Thursday, October 13, 2011

W.I.L.D. Semester Gets Even Greener

The Gordon Wilderness Immersion and Leadership Development (W.I.L.D.) Semester is an immersion semester in outdoor education that incorporates a 21-day wilderness expedition followed by an intentional living community off campus, teaching students a variety of leadership skills. From backcountry cooking to expedition psychology, the curriculum provides a unique study in group development.

This year students traveled to the mountain range of Sierra Nevada, and are now back in Massachusetts and settling into a house in the seaport town of Rockport, 14 miles from Gordon's campus. Here, the students will continue to live out their low-impact sustainable techniques back in a residential community with a focus on environmental ethics. “Environmental ethics is one of the unique parts of our curriculum," said Tricia Chan, resident director and assistant director of the W.I.L.D. program. "We use the 'leave no trace' practice in wilderness education. We talk about what environmental ethics means, why it is important for us as stewards living out creation care, and how we can incorporate that into our daily lives.”

Back on the North Shore, the students continue course work through Gordon College studying the history, philosophy, theory and practice of outdoor education, while continuing intentional community building at the house. But this year's WILD semester is about to get even "greener." Recently the students decided to buy into a CSA—community supported agriculture—as a way to support a local farm while focusing on environmental ethics.“We wanted to take our actions further than recycling and reusing of materials, so within our first week back from California, the students decided to buy into a CSA through an organic farmer at First Light Farm,” said Chan.

Mike Raymond, the farmer and owner of First Light Farm in Hamilton, offers 200 shares a season to those in the community looking to support and be a part of a small organic farm. “We’ve never had a class join our CSA before,” said Raymond. “Though our summer season is almost over, I’m working on a special CSA for the Gordon College students to support the commitment they’re making in environmental ethics. No matter what, I will figure out a way to feed these students through the end of their semester in December.”

Though First Light Farm does offer some fall/spring CSA's to members, winter months can be a challenge for local farms, but with Raymond's experience, all parties are up for the challenge. The WILD semester CSA program will be adapted so the students can eat from a local farm through the semester, allowing the college students to see firsthand the symbiosis of their partnership. “We’ve discovered so many advantages to working with a nearby farm," said Chan. “There are obvious ones, such as eating organic, knowing exactly where our food comes from, seeing where it grows, helping eliminate transportation and gas usage that impacts the environment from shipping, and eating great tasting produce. But the most influential advantage is the interaction within the community—creating relationships, learning about trends in organic farming such as the 'locavore' movement, and learning how to be good stewards with our money and purchases. For me that’s a big part of environmental ethics—understanding and caring for the relationships between people and the land.”

The WILD semester exposes students to the historical, cultural, spiritual, moral and environmental dimensions of the wilderness and encourages critical thought about issues important to outdoor educators. Through a living and learning community, experimental opportunities, extensive outdoor travel and fieldwork, students obtain valuable outdoor skills, leadership experience and crucial outdoor certifications.  

Photo from left to right: Anna Blomberg '14 from Simsbury CT, Sam Johnson '12 from  Elise Letizia '14 from Wenham, MA Greenfield MA, and at their First Light Farm CSA pick-up location in Hamilton. 

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