College for Veterinary Medicine, at American Veterinary Medical Association

1:00–3:00 p.m. — Discussion of animal welfare in veterinary practice, with Gail Golab, Director, Animal Welfare Division, American Veterinary Medical Association, at American Veterinary Medical Association

Tuesday, July 17

10:00–11:30 a.m. — Breakout group work on curricular reports

1:00–3:00 p.m. — Discussion of Animal Law practice and cases with Jessica Almy, Associate, Meyer, Glitzenstein, & Crystal

3:00–5:00 p.m. — Kimberly Smith, Carleton College: Discussion of Animal Law readings and Almy talk

Evening — Group dinner with Gene Baur, President and Co-Founder, Farm Sanctuary

Wednesday, July 18

9:00 a.m.–noon — Presentations from college groups on findings and curricular plans

Noon — Closing group lunch

Guest Speakers

Wayne Pacelle

CEO & President, The Humane Society of the United States

Wayne Pacelle received his B.A. in History and Studies in the Environment from Yale University in 1987. Pacelle took office June 1, 2004 after serving for nearly 10 years as the HSUS chief lobbyist and spokesperson. During his tenure as HSUS president and CEO, Pacelle has spurred major growth for the organization, which is now the nation’s largest animal protection organization with 11 million members and constituents, annual revenue of $160 million, and assets of more than $200 million.

He and The HSUS have worked for the passage of more than 600 new state laws since 2005, and he has helped to pass more than 25 federal statutes to protect animals in the last decade. He has also been the architect of a large number of amendments to halt funding for programs to harm animals. Pacelle’s work on animal issues has been featured in thousands of newspapers and magazines across the country. Pacelle was named one of NonProfit Times’ “Executives of the Year” in 2005 for his leadership in responding to the Hurricane Katrina crisis. In both 2008 and 2009, NonProfit Times named Pacelle to its annual “Power and Influence Top 50” nonprofit executives.

Elizabeth Hutton Turner

Vice Provost for the Arts, University of Virginia

Former Senior Curator of The Phillips Collection, Turner is a specialist in early twentieth century modern art. Dr. Turner’s Ph.D. is from the University of Virginia (1985). Before being named Vice Provost, Turner, an American art expert whose career spanned almost two decades at the Phillips, joined the University’s McIntire Department of Art in September and was appointed a University Professor. Before joining The Phillips collection she was a Smithsonian Fellow and later worked for the National Museum of American Art (where she was a scholarly consultant for Perpetual Motif, the 1989 Man Ray Retrospective) and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Turner has also contributed to a number of scholarly publications including an essay on the jeune fille americaine for Women in Dada (1998) and an essay on Calder’s Animal Sketching for When We Were Young (2006) , and a biography of Alexander Calder. Dr. Turner serves on a number of advisory boards including, the Calder Foundation, the Archives of American Art, Howard University College of Arts and Sciences, and City Collegiate Public Charter School.

Don Moore, MPA, Ph.D.

Associate Director of Animal Care Sciences, National Zoological Park

Moore has a Ph.D. from the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), a Masters in Public Administration from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School (1990), and received his Bachelors from SUNY/ESF (Class of 1976). Moore currently leads Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Animal Care Sciences team of veterinarians, curators, keepers, nutritionists and animal behavior professionals, providing excellence in animal care and well-being for the zoo’s priceless living collection. He previously worked for Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in New York. Moore has done field research on endangered Pampas deer and other mammals in both South America and North America, has performed research on the behavior of bears, frogs and a variety of other species in zoos and aquariums. Moore has published and co-authored more than four dozen papers or manuals on animal husbandry and behavior and has served as a peer reviewer for scientific journals including the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. Moore is very interested in behavioral enrichment science and husbandry science for wild animals in human care, and safe work practices and exhibit design in zoos and aquariums. He has received national and local awards for excellence in interpretation of natural history and wildlife behavior, and is passionate about climate change and actions students and others can take to help reduce global warming so that polar bears and other Arctic animals can survive for future generations.

Dr. Angela Black

Coordinator for Animal Care, Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park

Dr. Black received a B.S. in Animal Biology from the University of Utah, a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Colorado State University, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and a Ph.D. in Animal Sciences with focus in growth physiology and nutrition from Cook College, Rutgers University. Dr. Black completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health and currently coordinates the animal care program and acts as the dedicated attending veterinarian for animals used in teaching and research in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, College Of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Maryland. These colonies, housed on campus at either the Campus Farm or the department’s Animal Care Facility, include cattle, sheep, horses, poultry, pigs, rabbits, Guinea pigs, ferrets, rats, many strains of mice and fish. Dr. Black also teaches two undergraduate courses, Anatomy of Domestic Animals, and Laboratory Animal Management.

Tim Allen

Technical Information Specialist (Biological Science) Animal Welfare Information Center, National Agricultural Library, United States Department of Agriculture

Tim Allen earned his Master’s degree in poultry physiology from the University of Maryland, and has worked at the Animal Welfare Information Center since 1992. Prior to his arrival at AWIC, he was a pharmacologist with Sterling Drug and Eastman Kodak. He is a member of the National Institutes of Health Animal Research Advisory Committee and the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute Animal Care and Use Commmittee. Among his many awards are multiple USDA/NAL Certificates of Merit, and he has authored and co-authored dozens of articles in a variety of scientific fields. Tim and his family share their home with three dogs, two cats, two rabbits, a chicken, two hermit crabs, lots of fish and frogs, and, until recently, Crackle the Grackle.

