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Tanzania Program Moves Closer to Its Outdoor Classroom

Published: March 28, 2017

Tanzania Program Moves Closer to Its Outdoor Classroom

Visiting the Tanzania program's field sites in and around Tarangire National Park earlier in the semester will give the students context for their courses and independent projects.

The ACM Tanzania: Ecology & Human Origins program is on the move this year to a new location near the city of Arusha in the country’s northern region with a new international partner.

The change in location will provide benefits to students both academically and in their cultural immersion by improving access to the program’s fieldwork and offering homestays with Tanzanian families throughout the semester.

Moving from the coastal city of Dar es Salaam to Arusha, which is close to the program’s fieldwork sites in and around Tarangire National Park, makes an important pedagogical change possible.

“The program’s curriculum remains the same, with the independent field project as the main focus, but now the students will be able to visit the fieldwork sites early in the semester, while they are writing their project proposals,” said Joan Gillespie, ACM Vice President and Director of Off-Campus Study Programs. “This revised calendar gives them an opportunity to assess the feasibility of project topics they are considering and connect with experts who are conducting research at the field sites.”

The fall semester will open with three weeks of intensive Kiswahili language, cultural orientation, and courses, followed by a two-week excursion to preview potential fieldwork sites in Tarangire and nearby villages, as well as other protected areas in the region, such as Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti National Park, and Olduvai Gorge, known as “The Cradle of Mankind.”

After more coursework and time to develop their project proposals, the students return to the Tarangire area in the second half of the semester to do their fieldwork. The program wraps up with time for the students to analyze the data they collected in the field and write their project papers.

“This early visit to the field will give students a greater understanding of the context for their studies — both the courses they’re taking in ecology and human evolution and their independent projects,” Gillespie noted. “It also engages them in applying the theories they are learning about in the classroom to their experiences in the field, which is a central tenet of the program.”

In addition, she said, the program’s new connections in northern Tanzania may help direct students toward project topics that are important to the local community and could be continued through data collection year to year, for example, to support initiatives in participatory management of natural resources or to document wildlife-cattle interactions in grazing areas.

Training Centre for Development Cooperation (TCDC)

On the campus of the Training Center for Development Cooperation (TCDC) near Arusha, ACM's new partner for the Tanzania program.

ACM connects with new partner in Tanzania

ACM has partnered with the Training Centre for Development Cooperation (TCDC), an international organization in the Arusha area that offers academic programs and training related to leadership and development in African nations.

Gillespie visited TCDC and the ACM field sites recently in a group that included Macalester College professors Paul Overvoorde and Ron Barrett — the Tanzania program’s visiting faculty directors in fall 2015 and fall 2017, respectively — and ACM Assistant Director of Off-Campus Study Emily Gaul.

“Along with the warm hospitality offered by our new colleagues at TCDC, we were impressed with the organization’s strong sense of commitment and mission,” Gillespie said. “They provide a window into a constructive and positive path for the future of Tanzania and other countries in the region.”

Students on the ACM program will take their courses, taught by local faculty, at the TCDC facilities in the small town of Usa River and will live nearby with local host families.

“Usa River is a bustling town with a market and variety of shops and restaurants, and it’s an easy ten-minute walk from TCDC,” said Gillespie. “The scenic landscapes of Arusha National Park are just a short bus ride away and Mount Kilimanjaro is a majestic presence off in the distance. Students who enroll in this program tend to love the outdoors, and this beautiful area offers them a lot of opportunities.”

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