The first week of fall term is always incredibly busy and exciting. Whether you are new to Unity College or have been here for a few years or many – the fall term brings new opportunities and challenges. This first week of fall term has been even busier and more exciting than others in recent memory in large part because we have launched the TERRAIN testbed expedition. This represents both the culmination of years of work and the beginning of an ambitious initiative to provide our students with even more highly integrated and experiential learning opportunities. We are reflecting carefully on the TERRAIN testbed experience to help us refine curriculum and processes to ensure that the full launch of TERRAIN in fall 2020 will be successful.
Highlights from 8.24-8.30
TERRAIN students met with their instructional team leaders, Kate Coseo and Aly McKnight, and the expeditionary teaching fellows, Emily Goldthwaite and Chelsea Becker, on Saturday. Kate and Aly provided an overview of the curriculum, handed out schedules, and walked with students to the areas on campus (Wood Hall, Unity House, etc.) where the majority of the expeditionary learning programming will take place throughout the term. First thing on Monday morning, the TERRAIN students met the rest of the instructional team – Ellen Batchelder, Randy Colvin, Josh Kercsmar, and Tom Whittaker – and participated in class sessions throughout the day. On Tuesday, the students met with Heather Bryant and Ray Phinney to learn about strategies for managing stress and anxiety and about the wellness resources available to them on campus. They then participated in the club fair and work study fair before departing campus for their first 4-day trip up to Sky Lodge.
While at Sky Lodge, the students worked with faculty (Batchelder, Coseo, Kercsmar, McKnight), fellows (Becker, Goldthwaite), and staff (Soliana Goldrich, Ray Phinney, Jes Steele, Adam Williams) to build community norms and learn foundational skills such as compass use/land navigation, scientific observation and data recording, and descriptive writing. All of these skills are in the service of addressing broader questions framing the expedition – “What lives in the woods and waters around Jackman, Maine? How do we communicate with various audiences about these animals and their importance to the region?”
When not participating in structured learning experiences at Sky Lodge, the students, staff, and faculty had opportunities to walk the trails, swim in the pool, play board games, make s’mores, and play pool.
So – we had some early success in engaging the TERRAIN students in an immersive experience that is setting the stage for their expeditionary learning throughout the term. Enormous shout out to the TERRAIN team, especially the folks who were up at Sky Lodge this week!
We’ve also learned a lot already about the importance of clear communication and timely responsiveness. For example, some TERRAIN students mistakenly thought that they would miss the work study fair because of the Sky Lodge trip. When faculty brought this concern to the attention of myself and Dean MacRae, we were able to clarify that the students wouldn’t leave for Sky Lodge until after the work study fair. As the term unfolds, please continue to bring your questions or concerns to my attention as soon as possible so that I can address them, provide additional information, etc. Giving our students the best possible experience will require our combined efforts!
Many thanks to everyone who has helped us smooth over some rough edges this week (shuffling classrooms, double-checking van driver authorization lists, etc. … you know who you are!) and for the many ways in which you have welcomed our students to the Flagship campus. These students are showing great courage by jumping into TERRAIN and one thing we can all do to help them succeed is to show them – in small ways and big ones – that they are cared for. We do that when we meet them in the parking lot to help them lug belongings to their rooms. We do that when we set out snacks at Sky Lodge. We do that when we quickly respond to their questions about when they can participate in the driver training course. And in hundreds of other ways. Please keep sending this message of care. It can make all the difference for young college students who are experiencing new challenges every day.
Jennifer L. Cartier, Ph.D. (she, her, hers)
Dean of the School of Environmental Citizenship
Professor of Education
Unity, Maine 04998
(412) 215-6511 (cell, preferred)
(207) 509-7282 (office)
Office: Unity House, Room 2