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Syllabus and Schedule

2017 SAIL Seminar: Wilderness in the Anthropocene

On site July 7-16, 2017
Coe College Wilderness Field Station, Ely, MN

Daily activity schedule ... Seminar participants


Seminar Goals

Interrogate "wilderness"

When every inch of the earth and its climate have been affected by humans, what does "wilderness" mean? Some environmental theorists argue that wilderness itself is a contemporary cultural construction, both a product of modernization and antidote to it. Others argue that, given the gravity of human impact on the earth, "Nature is dead." Still, human beings continue to seek out what Thoreau called "the tonic of wildness." We ask: what places do wilderness, the wild, and nature have in our communities and campuses today? What is the value of wilderness to a liberal arts education?

Develop interdisciplinary approaches

Wilderness has not only a biological basis but a long and dynamic history in human thought and art, and is currently a topic of debate for its worth to society. By entering, learning and writing about the Midwest's one great wilderness — and conversing with those who make their living there — seminar participants will grapple with the question "what is wilderness?" Participants will take part in overlapping interdisciplinary, team-taught modules — in boreal ecology, environmental writing, environmental history, and environmental social science — and will use this experience to augment their classes at their home campuses.

Build learning commons

The Wilderness in the Anthropocene seminar provides ACM faculty an opportunity to develop innovative teaching in the areas of interdisciplinary field research and pedagogy. The Coe Wilderness Field Station affords faculty in every discipline a wealth of excellent teaching resources, and the intimate learning environment allows leaders of different seminars to collaborate on research and their curricular projects: advanced-level coursework and case studies on our home campuses. Interrogating the intersection of environment and community empowers students to build knowledge on their own life experience, to gain the reflective judgement necessary to ethically and respectfully engage the world, and to develop the research skills that they will need after college in work or in graduate school.

Start developing campus project

The learning and teaching resources afforded by the field station and wilderness excursion, and the feedback from other participants, allows each team to build the foundation for the specific curricular projects they will complete after returning to their home campus.


Sigurd Olson's cabin at Listening Point

Sigurd Olson's cabin at Listening Point

Daily Activity Schedule

Day 1, July 7: Afternoon Arrival. Pick up from Ely or Duluth. Greetings.

Room assignments.
Explore Wilderness Field Station (WFS) and Low Lake
Dinner at WFS
Introductions of teams and curricular plans — 15 minutes to talk about your curricular goals as a group after dinner.

Day 2, July 8: Explore WFS, Low Lake environs. Canoe orientation.

Breakfast at WFS: Wilderness in the Anthropocene discussion.
Reading: Wilderness Act, The Trouble with Wilderness, Wilderness Letter.
Trip to Bass Lake falls. (Pack lunch).
Consi Powell: Visual journaling (lunch at Bass Lake Falls).
Reading: Dillard, "Pilgrim at Low Lake".
Time for reflection journaling/Collect blueberries (enough for pie tomorrow).
Dinner at WFS.
Evening talk by Tonya Kittelson (Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

Day 3, July 9: Visit Listening Point and Listening Point Foundation

Morning Birdwatching with Jesse Ellis.
Breakfast at WFS.
Trip to Ely and Sigurd Olson's house and "Listening Point" on Burntside Lake.
Lunch in Ely - Chocolate Moose.
Free time in Ely.
Dinner at WFS.
Readings: Olson, from Listening Point and Meaning of Wilderness

Day 4, July 10: Visit Bois Forte Reservation, and Hull Rust Mahoning mine

Breakfast at WFS.
Trip to Bois Forte Ojibway Reservation in Tower.
Readings about local Native history and wilderness protection by Leo Chosa (1910a and 1910b), Department of Indian Affairs of Canada (included in Chosa 1910a), David T. McNab, Lac La Croix First Nation-Ontario Government, John Wright.
Lunch at Fortune Bay Casino.
Visit Hull Rust Mahoning mine in Chisholm/Hibbing, world's largest open-pit iron mine.
Readings about local mining by PolyMet, Sustainable Ely, Twin Metals.
Return to Field Station, Time for reflection.
Dinner at WFS.
Pack for Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) trip.

Days 5-8, July 11-14: Excursion in BWCAW.

Bring seminar reader (one per tent).
Early breakfast at WFS on July 11.
Drive to Ely: Tow from Moose Lake entry point to Knife Lake: Gary Gotchnik talk on Native American history/conflict.
All other meals on trail.
Return to WFS on evening of July 14.
Readings: Repko, Rhoten et al, Wardley and Belanger. Browse from course reader.
Discussion and feedback on curricular projects and interdisciplinary approaches while on trail.

Day 9, July 15: Summary Reports

Report from groups (and feedback) on curricular projects.
Reading by Ojibway poet Kim Blaeser.
Readings: Absentee Indians (Kim Blaeser)

Day 10: July 16: Departures to Ely and Duluth


Note on course texts

The SAIL seminar will provide you with three texts: William Cronon's Uncommon Ground, Sigurd Olson's The Meaning of Wilderness and Kimberly Blaeser's Absentee Indians. We are also compiling an interdisciplinary course reader designed to be used at the WFS and on trail in the Boundary Waters. Except for a couple of the core readings in Uncommon Ground, the readings are brief and designed to be portable and read (or reread) the day they're assigned. We imagine that seminar participants will browse selectively from this reader before during and after the seminar. We invite teams to supplement the reader with suggestions of their own.