Dr. Jamie Boehmer

Research Biologist, Division of Applied Veterinary Research, United States Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine Office or Research

Jamie Boehmer received her B.S in Animal Sciences in 1992 from the University of Maryland College Park, her M.S. in genetics in the Dairy Science department at Virginia Tech in 1999, and her Ph.D. in Animal Sciences in 2009 at the University of Maryland. Dr. Boehmer has served in research positions at both the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) and the Institute for Molecular Medicine and Genetics (IMMAG) at the Medical College of Georgia. Currently, Jamie is a Research Biologist in the Division of Applied Veterinary Research at the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Office of Research (OR). The focus of Dr. Boehmer’s research program is the proteomic evaluation of host responses to infection in food animals, as well as the utilization of proteomic methodologies to assess host responses to drug administration. Dr. Boehmer has experience working with a variety of agricultural and traditional lab animal species in both biomedical and regulatory research settings, and currently serves as the chair of the CVM/OR Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Isa Leshko


Isa Leshko received her B.A. from Haverford College with a major in psychology and a minor in gender studies. She has exhibited her work in numerous solo and group shows throughout the United States. Her work is in many private collections and has been purchased by the Boston Public Library, the Harry Ransom Center, Haverford College, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for their permanent collections. Isa’s images have been published in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung, The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin (SZ-Magazin). She received the 2012 Houston Center for Photography Fellowship and the 2012 Silver Eye Center for Photography Keystone Award, and she was nominated for the 2011 Santa Fe Prize for Photography. Isa’s work is represented by the Corden|Potts Gallery in San Francisco, CA, and the Richard Levy Gallery in Albuquerque, NM.

Frank Noelker

Associate Professor of Art, University of Connecticut

Frank Noelker is an American Fine Art Photographer. He received a B.A. degree from Webster University and an MFA. degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. His photographs have been widely exhibited, both in solo and group exhibits, including “Why Look at Animals” at the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY, 2006; “Animals & Us” Galerie St. Etienne, New York, NY, 2004 , and are included in the permanent collections of a number of museums. His work has recently been published in the book, Captive Beauty: Photographs by Frank Noelker. He has also made numerous media appearances, including on NPR and BBC Radio.

Terry Cummings and Dave Hoerauf

Founders and Directors of Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, Poolesville, MD

Terry Cummings earned her B.A. in Animal Science, and Dave Hoerauf his B.A. in Zoology, from the University of Maryland. After moving to Poolesville, they founder the Sanctuary, which has received much press, including in the Washington Post.

Valerie E. Ragan

Director, Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine, Virgina-Maryland Regional College for Veterinary Medicine

Ragan completed her pre-veterinary work at Virginia Tech and received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree in 1983 from the University of Georgia. She also completed post-graduate work in biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. As director of the Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine on VMRCVM’s University of Maryland-College Park campus, Ragan is responsible for expansion of the role of the center in the areas of public health and policy, and international veterinary medicine, including increasing opportunities for student engagement in national and international veterinary and animal health organizations involved in public veterinary practice. Prior to joining the VMRCVM, Ragan was the president of AgWorks Solutions LLC, an agriculture consulting company in Washington, DC, where her activities included resolving animal health issues such as disease control, eradication, and surveillance, and international veterinary capacity building. From 1988 to 2006, she was employed by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). After five years of private practice, she began her work with the USDA as a veterinary medical officer and public practice career trainee. She then served as an area epidemiology officer and senior staff veterinarian/national brucellosis epidemiologist. She subsequently served as assistant deputy administrator of the agency’s Veterinary Services program.

Dr. Gail Golab

Director, Animal Welfare Division, American Veterinary Welfare Association

Dr. Golab earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Texas A&M University, her DVM from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, and her membership in the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists Animal Welfare Chapter. She is the first U.S. veterinarian ever to be credentialed in Animal Welfare. She worked in private practice before coming to the AVMA, where she has edited two AVMA journals, and served in several important positions in the AVMA before being named to her current position in 2007. Dr. Golab is a frequent speaker, including giving testimony before the U.S. Congress on the significance of animal welfare in U.S. farming and food production. She has served on many AVMA taskforces, including those on the housing of pregnant sows and the legal status of animals. Dr. Golab serves in many advisory positions, including representing the AVMA on the panel of advisors for the Food Marketing Institute National Council of Chain Restaurants, and membership in the United Egg Producers’ Scientific Advisory Panel for Animal Welfare.

Jessica Almy

Associate, Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal

Jessica Almy joined Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal as an associate in 2009, after receiving her J.D. from New York University School of Law. Jessica holds an M.S. in Animals and Public Policy from Tufts University (2002) and a B.A. in Communications from Gordon College (1999). Prior to law school, Jessica worked for The Humane Society of the United States as a wildlife advocate where she worked to protect coyotes, night herons, pheasants, deer, cormorants, and an ornery mute swan. Since joining Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, Jessica has represented clients seeking to protect wildlife under the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and clients seeking access to government records under the Freedom of Information Act. She is a member of the bars of New York and the District of Columbia, and is admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Her previous experience includes legal internships for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Paul Hastings, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Gene Baur

President and Co-Founder, Farm Sanctuary

Baur holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University Northridge and a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University. Gene Baur has been hailed as “the conscience of the food movement” by TIME magazine. For 25 years he has traveled extensively, campaigning to raise awareness about the abuses of industrialized factory farming and our cheap food system. A pioneer in the field of undercover investigations, Gene has visited hundreds of farms, stockyards and slaughterhouses documenting the deplorable conditions that exist. Gene has also testified in courts and before local, state and federal legislative bodies, advocating for better conditions for farm animals. His efforts have been covered by top news organizations, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Wall Street Journal. In 2008, Gene’s book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, became a national best seller. As a recent guest on The Martha Stewart Show’s first-ever “vegan show,” he inspired viewers to eat in alignment with their compassionate values.


