Eco-Art and Activism II

This course focuses on collaboration and contemplation through the production of art that is place-based and/or responds to social issues. We will engage in aesthetic experimentation and dialogue about the role of artists in the public sphere.

This course will address immersive art and life practices by investigating the historical, cultural, political, and social contexts surrounding a project. You will learn to generate ideas, to connect form to content, and to create art projects that we will share with the world. You’ll have the chance to research and respond to social and cultural issues that are important to you. Together we will review examples of art, do some reading/listening/watching, and get our hands moving and making with studio assignments.

For the Fall 2020 semester this course will be offered online.

Eco-Art & Activism I

This course focuses on collaboration and contemplation through the production of art that is place-based and/or responds to social issues. We will engage in aesthetic experimentation and dialogue about the role of artists in the public sphere.
This course will address immersive art and life practices by investigating the historical, cultural, political, and social contexts surrounding a project. You will learn to generate ideas, to connect form to content, and to create art projects that we will share with the world.
You’ll have the chance to research and respond to social and cultural issues that are important to you. Together we will review examples of art, do some reading/listening/watching, and get our hands moving and making with studio assignments.

For the Fall 2020 semester this course will be offered online.

Farming on the Margins: WBFP in Henry County, Kentucky

In the essay “The Making of a Marginal Farm,” Wendell Berry writes about his family’s efforts to restore and nurture a place that had been hard used, a marginal farm with steep hills that would be considered “‘unfarmable’ by the standards of conventional agriculture.” 

In Fall 2020, the WBFP will be moving onto a farm that has been carefully tended by the Brown family since the early 1960s. By and large, it is not marginal land, but it is located in a place on the margins—a rural farming community marginalized by an extractive economy that has left much of its gullied and culturally reeling. Yet the saving remnants remain and provide threads of possibilities for inclusive, cooperative, parity-driven farm economies.

Thus, in Fall 2020, we’ll continue the work of teasing out those threads for ourselves and for our neighbors. We’ll build on last year’s discoveries about rural landscapes and cultures, pastures and forests, and critters on the hoof. We’ll start by honing radical agrarian leadership in Community Organizing for Social and Political Action during a two-week intensive session. Then we’ll transition into a five-week session that entwines Whole Farm Planning with Small Business Management, with a smattering of SYRP I in the mix (1 credit hour to get the ball rolling). We’ll go headlong into the woods with mules and oxen in Restorative Forestry for a second five-week session, during which we’ll also devote significant energy to SYRP I projects, calling into play lessons in farm planning (2-5 credits). Folks who have not yet delved into Soil, Plants, and Microbes I will have a chance to do so during a December two-week intensive. All the while, we’ll practice our neighborly Work Program at the Brown Farm and in the greater Port Royal area.

Enrollment Requirements and Options:

Enrollment in all courses is required, except those who have already fulfilled the requirement for NS247. There may TA possibility for NS247. Student may be able to enroll in an online course during Block Two, if SYRP enrollment does not exceed 3 hours for the semester.

This pod includes the following courses:

Community Organizing for Social and Political Change 3 cr

This seminar examines methods of organizing people for social action and systems change that aid in the development of communities and strengthen the capacity of individuals to be empowered. Particular emphasis will be placed on rural agricultural communities. Students will look at historic examples and at contemporary social movements with a focus on communities that are disenfranchised, oppressed, and under-represented. This course uses The Berry Center and its community as a touchstone, providing a good model, a source of essential information, connections to the community, and a site for service.

Whole Farm Planning 3 cr 

This course will expose students to the complexity of whole farm planning by combining business planning and management with policy and ecology in development of farm models that support health of the land and business owners. Students will be expected to draw heavily on the technical and theoretical expertise they have accumulated through course work and internships. A major portion of the course will require completion of a project conducted in partnership with an existing farm or agriculturally based business. Grading will be based on significant class participation, written assignments and completion of major project conducted in support of an existing business.

Small Business Management 4 cr

Students in this course will gain an understanding of basic economic and management principles necessary to successfully operate a farm business. Students will also develop familiarity with financial tools such as accounting, balance sheets, profit and loss statements and will apply knowledge gained to develop a loan application, business plan and grant application.

