This semester integrates the highest levels of learning and adventure while focusing on the landscapes, stories, science and connections surrounding the Colorado River. We will travel from high in the snow-covered mountains of Colorado to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico and back again. Along the way we will meet and learn from U.S. and Mexican experts, experience numerous outdoor adventures, and come to understand what it means to lead a life intertwined with the human and natural landscapes of place.
Colorado River Resource Management. Human water use in the southwest: the history, implications and solutions.
Southwest Ecology. Experience the flora and fauna and their interconnections.
Journalism and Story Telling. Working with journalists to develop the art of seeking out and telling meaningful stories.
Outdoor Leadership. Backpacking. Canoeing. Backcountry cooking. Team building and decision-making. Route finding. Risk management.
The Colorado River, known as the lifeblood of the American Southwest, begins as snowmelt in the mountains of Colorado and in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. Nearly all water in the Colorado River is used for agricultural, municipal and industrial purposes, and recreation. As a result the river no longer reaches the sea and countless ecosystems have been altered. This course looks closely at the history, problems and solutions of Colorado River Water use. In the process, you will understand where your food comes from and the implications of our choices. You will meet inspiring farmers, ecologists and city managers and delve into water law and hydrology. Finally, you will experience the river and its canyons, farmlands, and irrigation canals first hand, creating personal stories that add richness and depth to the big picture of the West.
The Southwest is home to some of the most diverse and rich ecosystems in North America. This course is about experiencing it in a hands-on way. You will search for endangered Clapper Rails in the Cienegua of Santa Clara and pupfish in Organ Pipe. You will meet Mexican Biologists who study Totoaba, Vaquita and Corvina in the Sea of Cortez. You will key out cactus and see first hand the affects of cattle grazing on plant diversity. You will watch Pelicans through your binoculars and discover desert beetles. In the end your naturalist journal will describe hundreds of southwestern species that you experienced first hand.
Life is more interesting when you can find the important stories, hear them direct from the original sources, and then integrate and retell them in a way that is compelling and inspiring. You will work with accomplished journalists to learn how to do just this. You will enter a new community, talk with locals and identify the interesting issues. You will find the key people and interview them. You’ll frame and write a story and receive editing and feedback. Finally, if you’ve done the first part well, you’ll send it off to a potential publisher. The skills you gain in the process will not only make life richer but make you a more effective activist and communicator.
The word “leadership” is overused, but it’s an important concept. What does it mean to draw people together, to be the glue and inspiration, to facilitate group decisions and empower self and others, to make worthwhile things happen? In our time traveling and living together, we’ll consider these questions as well as what it means to be a team player. Living on the road, camping, and adventuring create extra challenges to everyday living–packing up camp, cooking outdoors, pushing your physical limits, staying warm, hauling water–these elements provide the context to explore both teammate and leadership skills. In the process you’ll learn about yourself, be challenged to grow, and master a number of relevant outdoor skills, from outdoor cooking to canoeing and backpacking to risk management.