Required Readings

  • J.M. Coetzee, The Lives of Animals. ed. Amy Gutmann (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999)
  • Dale Jamieson, “Against Zoos” In PETER SINGER (ed), In Defense of Animals, New York: Basil Blackwell, 1985, pp. 108-117
  • Richard Reading and Brian Miller, “Attitudes and attitude change among zoo visitors”
  • Michael Hutchins, “The animal rights–conservation debate: can zoos and aquariums play a role?”
  • Lewis Thomas, “The Tucson Zoo” from The Medusa and the Snail
  • Robert Burns, “To a Mouse”
  • John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”
  • Emily Dickinson, “A Bird Came Down the Walk”
  • Marianne Moore, “He Digesteth Harde Yron”
  • Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”
  • Ranier Maria Rilke, “The Panther”
  • Ted Hughes, “The Jaguar”
  • The Endangered Species Act at Thirty
  • Cass Sunstein, “Standing for Animals”
  • Kimberly Smith, Governing Animals: Animal Welfare and the Liberal State, chs. 2 & 5
  • Loren Eiseley, “The Bird and the Machine”

Recommended Readings

  • For reference only: Instutional IACUC guidebook
  • Neville Gregory, Physiology and Behaviour of Animal Suffering, ch. 12, “Sickness and Disease”

Recommended by Elizabeth Turner (for Tuesday, 7/10/12)

  • Alexander Calder, excerpts from Animal Sketching

Recommended by Donald Moore (for Thursday, 7/12/12)

  • George Rabb, “The Evolution of Zoos from Menageries to Centers of Conservation and Caring”
  • Markus Gussett and Gerald Dick, “The Global Reach of Zoos and Aquariums in Visitor Numbers and Conservation Expenditures”
  • Markus Gussett and Gerald Dick, “‘Building a Future for Wildlife’? Evaluating the contribution of the world zoo and aquarium community to in situ conservation”

Recommended by Tim Allen (for Friday, 7/13/12)

Recommended by Jessica Almy (for Thursday, 7/17/12)

  • Kieran Suckling et al., “How the Endangered Species Act is Saving Wildlife”

2012 Seminar – Curricular Projects

In the year following the on-site portion of the Considering Animals seminar, participants drew upon the content from the seminar to develop innovative, interdisciplinary curricula, such as courses, sequences, modules, and class exercises and assignments.

Beloit College

Advanced Topics in Psychology: Animal Psychology

Kristin Bonnie
Assistant Professor of Psychology, Beloit College

This seminar course is designed for junior and senior Psychology majors (and interested/qualified Biology majors) as an elective capstone to the curriculum. Through readings, video (drama and documentary), and discussion students explore historical and current issues in the behavior and cognition of non-human animals. The course begins and ends with modules addressing the psychology (attitudes, behaviors, etc.) of humans towards animals across time and context. Students were expected to develop/apply critical thinking skills throughout the course by examining topics through various lens’/sides, engaging with primary literature, integrating and connecting topics to their understanding of psychology from other courses, and through critical examination of popular media.

Note: Content adapted from the curricular project.


Updated Mar 11, 2016

The course, overall, is a capstone course for majors (several advanced topics seminars are offered, majors must complete one) in which students learn about, in depth, an area of expertise/interest of the faculty member. In this course, students are expected to become familiar with, use, and critique the issues, theories and methods of comparative animal psychology. I also expect students to draw on their previous coursework (Psychology and otherwise) throughout the course.

The humans towards animals module was designed to initiate and/or deepen students’ awareness and critical analysis of the historical and current issues surrounding our relationship with animals in a variety of contexts.

Students are expected to integrate concepts/theories/research findings/methodologies within and beyond the course (i.e., connect topics to one another, as well as to their previous learning in other Psychology courses). Although the course is necessarily focused on Psychology, students are also expected to draw on their liberal arts education to add to, compare/contrast, and generally expand their analysis and understanding of course topics. As such, the goals included critical analysis and integration.

As described above, students were expected to draw on their previous coursework and experiences to lend perspective to the analysis of course material. Readings for the Psychology of Humans Towards Animals module were drawn from a variety of disciplines, including but not at all limited to Psychology.

Higher Order Thinking Skills Goals Expected of Students
  • Analysis of and critical thinking about popular media sources (Hollywood film; commercials, etc.) in terms of accuracy of content and impact on general public;
  • Further refinement of library research skills (to locate related material);
  • Critical thinking about arguments for and against theories, ideas, policies and practices relating to the human-animal connection;
  • Discussion skills (listening, reacting, questioning, articulating ideas).


Updated Mar 11, 2016

Course Introduction to Animal Psychology

To pique student’s thinking about attitudes of humans towards animals, students engaged with some of the historical and contemporary writings about animals, as well as with two of the primary themes of the study of animals through the following topically oriented class meetings:

  • Historical approaches to Animal Psychology
  • The Development of Comparative/Animal Psychology
  • Current Approaches to the Study of Animal Psychology
  • Anthropomorphism and Anecdotes
  • The readings assigned for each class meeting are listed in the Resources section.

In preparation for class, students were asked to respond (in writing) to questions such as:

  • Describe one aspect of either reading that particularly struck you, surprised you, angered you, or that you found interesting in some way. You might find a particular passage, or if you’d rather react to a theme or broader idea, that’s fine too.
  • Choose one passage, from any of the readings that you feel captures/demonstrates the most compelling argument for or against anthropomorphism. Copy that passage, including author and page number, and tell me why you selected this particular passage of all others.
  • Provide one discussion question to guide our conversation Thursday evening. Try to think of a question that can’t be answered with a yes or no, but rather could stimulate some back and forth dialogue among us.
Course Conclusion

In the final four class meetings (I really wish we had spent more time here), we returned to the topic of human-animal relationships (i.e. human’s attitudes, ideas, behaviors, etc. towards animals across a variety of settings). The goal here was to touch on some of our own Psychology about animals. Students were asked to complete readings and draw on their own experiences as we discussed a variety of topics. The readings are listed in the Resources and Materials section below. The topics we addressed were:

  • The American mindset regarding the welfare of animals (a bit of history)
  • The Role of Zoos
  • Animals in Entertainment (see also Videos section below)
  • Case studies – hunting, dog fighting, chimpanzees in research
  • Pets (bonding as kids to our economic obsession)
  • Animals as food

Students (with a little bit of guidance) were able to make connections between these topics and other topics we had discussed in class, including in those beginning weeks. We came back a lot to anthropomorphism and the place of animals in our society.