Restorative Forestry 3 cr

Due to past forest-product harvesting systems the need to restore habitat and rebuild forest ecology structure and function is recognized throughout the southern Appalachian region as a significant component of sustainable forest management. This course allows students the opportunity to survey numerous approaches to forest management that a landowner in consult with an area forester in Henry County, Kentucky has undertaken for the past 20 years while familiarizing themselves with small-scale re-forestation of recently degraded agricultural land. From these baseline concepts students actively engage in aspects of woodland operations designed to regenerate vibrant forest ecology and produce marketable timber by implementing a component of the forest management plan via a small logging job. Working closely with the landowner, students develop a deep understanding of the landowner’s management goals and expected outcomes. Course faculty guide students through a rigorous chainsaw safety and use protocol including directional felling techniques, logger first-aid, tree selection and harvest, draft animal husbandry and use as a log extraction system, and direct marketing timber to a local mill. Students engage in conversation with local proponents for the rejuvenation of a local forest economy in Henry Co., Kentucky by visiting several persons engaged in woodcraft and local small-scale sawmill operations focused on niche markets.

Senior Year Research Project 3-6 cr

Senior Year Research Project I is the first in a two-course sequence that gives students the opportunity to pursue a particular question in significant depth and explore an area of interest that complements their major and their personal strengths. Students in SYRP I typically work on data collection, observation, research, analysis, project development and planning, experience, discovery and exploration, and/or creation. The project may have an applied component, but this is not required. Students work one-on-one with an SYRP advisor and the support of a second reader throughout the process. Students set learning goals and assessment criteria, which will be evaluated over the course of the semester.

Soil, Plants, Microbes I 3 cr

This course gives students an introduction to the biology and chemistry needed to understand how complex interactions between soil, plants and microbes build the foundation for terrestrial life. The classes focuses primarily on the evolutionary connection between plants and microbes through their diversity in metabolism, the structure and function of cells and tissue, and the transmission of genetic information. The topics are taught through the lens of the soil habitat interactions with a focus on photosynthesis, water and nutrient uptake and symbiotic relationships such as bacterial nitrogen fixation and mycorrhizal relationships. The lab component emphasizes the use of the scientific method, experimental design, reading and writing of scientific literature, lab safety and use of basic scientific equipment.

The Horse in Human History: A brief introduction to the past six thousand years of human-equine relations

This course hopes to demonstrate the complex relationship between horses and humans through time. Of the animals which have captured the imagination of humans, the horse as Pita Kelenkna describes, is surely the “aristocrat”. This introductory course begins some 55 million years ago with a brief visit to the rise of the dawn horse then traces the evolutionary path of Equus to the modern-day horse. We will spend time on the Pontic-Caspian steppes around 6000 years ago as the likely region where modern horses were first domesticated. The domestication of horses surely played a significant role in human history, horses were rapidly assimilated into nearly all aspects of human life, constructive and destructive. The nature of warfare was completely intertwined in the equestrian civilizations of the Middle East, India, and China who relied on horse chariotry and cavalry as the very core of their battlefield tactics–we will review the role of horses and the technology required by several horse-warrior societies. Beyond the battlefield, horses as draught animals co-developed with key advances in agriculture forever impacting the farming landscape. Horses provided transportation systems that allowed information, writing systems, revolutionary technologies, and ideas to spread across vast distances–even continents. As an example, the horseless Americas were forever affected by the (second) arrival of horses. Following the American Revolution, the role of the horse began a complex journey as the wealthy class of the new Americans began to shape the identity of horses by selective breeding and husbandry. Through the American industrial revolution, horses–especially work stock–became the primary blue-collar worker of the American landscape as agricultural workers, primary moving elements for road and waterway transportation systems, and occasionally recreation. Once again, horses were massively employed on the battlefield as the American Civil War raged from 1861-1865. From Reconstruction through the 1930’s, technology associated with horse-drawn equipment experienced massive development especially in the United States–farmers were living in what Lynn Miller has called the “golden era of the workhorse”. By the end of World War II, the use of horses on farms and highways was on the decline replaced by tractors and automobiles. However, a new relationship between humans and horses was on the rise, a new equestrian who by choice, now owns and works with horses. The modern equestrian industry is now very broad in scope as people continue to experience and define the horse-human connection.                       

For the Fall 2020 semester this course will be offered online.

