As Big As All Outdoors
In field-based courses, students learn things they never could in a
By Macreena A. Doyle
|Megan Thomas '04, a student
in Glenn Harris's course Seeing History, ponders what stories
a weathered North Country barn might tell.
The Exotic Supermarket
If you think that exotic ingredients carried in your local supermarket
could only be found in the produce or ethnic food aisles, think again.
That's what students in Assistant Professor of Biology Carlos Ramirez-Sosa's
Ethnobotany course learned, in one of their many field trips – to
the P&C, about a half-mile from campus in Canton.
That part of
the course, which focuses on the use of plants by native peoples
all over the world, examines the world in the market, literally.
out in the store, poring over product labels, and determine where various ingredients
“The course introduces students to exotic plants, but also shows them the
importance of local plants,” Ramirez-Sosa says. “They discover the
diversity of plants right in this region, and all the many uses there are for
You may have heard that the entire world is a classroom. Few have taken
that to heart as avidly as Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies
Glenn Harris, who teaches an entire course outdoors. It’s one
that defines “environmental studies” a little differently.
“How do you get people interested in history? That's a big question for
me,” Harris told The Chronicle of Higher Education of his course Seeing
History. “One of the ways to do it is to get out of the classroom and into
And “into the field” they go, for every class – to
the National Gallery in Ottawa; to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake;
parks; to abandoned agricultural land; to “blowdown” areas near
Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks; to an abandoned mine and a shut-down paper
factory; to old barns; to small-town Main Streets in Madrid, Lisbon and Canton
(the ones in St. Lawrence County, not Spain, Portugal and China respectively);
to witness the planning and development efforts of the small city of Ogdensburg;
to the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence Seaway and other locations in the
region, to “read” the natural and cultural landscape.
A Penny for Their Thoughts
Even when you're standing on top of it, it’s hard to imagine
how a giant sand dune wound up in Parishville, N.Y., less than half
an hour from the St. Lawrence campus. And if you can only see pictures
of it, it's practically impossible.
That's why the students in Assistant
Professor of Geology Stephen Robinson's Geomorphology class take a
field trip every week, to somewhere in St. Lawrence
County or beyond.
“There’s no substitute for field study,” Robinson says. “You
can't bring the entire sand dune or boulder, and its surroundings, back to the
lab. When you can actually lecture on-site, and have the students take in the
whole environment, that's when they get it.”
Other courses with significant field components:
Biology 221, General Ecology
Non-Departmental 247A, Field Methods for Environmental Science
Geology 314, Glacial and Quaternary Geology
Geology 216, Sedimentology
Geology 206, Invertebrate Paleontology
Biology 207, Freshwater Biology