Resources and Materials

Historical Approaches to Animal Psychology

Darwin, C. (1897). The Decent of Man. Retrieved from: [pp 104-106; 185-199].

Kalof, L., &; Fitzgerald, A. (Eds.). (2007). The Animals Reader. [Chapters 1 (Aristotle), and 9 (Descartes)]. New York: Berg.

Newmeyer, S. T. (2010). Animals in Greek and Roman Thought: A Sourcebook. [Ch 7. Plutarch]. New York: Routledge.

The Development of Comparative/Animal Psychology

Beach, F. A. (1950). The snark was a boojum. American Psychologist, 5, 115-124.

Dewsbury, D. A. (2000). Issues in comparative psychology at the dawn of the 20th century. American Psychologist, 55 (7), 750-753. DOI: 10.1037//0003-066X.55.7.750

Current Approaches to the Study of Animal Psychology

Shettleworth, S.J. (2009). The evolution of comparative cognition: is the snark still a boojum? Behavioral Processes, 80(3), 210-7. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2008.09.001.

Boesch, C. (2007). What makes us human (Homo sapiens)? The challenge of cognitive cross-species comparisons. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 121(3), 227-240.

Anthropomorphism and Anecdotes

de Waal, F. B. M. (1997). Are we in anthropo-denial? Discover, 18(7), 50-53.

Mitchell, R. W. (1997). Anthropomorphism and anecdotes: a guide for the perplexed. In R. W. Mitchell, N. S. Thompson, & H. L. Miles, Anthropomorphism, Anecdotes and Animals (pp. 407-427). New York: State University of New York Press.

Wynne, C. D. L. (2007). What are animals? Why anthropomorphism is still not a scientific approach to behavior. Comparative Cognition and Behavior Reviews, 2, 125-135.

The American mindset regarding the welfare of animals (a bit of history)

Dawkins, M. S. (1985). The scientific basis for assessing suffering in animals. In P. Singer (Ed.), In Defense of Animals (pp. 27-40). New York: Basil Blackwell.

Lubinski, J. (2004). Introduction to animal rights (2nd Ed.). Retrieved from:

Birke, L. (2007). Into the laboratory. In L. Kalof & A. Fitzgerald (Eds.), The Animals Reader (pp. 323-335). New York: Berg. The Animal Welfare Center:

American Anti-Vivisection Society: Humane Society of the United States:

The Role of Zoos

Jamieson, D. (1985). Against zoos. In P. Singer (Ed.), In Defense of Animals (pp. 108-117). New York: Basil Blackwell.

Reading, R. P., & Miller, B. J. (2007). Attitudes and attitude change among zoo visitors. In A. Zimmerman, M. Hatchwell, L. A. Dickie, & C. West, Zoos in the 21st Century: Catalysts for Conservation? (pp. 63-89). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Animals in Entertainment (see also Videos section above)

Schroepfer, K.K., Rosati, A.G., Chartrand, T., & Hare, B. (2011). Use of “entertainment” chimpanzees in commercials distorts public perception regarding their conservation status. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26048. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026048

Case studies – dog fighting, chimpanzees in research

Dog fighting – NPR story –

Evans, R., Gauthier, D. K., & Forsyth, C. J. (1998). Dogfighting: symbolic expression and validation of masculinity. Sex Roles, 39(11/12), 825-838. Chimpanzee research –


Knight, S., & Herzog, H. (2009). All creatures great and small: new perspectives on psychology and human-animal interactions. Journal of Social Issues, 65(3), 451-461.

Melson, G. F. (2001). Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Pampered Pets (an ABC newscast) –

Transferring Critical Thinking Skills into a Novel Context

Kathryn M.S. Johnson
Associate Professor of Biology, Beloit College

In advanced science courses, students are often asked to analyze scientific arguments, but they have little practice transferring these analytical skills into a novel context. In this activity, students enrolled in a neurobiology course engage in a collaborative analysis of a philosophy reading to apply their critical analysis skills, enhance their understanding of cognition (through comparison of humans and non-human animals), connect cognition to other neurobiological concepts, and further their ability to develop an argument by analyzing evidence from other disciplines.

Note: Content adapted from the currciular project.


Course Context and Description

This activity is part of an advanced biology course, Neurobiology. During this course, students study general neural transmission and neural anatomy and physiology in vertebrate systems. The target audience is a diverse student group of biology, biochemistry, chemistry, psychology, public health, and cognitive science majors. The course combines laboratory work, class discussions, small group case study analysis, and lecture.

Journal club analysis of peer-reviewed literature is a common form of collaborative critical analysis in the sciences. Rather than analyzing a primary scientific research paper, this particular activity is the analysis of a philosophy paper that investigates cognition through comparisons of human and non-human animals. Invite a philosophy or cognitive science faculty colleague to join in the reading of the paper and ask him or her to join your class on the day of the journal club.

Approximately one week prior to the journal club, post the paper for students to access. For Neurobiology, “Brute Experience” (Carruthers, P., Journal of Philosophy, 86[5], 1989, 258-69) was selected as an easily accessible text for introductory philosophy students and directly addresses the topic cognition. It also presents philosophical arguments that can be easily deconstructed. When the paper is posted, arrange for an online forum or email thread for students to respond and ask question about the article. Encourage student engagement and preparation by assigning students to respond to the reading 48 hours and then again 24 hours prior to the journal club.

