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Hannah Wellish, student on JBS Environmental Health and Justice Program, creates a short video about the students' work with Worcester Roots.

Environmental Field Semester

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At a Glance

Overview

The Environmental Field Semester (EFS) is an integrated, 20-credit course offering that explores the history, ecology, conservation and stewardship of land in New England. A small group of students will be team taught in a single, coherent program that includes guided field research, numerous field trips and engagement with community organizations.

EFS will give students intensive experience in the stewardship of land and natural resources, using conservation land in Weston as a living laboratory. In the process students will gain an in-depth understanding of the history, ecology, laws and politics behind how land is used. They also will begin to master skills in research, writing, Geographic Information System, presentation and management that make for effective environmental protection and sustainable engagement at the community level.

Field Trips

EFS features many field trips. The semester will begin with a canoe trip up the Charles River in Waltham and a hike across Weston. The second weekend of the semester will feature a three-day trip to western Massachusetts to study regional biodiversity, stopping off at Harvard Forest to introduce students to the history of land use in New England.

In October, a five-day trip to northern Vermont will let students explore old-growth forests, relict glacial bogs, large-scale forest conservation, sustainable forestry, sustainable farming and more land use history.

Other destinations will include Appleton Farms and Crane Beach in Ipswich, Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, downtown Boston’s Charles River and Harbor and the Food Project in Dorchester. These field trips are essential to give students a full grasp of the larger urban, rural and natural contexts surrounding suburban conservation issues in New England.

Afternoon sessions will be devoted to field trips to local sites that illustrate particular aspects of ecology, conservation and land stewardship. These trips help students learn to identify the trees that comprise our forests and to read the land use history of the landscape.

One afternoon each week will be spent at Land's Sake community farm in Weston, giving students direct experience in the actual tasks of sustainable food and wood production. Activities will include cultivating and harvesting crops, maintaining trails and splitting and stacking firewood.

EFS will include weekly farm lunches along with several dinners that feature local, seasonal foods.