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    Thoreau College Field School: A Bioregional Immersion

    Thoreau College Field School: A Bioregional Immersion


    • Listing Type: Gap Year Programs
    • Program Delivery: Residential
    • Destinations: United States
    • Credit Awarded: None
    • Program Length: Four Weeks
    • Start Month: May
    • Category: Environmental Conservation
    • Selective: No
    • Gender: Coed
    • Ages: 17, 18, 19+, 19
    • Housing: Dorm, Student Apartment
    • Affiliation: Gap Year Association
    • Financial Aid: Grants/Scholarships, Payment Terms
    • Minimum Cost: $1,000 - $2,999
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    This program offers a 4-week long immersion into the ecology, history, agriculture, and human cultures of the Driftless Bioregion of southwestern Wisconsin.  Taking place between mid-May and mid-June, one of the most dynamic times of the agricultural year, the Field School program is an opportunity to experience a rich tapestry of activity and life here in a ecologically and culturally vibrant rural community in the company of a small cohort of fellow seekers and learners.

    Thoreau College strives to cultivate a harmonious balance of activities that engage head, heart, and hands across all programs and all periods of time.  In practice, this means an integration of open discussions of ideas and perspectives with the arts and hands-on physical activities in all courses.  A typical day at Thoreau College begins with a Morning Circle with students and faculty incorporating singing, movement activities, and announcements.  The rest of the morning is devoted to a single block of class time focused on an academic topic or an artistic or manual skill workshop. Following a mid-day break, afternoons are devoted to labor activities in the greenhouse, gardens, farm, or community partners.  On Friday, there is a community-wide meeting over lunch where important questions of shared governance are discussed and decided upon.  Evenings and weekends are generally unscheduled, although students will have opportunities to participate in elective courses offered through the Driftless Folk School and the Thoreau College Community Seminar.

    The Field School program lasts 4 weeks, from May 13 to June 7. Each week of the Field School will include at least one day-long canoe-trip, hiking expedition, or field trip to important sites around the region.  Many other days will feature shorter field trips to farms and natural sites as well.   

    Some of the things Field School participants will experience include:

    • Hands on experience with growing and transplanting plants in gardens, vineyard, and greenhouse.
    • Care for domestic animals, including sheep, chickens, and pigs.  For those who are interested, this will include an opportunity to learn chicken butchering.
    • Introduction to the geological and ecological history of the Driftless Bioregion, including field trips to significant locations and identification of local plants, animals, insects, birds, and fungi.
    • Introduction to the human history of our region, beginning with the Ho Chunk and other indigenous peoples, and including European conquest and settlement, the African American Cheyenne Valley community, the Amish, and the back-to-the-land movement.
    • Exploration of the American agricultural and food system, through farm visits, readings, films, and guest speakers, including an introduction to the principles of biodynamics, permaculture, rotational grazing, and regenerative farming.
    • Workshops in folk crafts and homesteading skills such as basketry, foraging wild plants and fungi, scything, cheesemaking, metal work, or spoon carving.
    • Short canoeing and hiking expeditions in the local area.
    • Life together in a self-governing shared household of fellow students, including shared meals, meetings, and celebrations, including community singing.