On the day of the journal club, ask students to arrange themselves in circle. Journal club should be student-led, and the faculty members should only intervene to clarify or correct content or interpretations of the material. (As students are not familiar with this type of reading, it may be appropriate for a brief overview of philosophical thought by the philosophy or cognitive science faculty member, but often this in not necessary, as questions and discussion by the students will present an opportunity for this faculty member to elaborate on pertinent points.) Faculty members should be considered collaborators in the analysis, rather than leaders of the discussion. A student proctor may be assigned to ensure forward progress of the conversation.

At the conclusion of the journal club, students are assigned a brief reflective paper. This assignment asks student to use both scientific and philosophical evidence to compare and contrast the process of cognition to other neural processes. Students should present specific evidence in the differences and similarities between humans and non-human animals to create their arguments.


Updated Mar 22, 2016

Content/Concept Goals

Using nonhuman animal-human comparisons (e.g. language), students will be able to explain how the process of cognition aligns with the nervous system processes of receiving, integration, and application of information.

Higher Order Thinking Skills Goals

Students will transfer their analytical skills to critically evaluate peer-reviewed literature in a discipline that is not their expertise, apply what they know about how the nervous system receives, integrates, and applies information to the newly learned information of cognition, effectively communicate and collaborate with others, and ask relevant and thought provoking questions.

Multidisciplinary Analysis Goals

Students will transfer their analytical skills developed evaluating scientific literature to a novel context beyond the sciences. At the conclusion of this activity, students will be able to describe how various disciplines develop arguments unique to the discipline and the type of evidence used to create effective arguments. They will also gain perspective on how their scientific understanding of a topic is enhanced when evaluating a topic using evidence from a different discipline.

Other Skills Goals

Introduce students to faculty from non-science disciplines and peak their interest in enrolling in other courses that complement the work in Neurobiology. Encourage students to connect the skills and content of other courses with this course.


Updated Mar 22, 2016

As an activity conducted at the end of the semester, this activity provides an opportunity to review content and evaluate skills in a novel situation. For example in Neurobiology, the execution and interpretation of language is introduced approximately one week prior to this journal club. Comparisons are made between human language and the replication of human sign language by non-human primates. These discussions can be augmented with YouTube videos demonstrating these non-human

primates (see resources). The journal club will provide an excellent opportunity to connect language and cognition.

The online forum (though Moodle or Blackboard), or an email thread including all students, sets the tone for a collaborative analysis, with the expectation that students will revisit the analysis several times to prepare for the journal club. A public forum provides an opportunity for students to work through common problems and promotes contributions that are more thoughtful because peers will be using their posts to enhance their comprehension.

The process of student-led conversation in journal club takes practice! Early in the semester, it is helpful for the faculty member to take more of a moderator role by focusing students with questions that promotes the analysis (i.e. What is the argument that is presented?, What evidence is presented to support this argument?, Are there other conclusions that can be made with the same evidence or with supporting evidence?). Although science majors become comfortable with this type of analysis during the course of the semester, they often struggle transferring this type of critical thinking into a novel context, such as reading philosophy. They need to be reassured and encouraged that the skills developed during the semester are transferable, with an awareness of disciplinary differences. Although this particular article was considered at the introductory level by the philosophy faculty, it was challenging for the advanced science students.

The reflective paper component of this exercise is critical, as there is no formal introduction to cognition prior to this analysis exercise. This form of analysis mimic professional analysis, as academics are often introduced to a topic through peer-reviewed literature, and then they must solidify their understanding of the topic by connecting and applying this new information to their prior knowledge.


The online forum responses and the journal club contributions will be graded using similar criteria. Both will be evaluated based on the thoughtfulness of the responses and how the responses link the current analysis to content or concepts from previous work in the current course or other experiences. Specific attention will be given to responses relevant to how cognition aligns with the nervous system processes of receiving, integration, and application of information. These contributions are also assessed on if they progress the conversation by building on the comments of others.

The reflective paper will be evaluated on what scientific and philosophical evidence is selected and how it is used to compare and contrast the process of cognition to other neural processes and how specific examples comparing humans and non-human animals are used to create an argument. The arguments presented must progress beyond the analysis conducted during the journal club, and the best scores are given to those that connect the concept of cognition to work done earlier in the course, in other courses, or from other prior knowledge.

Resources and Materials

Journal Club Article:

Carruthers, P., Brute Experience, Journal of Philosophy, 86(5), 1989, 258-69.

This article provides a Descartes-based perspective that separates human and non-human experiences based on cognitive perception of these experiences. Although it does not represent current thought, it provides a glimpse of historical context and a gateway to Descartes, which is often foreign to science majors. An article that is more familiar to the philosophy or cognitive science faculty member could replace it.

Video for starting conversations about language, cognition, and human/non-human animal comparisons (pause at 2:36 to initiate discussion):

Kanzi in the Kitchen: Primates and Communication, Jeffery Elman, Department of Cognitive Science, UCSD, Posted: Nov. 6, 2008

Grinnell College

Seeing/Observing Animals Across the Disciplines

Lesley Wright
Director, Lecturer, Grinnell College
Faulconer Gallery, Art

Vicki Bentley-Condit
Professor, Grinnell College

Jonathan (Jackie) Brown
Professor, Grinnell College


Every discipline brings different skills and emphases to the task of learning to “see,” particularly within disciplinary methodology. In looking at animals, students can gain from practicing and/or discussing different exercises intended to help them observe animals as a means of collecting information. With a little coordination, faculty can assign these exercises at the same point in the semester, and then bring students together to share what they have learned.

Students, in a first-year biology tutorial and upper division seminars in anthropology and art, do an observation assignment. The biology and art students do a modified version of one another’s assignments as well. The students are then assigned to small groups that include at least one student from all three classes, instructed to meet outside of class to discuss what they learned, and report back to their classes, in group discussion and in writing (for the tutorial).

