Dave Benson and Stephanie Schuck | Jan 03, 2017
The First Year Seminar is a required course for all incoming Marian University students and is theme-based, focused on preparing students in the areas of inquiry and exchange, intellectual skill development, and learning what it means to be a Marian University Knight. Students practice critical thinking, information literacy, collaborative learning, and other skills that develop students’ intellectual and practical competencies.
Stephanie Schuck, adjunct faculty and Outdoor Education and Restoration Coordinator for the Nina Mason Pulliam Ecolab, and David Benson, Ph.D., professor of biology and science director for the EcoLab, teamed up to teach an outdoor immersion First Year Seminar this fall. The 17 students in the course met in the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust Outdoor Classroom and Nature Center twice a week during the semester. They learned about the natural history of Indiana and the EcoLab, and were challenged to contemplate the effects that nature has on them and how they affect their environment. Students lucked out with the unnaturally warm weather we had this fall!
The primary project for the semester was for each student to develop a 20 minute interpretive program in the EcoLab. The students rose to the challenge and led fun and interesting EcoLab-oriented programming. Along the way students and faculty learned about squirrels, deer, medicinal plants, Leave No Trace, wetlands, bats, and other interesting topics. One student taught about the importance of immersion in the outdoors for our physical and mental well being. Another promoted the importance of wetlands to plants, animals, and us.
Students also created a nature journal to record their thoughts while in the EcoLab or other outdoor space throughout the semester, and some even participated in a canoe trip through Turkey Run State Park! Schuck and Benson plan to continue offering this class each fall and hope to convince our new student naturalists to offer some of their programs for the public in the future.