LEARNING IN THE FIELD
The backcountry will provide a wonderful and ever-stimulating classroom, giving us a chance to learn experientially, and reinforce our new knowledge quickly and consistently. Our learning will be a combination of constant field observations, daily guided discussions/lectures (which will often be reinforcing readings and observations), interpretive lessons, reflection exercises, and lots of field work. Our daily rhythm will vary, but we will generally backpack/canoe in the morning, have a class session during and after lunch, travel a bit more in the afternoon, and then have another shorter class session in the evening. Some days we may hike all day, and some days may involve relatively little travel and an abundance of field work. Field work will be mixed in throughout the course and will include ecological monitoring labs, interpretation, and restoration. Free time for personal exploration and processing will be a part of the learning process as well, and will be plentiful.
The backpacking and canoeing can be done by beginners. Prior hiking experience is not necessary, but you do need to be able to carry a loaded pack 5-10 miles on our backpacking days and have no chronic/debilitating injuries. Minimum impact camping will be stressed.
We work hard to provide a safe learning environment in the backcountry. The wildlands classroom, however, is different from studying on campus. You need to be aware of the normal risks of backpacking and river travel including but not limited to: snakebite, physical injury, getting lost, lightning storms, etc. In general, we will be away from typical emergency response services, hospitals, and medical assistance. I have training in wilderness first aid (certified Wilderness First Responder since 1998), but I am not a health care professional. In event of an emergency I will do my best to get you promptly to proper care. I will also establish basic safety procedures at the beginning of the program.
Remember that these are academic programs. Learning in the field is very exciting, coursework is extensive, and faculty expectations are high. You should be prepared to work hard with quizzes, exams, and class presentations as part of the process. Also, we want to have a great time together as a group. Having an open mind towards group processes goes a long way towards creating a strong and empowered traveling community. There will be challenging aspects of living, eating, sleeping, and learning in relatively close quarters, but the growth potential from this type of group travel is immense. Drugs of any kind, or inappropriate personal conduct, are not part of the Sierra Institute experience. The Sierra Institute reserves the right to dismiss anyone who is a danger to the land, herself/himself, or other group members.
Participants provide their own personal equipment. Group items (tents, stoves, pots) are shared by everyone and organized by the instructor. A detailed equipment list will be sent upon acceptance.
Food is an important part of staying happy and healthy in the backcountry. To save time, money, and to have more fun, we prepare meals communally. Food costs prepaid and pooled for group purchases. Group cooking gear will be provided, but you must supply your own eating utensils, bowls, cups, etc. On each trip students will be responsible for planning menus, cooking meals and cleaning. Dietary needs will be accommodated.
Weather will vary as we move among different elevations, ecosystems and climates. We can expect some warm sunny days and some cool foggy days. Nights, in general, will be cool. Rain won’t be abundant, but it is possible anytime.