The goal of this assignment is to highlight awareness that the act of seeing is not as simple as it may seem. Paying attention takes concentration and focus, and it is necessary for the success of data collection and interpretation. Assignments of this sort could be used for a variety of topics, but works particularly well for looking at animals. We describe here the roles of the exercise for each class, then outline the culminating assignment of discussion between students in different classes.

Note: Adapted from original curricular project.


Updated Mar 03, 2017

Seeing/Observing Animals Across the Disciplines

For this assignment, students from J. Brown’s first-year Tutorial “Envisioning Nature,“  L. Wright’s upper-level seminar “Captured Creatures” and V. Bentley-Condit’s upper-level seminar “Human Ethology” will meet in small groups of 3-4 students (assigned groups; meet between September 7-September 10) to discuss the exercises they have completed on seeing/observing animals.


To gain an appreciation of how different disciplines explore “seeing/observing” animals and the ways in which what is seen/observed can be interpreted.

Questions to be addressed

  • What are the similarities/dissimilarities in how the three represented disciplines (anthropology, art, biology) are viewing/seeing animals?
  • What are their respective goals?
  • What are their respective methods?
  • What did you and the other students with whom you are meeting gain from the seeing/observing exercise you completed prior to this meeting?  What do you know about animals that you did not know previously?  Where were you frustrated? What would you need to be more successful?  How will this help your work? What might you learn from other disciplines in how to look at animals?

Look for the following:

  • Differences in degree to which disciplines describe physical characteristics of the animal.
  • Differences in the level of detail disciplines might present.
  • Differences in the types of interpretations disciplines might offer.


Take notes on your conversations with these other students and come to class prepared to discuss what you learned from your meeting on Tuesday, September 11.

Enhancing Observational Skills Assignment

Completed by students in Captured Creatures and Human Ethology. See EOS Exercise instructions in Resources & Materials.

Students will:

  • Make detailed observation
  • Write clearly and descriptively
  • Give attention to minute details
  • Identify the nuance in complex forms
  • Find what may be hidden to others


Ethology Project

Completed by students in Human Ethology. See Ethology Project in Resources & Materials.

In this four-part assignment, students will:

  1. Read the select material on Darwin
  2. Design and conduct a mini ethological project
  3. Interpret the data collected from the project and bring it to class
  4. Meet in small groups with a mix of humanities and science students to discuss the readings and projects

Dissemination Strategies

Envisioning Nature Tutorial | Professor Brown (Biology)

Introduces the theme of the entire course. See BIO 301 Syllabus in Resources & Materials.

Seeing is believing. Or is it? How do we perceive Nature when it is beyond our sight, when we are not present at the right time or place, or when our human vision limits our perception? How can visual depictions of Nature and its phenomena lead to acceptance of their truth? Have we accepted false views of nature through the power of images? What is the role of aesthetics – even beauty – in this acceptance? This tutorial will consider the ways that Nature and its creatures have been perceived and represented, exploring the history of visualization in biological science and its interdependence with the envisioning powers of the arts.

Students will complete three “looking” assignments in consecutive sessions during the first two weeks of the semester: (1) The EOS exercise for a work of art (described below in Professor Wright’s section), (2) The “Learning to Describe Behavior” exercise on a single animal, and (3) a “Looking at a natural landscape” exercise at our Biological Field Station. They will then discuss their experiences of observing animals with the members of the other courses, though they will also have been thinking carefully about the similarities and differences of looking at different things (art, an individual animal, a place in Nature) and should bring those experiences to the discussion of disciplinary looking. They will have a short-written reflection due following the meetings. Assignment sheets for these weeks (attached separately) illustrate specifics of the assignments and assessment.

Following these initial exercises, students will spend several weeks considering the biology and physics of human vision, with respect to visual art, and consider how artists have responded to and shaped our views of animals and Nature as a whole, historically and contemporarily. Finally, they will return at mid-course to an earlier assigned reading by Annie Dillard (“Seeing” from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek) to write their first major integrative essay. The second half of the course will focus on the use of visualization in biology.


Captured Creatures Advanced Exhibition Seminar | Professor Wright (Art & Faulconer Gallery)

In preparing an interdisciplinary group of upperclass students – some of whom have studied art and others of whom have not – to curate an exhibition of art and other objects, students will do an exercise to help them look closely at the art before them and to “see” it before they start interpreting it. Since they may be including other types of objects in their exhibition, this exercise is also intended to help them observe any piece of material culture carefully. They will then follow the experience of looking intently at art with the “Learning to Describe Behavior” exercise described by Jackie Brown.

EOS, or Enhance Observational Skills, is an exercise adapted from a project done at Mount Holyoke College for introductory biology students working with the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. In turn, this exercise modifies a module developed in 1998 by Linda Friedlaender, Curator of Education at the Yale Center for British Art, in collaboration with Dr. Irwin Braverman, Emeritus Professor of Dermatology at the Yale University School of Medicine, for medical students to assist them in learning to look carefully at their patients before jumping to diagnoses. Thus it is an exercise that can be adjusted for students at any level and for any discipline where looking skills are a plus.

Before class, the students will read the Lyanda Lynn Haupt chapter “Seeing,” in Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness (2009) and Barry Lopez’s essay “Learning to See” from About This Life (1999). The Haupt discusses the history of long looking at a specimen as practiced by various natural scientists and should remind them that concentrated looking for 15 minutes is very brief by comparison. The Lopez demonstrates how many skills may be brought to bear in looking at art and the benefits of interdisciplinary looking.

