It’s the morning of July 21, 2013: Day four of the first Great Smokies Experience, the students are out in the College Woods with Dr. Mark O’Gorman learning about woodland ecology and management policies and I have a rare opportunity to sit down and try to describe what has happened over the last three days. Frankly, it’s hard to know where to begin; we’ve done a lot in a very short time. Here, then, is a photo essay that gives a small taste of what we’ve been up to lately.
Day 1: Beginnings
We began with a fun ice-breaking event run by Mountain Challenge on the College Ropes Course.
By the afternoon, we introduced the course in a classroom and then did a library exercise to get more familiar with some of the terminology we’ll be using over the next two weeks. Yes, this is really a three-hour college course and yes, there’s really reading and academic work to be done. Fortunately, the students have been up to the challenge and are clearly taking things seriously.
Day 2: Rethinking our relationship to nature
Many generations of Maryville College students continue to talk about their first time up the tower. Bruce Guillaume and the Mountain Challenge program have been safely helping people overcome this and other obstacles for a quarter century now. Bruce is at the bottom right of the next photo, helping some students up the tower and teaching others to support the climbers.
We also took a tour of some of the ecological initiatives that Maryville College has made in recent years. Here students listen to Dr. Adrienne Schwarte talking about the solar Dok picnic tables.
When you think of hiking, you’re generally imagining a walk in the woods or up a mountain or in an idyllic field somewhere. We started our hiking experience by going to a strip mall in downtown Maryville, TN. How do we organize our commercial spaces? Why are there some places that most people simply don’t walk to? Why is it strange to hike to a strip mall? What does this tell us about our relationship to nature? In addition to these and other questions, we also wanted to provide students with contrast to their upcoming experiences in more natural settings.
Day Three: Tellico Reservoir
Environmental studies classes around the United States talk about the Tennessee Valley Authority and the issues that emerged in the debate over the Tellico dam. We got to discuss these same questions while canoeing on the reservoir itself.
So this is how we got to Day 4. The rest of today is about woods and a wide variety of management policies and philosophies towards woodland environments. Tomorrow we head out the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Things are going very well so far and there will be more updates to come. Thanks for stopping by!
— Doug Sofer