Apostle Islands Provide Unique Setting for College Course | Environment
Students at Northland College are able to get hands on experience through a program called Eco League. According to a press release, the Eco League offered three joint courses, including marine biology, business and the environment and natural and cultural history interpretation of the Apostle Islands at Northland College.
ASHLAND — Northland College student Tim Koski will forever remember one August evening during a seminar taught in the Apostle Islands. The natural resources and forestry student stood on the shore of Stockton Island watching a storm roll across Lake Superior. In a sudden flash, four streaks of lightning hit one spot on an island in the distance. “It was awesome to be out there,” Koski said. “I’ll never forget seeing that.”
For two weeks, Koski along with five other college students, paddled two 24-foot voyageur canoes as part of a four-credit Natural and Cultural History Interpretation of the Apostle Islands course organized by the Eco League, a consortium of small liberal arts colleges dedicated to teaching sustainability through experiential learning.
The six students presented natural and cultural interpretation at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center August 29 on topics of lighthouses, medicinal plants, agriculture, Ojibwe stories, wilderness, and invasive species.
Koski said he focused on medicinal plants because it fell in line with what he’s passionate about — plants and trees. The course forced his attention to medicinal plants, something he’s always wanted to learn more about. “This might just be the kick in the pants I needed to learn more about the small plants,” he said.
Northland College recently took over the leadership of the Eco League, founded in 2003, said Northland College President Michael A. Miller. “Northland’s opportunity to lead this consortium will bring great benefits to our students, the region, and to developing new models for educating about sustainability.”
The Eco League includes Northland College along with the College of the Atlantic (Maine), Green Mountain College (Vermont), Prescott College (Arizona) and Alaska Pacific University. These diverse locations give students access to three oceans, the Sonoran desert, northern hardwood forests, glaciers, coastal islands, international opportunities, organic farms in four different growing regions and the largest body of fresh water on the planet — Lake Superior.
The Eco League has offered three joint courses — marine biology, business and the environment and natural and cultural history interpretation of the Apostle Islands here at Northland College. Assistant Professor of Outdoor Education Elizabeth Andre worked out the complex logistics and secured the hand-built cedar strip voyageur canoes from a Northland partner organization, Wilderness Inquiry, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn.
Lee James, a professor at Prescott College who co-taught the course, said the experience allowed him “fantastic professional development and the combination of cultural history and environmental history is unsurpassed.” James also said the setting wasn’t too shabby. “To come from Arizona to immerse oneself in all this fresh water — the students said they hadn’t swam so much since they were kids,” James said.
Nelson Vila-Santana, a Green Mountain College student who spent his summer interning in a laboratory, couldn’t get over the feeling of looking out from the canoes into a huge body of water “that was so clear and freshwater.” He also couldn’t believe the view —particularly during the memorable lightning storm. “In the East you can’t see much more than ten miles away and here we could watch the storm from 50 miles away.”
Northland College is a traditional liberal arts and sciences college with a unique focus on the environment and sustainability. Northland College and its Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute are located in Ashland, Wis., near the shores of Lake Superior. The College is broadly recognized as a leader in sustainability education having adopted the focus as its mission in 1971. Founded in 1892, Northland now enrolls 600 students from across the nation and across the world. For more information about Northland College and its Institute, visit our website at www.northland.edu.