To do EOS, the faculty member works with the museum to select enough works of art for groups of 3 or 4 students (e.g., 4 groups need 4 works of art). Richly detailed narrative works of art, with some ambiguity, work best. In their groups, students first spend 15 minutes silently examining the art before them, sketching, and writing out descriptive notes. They start with 5 minutes of observation at a distance from the work, then move in for 10 minutes of very close looking. The small group takes another 10 minutes to compare notes and add to them. Finally, each small group has 15 minutes to describe their piece to the others. Remind students to use “I see” and use specific, descriptive language, and not to point or use words like “I think” or “I feel.”

To strengthen the exercise, class members will write a blog post focusing on clear, descriptive writing to propose an interpretation of the work of art based on details observed. Their post may also help them integrate the Haupt and Lopez readings. Mount Holyoke faculty report that it can be helpful to have a museum staff member or the professor demonstrate close looking before beginning the assignment, to walk through the process and separate observations from interpretations. Modeling ahead of time is especially useful with undergraduates.

See EOS Exercise in Resources & Materials for more information.

Human Ethology | Professor Bentley-Condit (Antropology)

Attached to this document is a copy of the “Human Ethology – Break Assignment” instructions distributed to students at the beginning of summer. Although this version of this assignment is specifically aimed at a junior/senior level seminar in Human Ethology, it could be “tweaked” for other courses where the instructor wants students to gain some experience, from a naïve perspective, in designing and conducting an animal observation project. So, for example, one might keep the article/chapter readings but not have students read the Darwin book. What students will ultimately be discussing in their interdisciplinary groups is designed to be conducted over a break. That time period could vary from as short as a week to as long as the summer break depending on the goals of the instructor and at what point in the semester it works best.

Approximately a week and a half at the beginning of the semester will be devoted to the discussion of the mini-projects, associated readings, and the outcome of the interdisciplinary student small-group meetings. The goals of the assignment and group meetings are closely intertwined. The project assignment is to get students to start thinking about what it means to observe an animal and how one might actually approach such an assignment. The small-group meetings are to expose students to the ways in which other disciplines approach similar projects. Ultimately, students should emerge from those meetings with, first, the knowledge that the discussion of animals is a valid cross-disciplinary pursuit and, second, greater understanding of the kinds of questions different disciplines may ask, and the approaches they may take, in considering animals.

Students will not be tested on their knowledge gained. Rather, they will be expected to hone their observation skills – learning how to see/observe and what to see/observe – over the course of the semester and then apply those skills in a human observation project that they design and conduct later in the semester. They will be expected to specifically discuss, after their small-group meetings, what they learned from those gatherings and how they expect to use what they learned. In a different type of course, one might ask the students to write a short reflection paper – perhaps focused around the questions provided on the group-meeting assignment below – that one could then evaluate as part of the assessment process.

See “Human Ethology” in Resources & Material for more information.

Resources and Materials

Seeing/Observing Animals Across the Disciplines Joint Assignment Plan

BIO 301 History of Biological Thought Syllabus

EOS Assignment Instructions

Ethology Project Instructions


Armstrong, P. 1993. An ethologist aboard HMS Beagle: The young Darwin’s observations on animal behavior. J of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 29:339-344.

Browne, J. 1985. The Darwinian Heritage – Ch 12: Darwin and the expression of the emotions. Kohn, D. (ed). Princeton University Press, NJ. Pp. 307-326.

Darwin, C., 2002. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, 3rd edition. Oxford University Press. (With Introduction, Afterword and Commentaries by Paul Ekman).

Turner, D. 1991. The ethology of the human-cat relationship. Schweiz Arch Tierheilk 133:63-70.

Lake Forest College

Minor Program in Animals and Society

Janet McCracken
Professor of Philosophy, Lake Forest College

Glenn Adelson
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Lake Forest College

In a recent article in the New York Times (January 2, 2012), James Gorman described animal studies as “the growing, but still undefined, field [which] … includes ‘anything that has to do with the way humans and animals interact.’ Art, literature, sociology, anthropology, film, theater, philosophy, religion – there are animals in all of them.” As Gorman notes, “Institutes, book series and conferences have proliferated. Formal academic programs have appeared.” The Animals and Society Institute lists a number of undergraduate courses in animal studies, including fellow midwestern liberal arts colleges Albion, Augustana, Macalester, and Wittenburg, and at liberal arts colleges such as Hamilton, Wesleyan, and Williams, as well as at many highly prestigious universities, including Harvard. Wesleyan University runs a summer fellowship in animal studies in association with the ASI.

With a biology and humanities heavy path – consistent with the national trends in the discipline – we have decided to call our minor “Animals and Society,” so as not to mislead students into thinking this is just a subset of biology. We know there is always concern among faculty about new programs’ use of resources, and rightly so. But because the study of animals is already embedded in most of the traditional disciplines and many of our courses, and because we have designed the minor to rely on foci in regularly-offered courses, most of which do not regularly fill to bursting (we are particularly concerned about the biology courses), we are confident that the minor will not require any additional FTE.

Perhaps more importantly, however, we would argue that it is wrong for a good liberal arts college to overlook the study of non-human animals. Perhaps this is especially so today, when meat and pharmaceutical safety are headline issues, and the welfare of companion animals is a trillion-dollar set of industries. But we don’t need to look to current events. Humans are drawn to non-human animals: we depend on them for our livelihood, we share the planet and each of its communities with them; we are fascinated by their beauty, intricacy, and efficiency. It’s surprising that animal studies is only now becoming a popular field at colleges like ours.

*Note: Content adapted from Curricular Project.


Overview and Goals of “Animals and Society” Minor

Humans are drawn to non-human animals: we depend on them for our livelihood, we share the planet and each of its communities with them; we are fascinated by their beauty, intricacy, and efficiency. The minor in Animals and Society is widely interdisciplinary, and accords students great autonomy in their programs. In addition to its intrinsic interest, Animals and Society provides depth to applications to jobs and graduate and professional schools.

