The Foundation of Sterling’s Curriculum
Sterling’s foundational curriculum gives us a common framework to explore what it means to be an environmental steward and the tools to become one.
Unlike core curricula at other colleges, Sterling College’s foundational curriculum requires not only books, laptops, and a sense of curiosity, but also maps, microscopes, good boots, a sharp knife, and a willingness to work in community.
Our first-year classes ground you in Sterling’s philosophy of environmental stewardship and experiential pedagogy, while also giving you introductory knowledge and skills in the natural sciences, writing, environmental ethics, cultural studies, and group dynamics- in classrooms ranging from the writing lab, to the kitchen, to the woodlot, to the Sierra Nevada.
A Sense of Place: Expedition I
Your Sterling College education begins with the intensive class, A Sense of Place: Expedition I. This course introduces you to Sterling, Craftsbury, northern Vermont, and most importantly your new community. In this two-and-a-half-week experience, you are immersed in interdisciplinary study of ecology, culture, and community through both expeditionary and campus-based learning. This course orients you both physically and mentally, teaching you how to read the landscape as well as craft the network you will need to thrive on campus.
Upon arrival to campus, students embark on a four-day backpacking expedition on Vermont’s Long Trail for the first component of A Sense of Place: Expedition I. A first-semester expeditionary experience is a longstanding Sterling tradition that also connects students with the larger community of Sterling alums. In Fall 2018 a new model of Expedition will be inaugurated, one that engages students in our experiential pedagogy from the moment they arrive.
Here Sterling Trustee John Elder expands on the idea of a sense of place and help puts life on a rural campus in context.
Foundations of Ecology
All students take Foundations of Ecology, the cornerstone of our environmental stewardship curriculum. Foundations of Ecology provides an introductory survey with emphasis on ecosystem processes, community dynamics and biodiversity. Topics include ecosystem energetics, nutrient cycling, global weather and climate, biomes and natural communities, diversity of life, and ecological relationships.
Foundations Across the Curriculum
Sterling offers a suite of additional Foundations courses that introduce both our areas of study and various paths toward environmental stewardship. Foundations of Environmental Humanities, Foundations of Outdoor Education, and Foundations of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems each introduce key concepts, contexts, and skills in their respective area of study and lay the foundation for upper-level coursework. Embedded in these courses is Sterling’s common first-year writing competency. Students are required to take at least two of these courses in their first year.
Additional foundational competencies are embedded in the first-year curriculum, including the tools competency, which students gain through the Work Program and the quantitative reasoning competency.
“This small college is one of the most important places in this country. Any institution can announce its ideals; great ones live them out–in the curriculum, on the campus, and in the portfolio.” —Bill McKibben, honorary Sterling alumnus, environmental activist, and author of The End of Nature, Deep Economy, and Oil and Honey