Land Use Planning

Over the semester we will explore historical and current, as well as future, land use planning in our communities with hopes of better understanding the social and ecological implications of our decisions. How have we planned for the settlement and development of our communities? What are the successes and the failures of our planning process? How have we addressed natural resources in the land use planning process? What is sprawl and what are the solutions to this land use practice? Students will undertake two research projects to explore historical and current land use, and the social and ecological impacts of these practices. Working with records in the local town hall, we will conduct a deed research to better understand the influence of historical land use practices on the current landscape. We will look backward to uncover the original land use of property so we can better understand our land uses today. Students will also explore current day land use planning processes in a community of their choice and will make “smart growth” recommendations for the future.

Conflict Management, Justice Paradigms, and Mediation

Students will gain an introductory understanding of conflict theory, effective models for conflict management and mediation, a context for critical analysis of societal institutions and paradigms in relation to conflict and justice, opportunities to inventory personal conflict management styles, and hands-on experience practicing mediation skills. Coursework will include experiential activities, lectures, student presentations, and discussions in the classroom, and an extensive reading list, formal and informal written assignments, community observations, and a research project. This course runs every other spring (Odd years 2019, 2021)

Environmental Policy and Law

This course examines Vermont and U.S. environmental policies and laws from philosophical, historical and social perspectives. In doing so, we discuss how various stakeholders might view environmental issues and how divergent views give rise to distinct, and somewhat conflicting, environmental policies. We will examine how science, public opinion, and ethics contribute to the formation and implementation of environmental policy.

Advanced Independent Study in Natural Science

Independent studies are available to students who have completed 45 credits. Advised by full-time faculty, these provide students the opportunity to pursue in more depth a focused topic not otherwise available in the curriculum. Independent studies may be proposed at the 200, 300, or 400 level for between 1 and 12 credits. Independent studies go through a rigorous approval process and must meet specific criteria in order to be approved. Proposals for independent studies of two or more credits must be approved the prior semester. Proposals for independent studies of one credit will be considered until the first day of an intensive session or the first week of a long-block session. For more details about the independent study proposal process, see the online submission form.

Please note that independent study is not available for topics already offered through classes.

Conservation Biology

This course aims to prepare students to discuss major themes in Conservation Biology, critically examine a range of sources to draw informed conclusions, and creatively develop solutions for the future.  The course has three main parts.  First, it provides students with an understanding of the precepts of Conservation Biology – the distribution and importance of biodiversity, evidence as to the extent to which biodiversity is in decline, and reasons why it is in decline.  Second, it considers whether decreasing biodiversity matters, philosophically and practically.  Finally, using a range of case studies, it explores how biology can be harnessed to identify potential solutions.  Case-studies will cover a range of approaches that combine socioeconomic and biological insights, for example, ecological restoration, sustainable harvesting, agrienvironment schemes, and marketing of ecosystem services.

Vertebrate Natural History

This course is a biological exploration of vertebrates with emphasis on northern environments such as tundra, boreal forest, and northern hardwood forests. We survey the major taxonomic groups, including fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds, with concentration on mammals and birds. We investigate evolutionary origins and relationships, anatomy and physiology, systematics, field identification, life histories, behavior, and adaptations to life in northern environments. Lectures and labs are complemented by extensive field trips.

A Sense of Place: Expedition I

This course is designed to help students develop a sense of place as they begin their Sterling college careers. The course allows participants to develop bonds with other incoming students and explore topics central to life at Sterling such as local ecology and community. The course uses experiential learning to improve interpersonal communication ability, leadership skills, enhance self-efficacy, and develop greater awareness as members of a community. Expedition 1 will be comprised of: Time off campus backpacking and doing service learning, as well as time spent on campus becoming familiar with the daily life at Sterling.

Black River Sketches

This course focuses on creating art related to the landscape of the Black River Watershed and the natural features within. Landscape art heightens our understanding of nature and allows us to develop a sense of place.

Black River Sketches is open to students with any level of experience with art. The class will employ a combination of on-site art making, discussion, and group critiques to facilitate the understanding and the practice of making landscape art. Though our focus will primarily be on the activities of drawing and painting in the field, we will also visit local artists to see how others interpret the landscape using a variety of media. Our work will be around salient features of the local landscape with field trips in the Black River Valley and around Lake Memphremagog.

Wheel-Thrown Pottery

A challenging hands-on, wheel throwing class. Students will explore and develop some mastery with a range of pottery forms and techniques. This is an intensive, studio based, skill building workshop in wheel throwing techniques. Students should expect to spend at least 3 hours a day after class in the studio to complete assignments. Through demonstrations and individual instruction, plus plenty of practice time, students will explore and create a variety of primarily functional forms in clay. Students will keep a sketch book/ journal for self reflection, goal setting and exploration in design.

By the end of this course, students will be able to throw a variety of basic pottery forms including bowls, mugs, tumblers, lidded jars, pitchers and candleholders. Students will have some proficiency in a variety of surface decorating techniques including altering, carving, stamping, and glazing. Students will develop a vocabulary to discuss and critique pottery in terms of anatomy, form, craftsmanship, style and functionality. Students will have a good feel for the nature of clay.

The Hudson River Watershed: Nature and Culture of a Changing Landscape

This course will examine the dynamic interrelationships between humans and the Hudson River valley, historically and today.  How have humans adapted to and changed this landscape?  How have settlement patterns, industry, and communities (natural and human) changed over time?  What is the relationship between urban centers (New York City in particular) and the rural hinterland of the Hudson River?  What have been predominant cultural images of this region and what has been their impact?  What can a bioassessment of the river itself reveal about its role in the regional ecosystem and reflect our land-use practices?  Larger questions such as these will inform our investigation.

Foundations of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems

Using readings from prominent thinkers, innovators, and scholars in sustainable and alternative agriculture and food systems, as well as through films, field trips and on-farm projects, we will explore the major ideas and practices that have driven the development of agricultural philosophies and practices aligned with long-term ecological health and community resilience. Following a model that alternates deep, subject-specific explorations of primary and secondary literature in sustainable food systems with practical on-farm projects, this class provides students the intellectual and embodied foundation necessary for engaging meaningfully in alternative agricultural systems at Sterling College and beyond. Surveying the history and evolution of major problems in agriculture through time and space, we will direct our attention to alternative models that are more compatible with the ethics of land stewardship and a renewed agrarianism for the twenty-first century. We will develop a working knowledge of sustainable agriculture and food systems, while also exploring the environmental, economic, social, political, and cultural dimensions of these systems.

Advanced Independent Study in Social Science

Independent studies are available to students who have completed 45 credits. Advised by full-time faculty, these provide students the opportunity to pursue in more depth a focused topic not otherwise available in the curriculum. Independent studies may be proposed at the 200, 300, or 400 level for between 1 and 12 credits. Independent studies go through a rigorous approval process and must meet specific criteria in order to be approved. Proposals for independent studies of two or more credits must be approved the prior semester. Proposals for independent studies of one credit will be considered until the first day of an intensive session or the first week of a long-block session. For more details about the independent study proposal process, see the online submission form.

Please note that independent study is not available for topics already offered through classes.