White-Water Canoeing

Paddling starts as soon as ice is off the rivers, usually the last week of March. Students must provide adequate cold weather and splash resistant clothing. Initial training with strokes and maneuvers takes place on moving water and class 1 rapids. As the class’s overall proficiency increases more challenging sections of local rivers are utilized. One or two weekend sessions may be required for rivers that are farther away. The paddling curriculum matches closely with ACA standards. Written assignments emphasize good judgment and active risk management.

Advanced Flat Water Canoeing

In this intensive summer course, participants will enter into a conversation about North Country paddling—throughout the course students will study the region’s paddling history, its watersheds, and explore local rivers and lakes; realize the treasures in our back yard and environmental issues affecting them. Students will be guided to and work toward mastering basic paddling skills; paddle a canoe straight tandem and solo, mastering the J stroke. Highly motivated students will be able to build their own wooden canoe paddle before the longer trip.

Participants will start exploring some local lakes and rivers, but the bulk of this summer’s course will be a 20-day overnight canoeing expedition down the Vermont/New Hampshire section of the Connecticut River. Discover the wide range of flat water paddling and understand boat characteristics; racing, solo and tandem, canoes and kayaks. Sterling is proud to partner with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail and the Craftsbury Outdoor Center to help further the organizations’ missions to educate the public about northern New England waterways, riparian ecosystems, and watersheds. In the context of this experience, participants will engage in a range of activities that draw attention to the interconnections inherent in watershed ecosystems across the region. Participants will leave with a set of practical skills, a new understanding of and appreciation for North Country rivers and lakes. They will build relationships that bring one back to the water time and again for years to come.

In Summer 2018 this course has a co-requisite of NS205 Environmental Science.

Canoe Trip Guiding

Students learn skills necessary for leading an extended trip (5 or more days) on the waterways of northern New York, northern New England, or Canada. Students are involved in trip planning, food packing, and equipment choice. During the first trip, students refine their own paddling, portaging, navigation (map, compass, and GPS) and leadership skills. Written reports before, during, and after the trips place the student in the role of a commercial canoeing outfitter with emphasis on detailed planning, risk management, and setting appropriate expectations for clients. Current plans for the coming summer include a trip down the Connecticut River

Fundamentals of Green Woodworking (ST)

Students will learn the basic tools and techniques of “green” woodworking through a series of utilitarian exercises and projects all starting with a freshly felled tree. The course will focus on wood as a living material and the traditional methods designed to put its inherent qualities to efficient, long-lasting use.

Introduction to Rock Climbing

Crag, cliff, and beyond dealing with challenging situations, trusting in others and ourselves, moving through fear and doubt to attain goals. Outdoor sessions begin with an introduction to the history of rock climbing and then proceed to ground school training in knots, rope-handling, and belaying. Next balance, movement, and technique are practiced on the climbing wall. In addition students are introduced to rappelling. We then climb at more extensive sites, while practicing all the basic skills and working as a group to ensure each member feels both supported and challenged. Final activities include simulated mountain rescue scenarios to provide a group challenge and teamwork practice.

Draft Animal Power Systems II: Work Applications

In this course, students use horsepower to actively manage the College’s farm and forest. Typical work applications include equipment maintenance, logging, sugaring, soil fertility management, tillage, planting and cultivation. Economic considerations of using horses on the farm will be discussed as we compare and contrast animal-centric versus mechano-centric agriculture power systems.

Draft Animal Power Systems I: Driving Principles

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.

Forestry Techniques

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). Students fell trees using state of the art techniques for axes and cross-cut saws, and learn how those skills fit within a forest management plan informed by silviculture, ecology, and stewardship ethics. Firewood processing, basic log construction and tool handle hanging add depth to skill development and appreciation of forest products. Wood volume calculations, standings tree measurements, tree species ID, compass and pacing mapping, and sampling layouts provide a practical foundation for forest inventory assessments in work program positions and subsequent classes.

Woodlot Practices

Woodlot Practices provides students the opportunity to implement a small component of the College’s forest management plan by harvesting trees using a variety of hand tools, emphasizing chainsaws.  Students learn methods associated with safe tree felling practices, limbing and bucking procedures, chainsaw maintenance, chain sharpening, and assist in extraction procedures (in conjunction with the Draft Animal Power class).  In addition to practicing timber harvesting, students investigate selected principles of forest measurement, management, and silviculture.  Basic economic analysis of wood products produced during the course will be performed.

First Semester Work Experience

Working Hands. Working Minds.


The First Semester Work Experience pairs reading and discussion with meaningful work experience, to provide students with a foundation in the Sterling Work Program that carefully examines the role that work plays in all aspects of life. Coursework will be split between classroom-based discussion and reflection, and a hands-on introduction to four areas of Work Program essential to the health of our community: the farm, the forest, the kitchen, and administration. Readings and discussions will revolve around our preconceived notions about work, the values we associate with it, and a variety of issues ranging from social justice to environmental and community health that are impacted by those ideas. This course aims to introduce a broad range of tools and skills necessary for students to become valuable members of the Sterling College community both in the classroom and beyond.