A class with no boundaries
Ecology Natural History is not your typical college course.
Monday, October 19, 2009 - 17:19
Here is a shot of a couple COA students enjoying the view atop Acadia National Park.
We plunge through sphagnum moss bogs, get dirty and buggy inside beaver lodges and we meander through salt marshes. Yes, this is a class! I think my ecology class is the most unconventional class I have taken thus far; we are not required to use a textbook or complete exercises on taxonomy. Everything we do is done in the field.
My favorite field trip that our class of fourteen eco-freak students has gone on is our trip to a sphagnum moss bog in Acadia National Park. Equipped with waders and excitement to explore the bog, we examined the ecology of the bog and the natural history of it, as well. First of all, let me tell you that if you have ever walked on a bog, you have walked on fake land! You basically walk on water-logged soil and layers among layers of moss and dead vegetation that has piled up over the years. At one point during our bog walking escapade, our awesome instructor measured how much vegetation had accumulated above the bedrock. Using these flexible poles that measured four feet long, we stuck them into the soggy pseudo-ground and found an astounding depth of 28 feet! And of course, it being a bog, there was the occasional "quick sand" effect. A word of caution: beware where you walk! I will admit that I sunk in the boggy goodness at least three times, but at least I was not the only one to do so.
Not only did we study the ecology of this bog, we went cranberry picking as well! We collected scores of ripe cranberries, which provided good sustenance on such an exhilarating trip.
Through my experiences in this course, I am convinced that the true way to learn the difference between a red maple and a sugar maple is to go outside and see the natural world with all of your senses. Knowledge is not limited to books. I endorse this method of teaching because it provides a deeper appreciation for nature, and if this appreciation and respect for nature was fostered at a young age, maybe more people would be aware of the need to protect the environment for future generations.
Our instructor tells us about the different species of trees in Acadia National Park.
Photos: Mariana Calderon