The goals of the Animals and Society minor are that students:

  • Identify and consider the experience of non-human animals as part of scholarship;
  • Identify and consider human-animal relationships in their lives and in the world around them;
  • Be versant in ethical, moral, political and legal concerns about animals; and
  • Gain understanding of the significance of animals in human evolution, history, culture, and civilization

Achievement of these goals is assessed by a review of the final assignments for the core courses in the minor.


Updated Mar 11, 2016

The Animal Studies Minor requires:

Seven Courses

Three Core Courses

ES 220: Evolution, Ecology, and Environment

The diversity of life – the result of evolutionary and ecological processes – is a primary focus of environmental studies. In order to understand humans’ effects on other species, ecosystems, and evolutionary and ecological processes and interactions, a deep knowledge of those entities and processes is critical.

This course takes an interdisciplinary, theoretical approach to the evolution and ecology of human – environmental dynamics, including species concepts and speciation, extinction, conservation of biodiversity, political ecology, evolutionary ecology, the human dimensions of global change, demography, biogeography, human and non-human population ecology, and the status of evolutionary theory in the current political arena. Three lecture hours plus one four-hour laboratory per week. Prerequisite: ES 110 or permission of instructor.

PHIL 245: Phil of Humans and Animals Western

Philosophers since Aristotle – at least – have claimed that human beings, as a species and alone among species, are capable of complex reasoning. From that premise, they have inferred a wide range of ethical and religious claims, e.g., it is ethically permissible to eat non-human animals. Alternative claims, however, have just as long a history, and in the last twenty or so years there has been a boom in the study of non-human animals and the relationships between humans and non-human animals.

In this seminar, we will read and discuss an array of philosophical opinions on how animal species, human among them, do and ought to dwell together in the world. We’ll discuss the practices of keeping pets, training animals to work or entertain, building and patronizing zoos, animal experimentation, animal worship, and others. Students will be responsible for presenting course material in seminar papers, plus a major term paper on a relevant topic of their choice.

ES 387: Who Speaks for Animals?

This course explores the aims, motives, and achievements of those who either intentionally or unintentionally speak for animals – scientists, natural historians, philosophers, animal trainers, legal scholars, veterinarians, conservationists, nature writers, and artists, among others. This course investigates the meaning of animals to humans, the meaning of humans to animals, and the meaning of animals to each other. These investigations raise questions about the nature of equality, reason, feeling, justice, language, the social contract, and sentimentality. Prerequisites: Politics 260, or any Environmental Studies or Philosophy course at the 200 level or above, or junior standing.

Plus four electives, at least one from each group (note that some of these courses have prerequisites):

Group A

  • BIOL 132: Bio Inquiry: Plant-Animal Interactions
  • BIOL 220: Ecology and Evolution [students taking this course may use it to replace the core course ES 220]
  • ES 215: Environmental Psychology • ES 287: Sustainable Food Systems
  • SOAN 248: Intro to Physical Anthropology
  • SOAN 271: Technology and Human Values

Group B

  • Any art or art history course at the 200- or 300-level, with focused work on the depiction of animals (with prior permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program)
  • ENGL 206: American Environmental Lit
  • ENGL 365: Poetry and Nature
  • Any writing course at the 200- or 300-level, with focused work on the depiction of animals (with prior permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program)
  • Any of the following courses in philosophy, with focused work on the treatment or nature of non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) PHIL 203: Business & Professional Ethics PHIL 205: Medical Ethics PHIL 210: Environmental Ethics PHIL 212: Multicultural Approaches Environment PHIL 225: Philosophy of Science PHIL 275: Desire and Discipline: Asian Morals PHIL 276: Social Justice and Human Rights PHIL 277: Social Justice vs. Freedom? PHIL 290: Western Philosophy: Ancient Greece PHIL 291: Western Philosophy: 17th & 18th C PHIL 292: Western Philosophy: Hegel & l9th C PHIL 296: Philosophy of Mind
  • Any of the following courses in religion, with focused work on the treatment or nature of non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) RELG 118: Religious Ethics RELG 210: Religions of Indigenous Peoples RELG 211: Judaism RELG 212: Christianity RELG 213: Islam RELG 214: Hinduism RELG 215: Introduction to Buddhism RELG 234: Witches, Preachers, and Mystics RELG 241: Religion & Science RELG 242: Cults, Sects, and Communes RELG 255: Islam and Modernity

Group C

  • BIOL 340: Animal Physiology
  • BIOL 344: Animal Behavior
  • BIOL 389: Evolution
  • ES 350: Marine and Island Ecology
  • ES 361: Environmental Law
  • ES 368: Endangered Species and Languages
  • NEUR/PSYC 370: Neuroscience and Behavior
  • Any of the following courses in psychology with focused work on the psychology of non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) PSYC 310: Sensation and Perception PSYC 320: Learning and Memory PSYC 330: Motivation & Emotion PSYC 360: Cognitive Psychology
  • Any of the following courses in philosophy, with focused work on the treatment or nature of non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) PHIL 305: Comp Philosophy: East & West PHIL 325: Major Ethical Theories PHIL 352: Topics in Social Justice PHIL 360: Identity & Dreams
  • RELG 335: Religion and Food
  • Any of the following courses in religion, with focused work on the treatment or nature of non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) RELG 320: Topics In Comparative Religion RELG 321: Jewish-Christian-Muslim Conversations
  • The following course in sociology/anthropology, with focused work on the human interaction with non-human animals (with permission of the instructor and the chair of the animals studies program) SOAN 316: Environmental Sociology

A tutorial in Animals and Society may be substituted for any but the core courses in the minor, with the permission of the instructor and the chair of the animal studies program.

For questions about the SAIL program, contact ACM Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Brian Williams (312.561.5922).

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