Spaced between coursework on campus, Chesapeake Semester students participate in four major “journeys” over the course of the semester. Each journey explores a specific theme.
Around the Chesapeake: A Sense of Place and History
This 10-12 day trip will provide an orientation to the geography, physical characteristics and history of the Chesapeake. In a clock-wise circuit starting in Chestertown, the trip will run down the Delmarva Peninsula and end up in Baltimore. Starting locally, students will connect with the ancestral tidewater by camping at Chino Farms and engaging in activities such as foraging for food and touring grassland habitat. Then, using Williamsburg as a home base for several days, students will explore the new discoveries at Jamestown, spend time behind the scenes in Colonial Williamsburg, visit a Tidewater plantation and explore the 17th and 18th century history of the area. Heading north, the group will visit the Pamunkey Indian Reservation to learn about the contemporary and historical Native people of the Chesapeake, and experience living history at Button Farm, a 40-acre working farm that captures 19th century slave plantation life. Before returning to campus, the class will move to Annapolis where they will take a walking history tour of the baroque planning of the State’s capitol, finishing at the Baltimore Museum of Industry where students will learn how the industrial and technological heritage of Baltimore, a major port city, defined the Chesapeake in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Ridge to Ocean
From the mountains of Northern Maryland to the coastal bays of the Atlantic shoreline, this ecology-themed trip will spend 9-10 days crossing a series of contrasting environments. Using Susquehanna State Park as base- camp, students will hike through the park and canoe down the mighty Susquehanna River for a slow-paced discussion about the history and environmental and economic significance of the Conowingo Dam. Traveling south, students will visit Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge to learn about the adaptions and management practices used to combat the effects of land subsidence and rising sea levels on wetlands habitat. Touring an oyster aquaculture farm allows students to compare oyster farming to the traditional wild harvest and consider the environmental ethics of oyster farming as well as the challenges oyster farmers face. Then, the group overnights in Chrisfield, which was once a major oyster city, and catches a ferry to Smith Island early the next morning to learn the history, experience the culture, and meet with locals. The trip ends on the Atlantic shore, examining coastal bays and dune and barrier island formation, salt marsh habitat, coastal development pressures, and sea level rise.
Comparative Study in Belize
On the third journey students will travel to Guatemala and Belize for a 12 day comparative study of culture, economics, politics, law, and ethics. This comparative study in Central America builds upon the experiences, principles and theories investigated during the Chesapeake Semester, allowing comparisons with other ecosystems across the continent. Students will have the opportunity to explore Tikal, an ancient Mayan city in Guatemala, participate in activities such as night hikes, a school tour, arts and crafts with a local family, and a cocoa farm tour in a small town in Belize, travel to the mountains to learn about tropical agroforestry firsthand, stay on a remote tropical island, and explore regional ecosystems by snorkeling on the second largest reef in the world. While there are certainly noticeable differences in the ecology, socioeconomics, and cultures defining the Chesapeake Bay and the tropical systems, there are common themes, similarities, and essential analogues.
Issues & Management: Fisheries, Agriculture, Development & Policy
A combination of day trips and shorter off-campus trips constitute the last journey, optimizing local exploration of major environmental and political issues within the Chesapeake. Throughout this conceptual tour of the regulatory landscape of the Chesapeake and its user groups, students focus on issues and controversies surrounding food production and meet with those who farm, fish, build, and otherwise recreate on or around the Bay. Students will meet with poultry and dairy farmers, members of environmental advocacy groups, and riverkeepers and explore topics such as urban pollution, fisheries management, population growth and land-use planning, and citizenship. The unique interweaving of classroom-based lectures and experiential learning allows the class to have informed conversations with key players from these varied user groups, and consider the subsequent impacts to the Bay.
Students will have the opportunity to develop relationships and connections with professionals in a number of fields. Participants will be more than “a student on a field trip” and will be viewed and treated as young professionals expected to engage professors, lecturers, guides, and speakers with reciprocal sincerity. Students should look upon the Chesapeake Semester as a unique opportunity to make connections that will they can utilize during their undergraduate career, during graduate school, and at the beginning of professional careers. Many internship opportunities are available from our partners through the Chesapeake Semester.