History of Social Movements

This course explores how activists and ordinary citizens have come together to create mass movements toward cultural, political, social, and economic change. This course will investigate campaigns from three social movements: the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, an environmental justice movement and the global movement for gay liberation. Social movements will be investigated through narrative text and images, along with films, speakers, and case studies. The course will analyze the relationship between theory and practice by looking at case studies of autobiographical accounts and by exploring how concepts of identity, solidarity, and organization play out in social movements.

For the Fall 2020 semester this course will be offered online.

Pod: Resilient Ecological Farm Planning Within a Landscape and its People

This pod will focus on planning a farm through a permacultural lense integrated with business planning and marketing. Even though this class is focused on planning a production oriented farm  many of the lessons learned can also be adopted to a homestead. Students will engage in a larger design project on the Sterling land as a full class. The skills learned from this project  will be transferred to the students own plan. Students that complete this course with a B or above will also be granted and Permaculture Design Certificate. This class will have a large field component, but will also challenge students to develop basic mapping skills. 

Enrollment Requirements and Options:

Courses are integrated co-requisites with simultaneous enrollment required. Students in this pod can enroll in online courses, Senior Year Research Project, or Independent Study work. Students may TA these courses with  instructor permission.

This pod includes the following courses:

Permaculture 4 cr 

Permaculture is the study and practice of the way human beings- as individuals and societies- can participate in the creation of ethical and ecological support systems. We present a whole systems design approach that integrates plants, animals, buildings, people, communities, and the landscapes that surround us. The course is designed to introduce students to the principles and practice of permaculture design through collaboration on real-world projects with an eye towards repairing, restoring and regenerating human ecosystems.

Whole Farm Planning 3 cr

This course will expose students to the complexity of whole farm planning by combining business planning and management with policy and ecology in development of farm models that support health of the land and business owners. Students will be expected to draw heavily on the technical and theoretical expertise they have accumulated through course work, internships and farm work experience. A major portion of the course will require completion of a whole farm plan and a  project conducted in partnership with an existing farm or agriculturally based business. 

Pod: Foundations of Ecology and Fiber Arts

Students in this pod will take Foundations of Ecology and Introduction to Fiber Arts, and will be based on campus. 

Enrollment Requirements and Options:

Student are not required to enroll in both courses in this pod, but they are encouraged to do so. Students in this pod can enroll in online courses, Senior Year Research Project, or Independent Study work. Students may TA these courses with instructor permission. 

This pod includes the following courses:

Introduction to Fiber Arts 3 cr

The spinning wheel has been used in various social movements to symbolize reclaiming autonomy from exploitive forces.  Examples of this include the Homespun Movement within the American Revolution; The Khadi Movement within the Indian Revolution; and this idea is eloquently summarized by the quote above from Lucy Larcom, one of the foremothers of the American Labor Movement. When we are asked to be both the implements and objects of exploitation the best answer we can find is non-cooperation, refusing to offer our labors up to exploitive forces.  That non-cooperation requires skills that allow us to use our agency for our own purposes to create the goods we need for our communities. If we choose to do so, we are able to eliminate our reliance on an oppressive system.

At its heart this course is about making the non-cooperation choice a viable one.  In order to reclaim our agency, we must first restore the skill-sets that make up our cultural inheritance. Reskilling is an essential part of re-localization and of course regaining connection with the land.  In form this course is about practicing skills, developing relationships with place through utilizing the resources from the land in addition to creating art.

Foundations of Ecology 4 cr 

This course is a survey of key ecological concepts as they relate to environmental issues. We will consider ecological processes, including ecosystem energetics, productivity, community structure and dynamics, species interactions, nutrient cycling, and global weather and climate, and we will explore the influence of these processes on the structure and functioning of terrestrial biomes. We will consider the world’s biodiversity: what it is, where it came from, how it is distributed, how we measure it, trends over evolutionary and ecological time, and how it relates to ecosystem functioning. Throughout the course, we will examine the applications of ecological concepts to current environmental issues including climate change, biodiversity loss, population growth and others. We will practice using the scientific method to investigate ecological questions.

Pod: Food: Community Provisioning and Action

This pod will combine closely related actions of food preservation and processing food while taking action to meet food needs in our community. 

Enrollment Requirements and Options:

Student are not required to enroll in both courses in this pod, but they are encouraged to do so. Students in this pod can enroll in online courses, Senior Year Research Project, or Independent Study work. Students may TA these courses with instructor permission.

