Dr. Michael Beevers, Environmental Studies

Understanding the Human Place in Nature – An Interdisciplinary Approach

Michael D. Beevers used his participation in Dickinson’s Valley and Ridge program to develop a new capstone senior seminar course in the Environmental Studies Department entitled “Understanding the Human Place in Nature – An Interdisciplinary Approach”. Valley and Ridge inspired him to incorporate aspects of experiential and place-based learning to help facilitate critical analysis, conceptual synthesis and deep reflection. The goal of the course is to explore the complex interactions between humans and the natural world through multiple and overlapping perspectives and disciplines, and hence better understand issues that lie at the heart of environmental debates, including sustainability. Students read materials from the natural and physical sciences, nature literature, philosophy and ethics, history, politics, religion, cultural studies, sociology and policy and shared “found objects” that vividly highlight the ideas brought forth. The course takes a variety of field trips, including a weekend long excursion, to engage the students in direct experiences with places and people. For example, the class will work on the Dickinson College Farm, go apple ‘gleaning’ with Project SHARE, take a tour of a nearby zoo and wildlife preserve, and visit Shenandoah National Park. Weekly discussion papers posted to a class blog as well as in-depth class discussions in outdoor settings help to facilitate dialogue and share thoughts constructively. 

The course culminates in a video project in which students work with a classmate to produce a 7-10 minute video on some aspect of the ‘human place in nature’. The video project allows students to use a new form of media to explore and document key concepts from the class. Student videos can take the form of a nature film, documentary or educational presentation – although the possibilities are endless. The video projects will be shown to the class and a select group of faculty.