Draft Animal Power Systems I: Driving Principles (WBFP)

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.

Agroecology (WBFP)


This course examines the ecological foundations of sustainable agriculture practice to foster an understanding of the management and design of sustainable agroecosystems. Using a whole-system and multi-disciplinary approach students will analyze and design agricultural systems both locally and globally while considering the triple bottom line. It includes an overview of sustainable agriculture practices both historic and modern.

Foundations of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems (WBFP)

Foundations of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems (WBFP)

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.

Restorative Forestry (WBFP)

Restorative Forestry

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.

Tools and Their Application

This course teaches safe, efficient use and maintenance of tools important to outdoor natural resource work, primarily: axe, crosscut saw, and chainsaw. Weekly sessions cover skills needed for timber harvesting, firewood processing, trail construction and maintenance, and outdoor building projects and form the foundation for skills developed further in other classes. Woodlot and trail-work skills are applied to the management of Sterling’s land, and the management goals are discussed. Teamwork, personal responsibility, and personal confidence building are also goals of the class. Students are required to provide their own axe and personal protective gear.

Introduction to Sustainable Living

The flow of the course is defined by the three writing assignments. The writing process is focused on through multiple drafts and peer review.

The semester starts with students creating a statement of personal philosophy and goals. Defining terms like sustainability, resilience, and stewardship gives a foundation to the discussion of how our views are shaped by our social identities and experiences. Influences such as religion and schooling are reflected on.

The course progresses from personal beliefs to more concrete concepts through the Ideal Society Project/Paper. Looking from a solutions perspective, many ways of meeting modern human needs including food, clean water, housing, transportation, recreation, community, and earning money are examined. Practices ranging from simple living to high-tech ways of reducing detrimental social and environmental impacts are examined. Tools like Ecological Footprinting, life-cycle analysis, and spreadsheets are used to compare options. Community cooperation and social empowerment theories are explored as well as specific technologies. Successful policies, practices and inspiring people from around the world are highlighted as good examples. Acknowledging barriers to the adoption of these ideas and practices is unfortunately necessary. Meanwhile, class generated action projects, campus maintenance, a building project, and a couple field trips provide experiential involvement. Finally, an issue letter to government representatives focuses on solutions at the national policy level. Fundamental scientific principles from ecology and chemistry are used to understand world and regional environmental problems. Topics could come from students’ previous knowledge or from those covered in this class: acid deposition, mercury bioaccumulation, and air quality.

Anthropology of Food

Being necessary to our basic biological survival, food is a human universal. Indeed, the paired technological revolutions of fire and cooking are central features of a common human experience reaching deep into our species’ evolutionary past. But food is much more than just an instrumental caloric requirement. In both modern and historic times, when it comes to the manner of its acquisition/production, preparation, and consumption food is among the most highly differentiated and symbolically laden of all socio-cultural domains. Scholars have long noted that in processes of assimilation, negotiation, and exchange characteristic of the colonial forces that have shaped our contemporary world, food traditions are the most persistent and resistant to change. Food is sacred and profane, food nourishes and malnourishes, food comforts and disgusts, food is shared and withheld, food can foster peace and it can kindle conflict. This class will examine this most complex and multifaceted of human necessities from an anthropological perspective that accounts for a range of possibilities along the continuum from local to global.

Expedition Planning and Management

Expedition Planning and Management will introduce students to knowledge, skills, and risk assessment necessary for effective planning and management of short and extended wilderness expeditions. Course topics include goal setting and researching your own expedition, staff training, health considerations, budgeting and finance, logistics and support, transportation, lodging, energy balance and menu planning, equipment, leadership, expedition behavior, communication, safety, and risk management.

Environmental Justice Beyond Borders

As environmental stewards, it is critical that we cultivate a deeper understanding of global environmental issues, while considering the social implications of the strategies used to address these issues. Communities around the world are faced with environmental issues such as an influx of pollutants, loss of habitat and biodiversity, increasing health issues and changing climates. Strategies to address these issues may be effective but might lead to environmental injustices.

This 400 level course provides a forum for students to culminate their Sterling classroom and field experiences by exploring global issues through both social and ecological lens. As humans attempt to address global environmental issues, are we cognizant of environmental justice implications? Can we protect biodiversity, restore ecosystems, and/or develop sustainable communities without impacts to others?

As a seminar, discussion is pivotal to this course and will be facilitated by both the instructor, as well as students. To culminate the semester, students will pursue individual research projects which they will present to the class. We will use a variety of resources as we explore global environmental issues and environmental justice (historic and contemporary maps, activist art, academic articles, guest speakers, and field trips).

Women in United States History

This course will examine the social, political, economic and cultural aspects of women’s lives in the United States. The main objective of this course is to introduce students to the major issues, themes and developments in women’s history. Thus, I am less interested in students learning names and dates, and more interested in students understanding how women’s experiences changed and how women served as agents of change. To achieve this, I have structured the course with key questions in mind. How did women claim public space? How did various individuals, groups and institutions create, build and employ power? What changes in American society spurred or allowed women to claim space? More specifically, what strategies did women use to manipulate their environment and transform their activism to achieve and justify their needs and the needs of their community? I encourage students to keep these questions in mind when listening to lectures, reading the texts and completing assignments. These questions serve as a guide in understanding and tracing women’s experiences.

Community Food Action

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, analyzing recipes, 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 in our local area including programs such as Farm to School, The Center for an Agriculture Economy, Hardwick Area Food Shelf, Salvation Farms, The Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger, and local initiatives.

Expedition II

This course explores on 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, purifying 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). Graded categories also include preparedness for weekly classes and an Expedition skills assessment.

Takes place in the second half of the Fall semester and the 6 days after the Exam period.