This pod includes the following courses:

Provisioning Your Pantry 2 cr

Food preservation can help you put by the bounty of the harvest for winter months, as well as adding value to raw food products.  Preservation can transform food and make it more delicious.  In this course, you will practice the basic preservation techniques such as freezing, canning, pickling, drying, and fermenting–in your own kitchen, with guidance through the process.  Learn to make sourdough bread, jam, dried fruits and vegetables, kombucha, vinegar and more, as we explore the fundamental principles of how heat, salt, sugar, acid, cold, alcohol, pH, and manipulation of moisture and oxygen, help us to keep food fresh. Ingredients and some supplies will be sent to students in advance for them to produce products in their home space. A stipend will be given to students to obtain fresh ingredients. Students must have access to a kitchen with basic equipment. 

Community Food Action 3 cr 

This course will investigate the intersection of food justice and a local food system in part by involving students in successful community initiatives to bring local food and food awareness to all people in the Greater Craftsbury community.  Hands-on direct food action such as preparing community dinners, teaching Farm to School activities, designing food education programs and explorations of various food aid organizations in the Greater Craftsbury area will be the base for this course.  We will address hunger issues in Vermont and the impact of food insecurity as we support, examine and critique the network of players already providing food support programs. This will be an action course, students will be involved in multifaceted solutions to food justice and community food in our local area including programs such as Farm to School, The Center for an Agriculture Economy, Hardwick Area Food Shelf, Salvation Farms, Hunger Free Vermont, and local initiatives. 

 

 

Pod: Expedition II: Winter Outdoor Challenge

This course explores how people work in groups when facing challenging or unfamiliar situations. Personal development focuses on self-confidence, trusting teammates, and communication.  Leadership and group problems solving exercises accompany the technical skill training needed for a 4-day winter backpacking trip in Northern Vermont. Off-trail navigation and a low-tech camping system demand teamwork, thoughtful action, and engagement with the natural world.  Wood fires are used for cooking, treating water, drying clothes, and staying warm.  Recognition and prevention of cold injuries as well as possible treatment are important leadership and personal responsibilities. Self-awareness of how you act in stressful situations is a focus of reflective writing assignments.

Homework includes reading, gathering the required gear, and practicing skills (including a practice overnight camp-out)

Enrollment Requirements and Options:

There is space for 2-4 student to TA this course. 

This pod includes the following course:

Expedition II 3 cr

Please see the description above.

 

Pod: Traditional Ecological Knowledge & Technologies

Through these complementary courses, students will explore “kin-centric” relationships between humans, plants, and the natural world, particularly as these are expressed through indigenous and/or traditional subsistence knowledges, technologies, and histories. Course content will include reading and discussion as well as experiential engagements ranging from traditional food production techniques, to the collection, processing, and application of both foodstuffs and natural dye materials. 

Enrollment Requirements and Options:

Student are not required to enroll in both courses in this pod, but they are encouraged to do so. Students in this pod can enroll in online courses, Senior Year Research Project, or Independent Study work. Students may TA these courses with instructor permission. 

This pod includes the following courses:

Native Food and Farming Traditions of the Americas 3 cr

While credit for the origins of agriculture is commonly associated with the Fertile Crescent, the scale of coincident agricultural achievement in the Americas is truly astounding. Many cuisines around the world, now taken largely for granted, would not exist were it not for the agro-biodiversity of Native American domesticates cultivated before European contact. Maize, domesticated in central Mexico some 8,000 years ago, is the world’s most widely cultivated crop, and central to the diets of people around the world. Imagine Ireland without potatoes, southern Italian food without tomatoes, or the spicy cuisines of Korea, Thailand, or Vietnam without chile peppers. All of these crops were first domesticated in the Americas, and traveled around the world in a process of diffusion known as the Columbian Exchange. Just as Native American plant foods revolutionized food and cooking the world over, in seeking alternatives to the industrial food production system, scholars and activists are looking to Native American farming traditions for answers. While these same traditions are increasingly threatened, movements to decolonize the food system are underway. This class will explore the range of food and farming traditions of the Americas, from prehistory to the present, and examine the implications for contemporary concerns about public and environmental health, food sovereignty and security.

Natural Dyes and Dyeing 3 cr

In this intensive course we’ll explore the practical modern use of natural dyes.  We’ll examine their role in cultures, and the way this craft connects its practitioners with place.

We’ll spend some time with the conceptual ideas around the role these practices play in history, modern society, and cultural traditions including interrelated concepts within agriculture, wildcrafting, ethnobotany, and chemistry.  Predominantly, though, the course will be about hands-on practice of techniques.  The first week will focus on dyeing protein fibers (fibers that come from animal sources like wool, silk and mohair).  The second week will focus on dyeing cellulosic fibers (plant derived fibers).

Within each type of dyeing there are a variety of modern and traditional techniques to explore. We will discuss the effects of and utilize different mordants and assists.  We’ll employ multiple indigo dye vats, from different traditions and discuss and practice cultivation and preparations of plant and insect dyes.  Dyeing yarn and fabric, we will use immersion techniques as well as printmaking techniques and resist dyeing methods.

Pod: Forest Work

This pod combines three 2-credit classes that were taught separately last year – Forestry Techniques, Woodlot Practices, and some parts of Log Building Techniques.  Basic forest measurements and small scale woodlot management are closely entwined with the hands-on tools skills for safe and efficient wood cutting, tree felling, wilderness trail work, and building with logs. Cutting tools featured are the ax, cross-cut saw, and chainsaw. Be outside for the majority of every class period!  

This Pod will be linked to a Work Program crew applying and practicing many of the same skills learned in class: cutting, splitting, and moving firewood; trail maintenance; and log construction projects on campus.  

Enrollment Requirements and Options:

As this pod only contains one course, students are encouraged to enroll in online courses, Senior Year Research Project, or Independent Study work. Students may TA Forestry Techniques with instructor permission. 

This pod includes the following courses:

Forestry Techniques 4 cr

This course introduces the broad range of skills and concepts necessary for work in a farm or homestead scale woodlot, further forestry courses at Sterling, and wilderness trail work (where power-tool use is not allowed). Wood volume calculations, standing tree measurements, tree species winter ID, compass and pacing mapping, and sampling layouts provide theoretical and mathematical foundations for forest inventory assessments in work program positions and subsequent classes. During class sessions carrying out Sterling’s Forest Management Plan; students cut logs to length, and fell trees using state of the art techniques for axes, cross-cut saws, and chainsaws.  The plan’s connections to silviculture, ecology, and stewardship ethics are explained. Firewood processing, basic log construction and tool handle hanging add depth to skill development and appreciation of forest products. Log extraction is usually performed in conjunction with other Sterling courses and work crews.  Students provide their own ax w/ sheath, sturdy boots, work gloves. It is possible to rent an ax and sheath from Sterling for the semester, $10.

 

Pod: Land Uses Practices Within The Watershed: Ecosystems Analysis & Draft Power

Our land uses have the potential to  impact the ecological stability of our watersheds. In this pod we will explore the intersection of agricultural practices and the health of the local watersheds.   

Enrollment Requirements and Options:

These courses will contain complementary information and will include shared labs.

Student are not required to enroll in both courses in this pod, but they are encouraged to do so. Students in this pod can enroll in online courses, Senior Year Research Project, or Independent Study work. Students may TA Watershed Ecosystem Analysis or Draft Animal Power Systems III with instructor permission. 

This pod includes the following courses:

NS200 Watershed Ecosystems Analysis 3 cr

Watershed Ecosystems Analysis is designed to enhance a student’s understanding of the ecological and social dimensions of a watershed. Combining a study of local ecology, land uses and local communities, we will gain a better understanding of river dynamics, and develop a deeper respect for riverine systems.  Each student will participate in the bioassessment of a local watershed, resulting in a comprehensive written report and presentation. 

AS174A Draft Animal Power Systems I

This course introduces students to the systems required to safely manage and work a team of draft horses or oxen. Topics include the natural history of draft animals, functional anatomy, physiology, and care methods including both conventional and alternative medical approaches. Following extensive practice with ground driving maneuvers, draft animals will be hitched to a variety of carts and implements to learn safe hitching and operational procedurals to do farm and forest work.

AS285 Draft Animal Power Systems III 3 cr

Draft Animal Power III will explore the uses of draft power in an agricultural setting.  Through a combination of lectures and labs addressing land and pasture use, animal health, and hands-on draft animal skills, we will gain familiarity and comfort with the use and impacts of draft animals on the land.  Each student will leave the course with a deeper understanding of draft animal harnessing, driving, and use with farm equipment as well as familiarity with the more technical aspects of animal health, husbandry, and grazing.