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Center for

Environment & Society

CRS 246: Interdisciplinary Study of an Estuary: Integration and Action

Course Coordinators: 
Dr. John Seidel
Prof. Mike Hardesty

Course Description:

The Chesapeake Semester is a novel design of integrated experiential learning rooted in Washington College’s strong traditions in liberal learning, coupled with its rich historical heritage and natural setting.  This course builds upon three additional courses: CRS 242, CRS 240, and CRS 244 and helps to deliver elements of each course curricula in the field, dissolving disciplinary boundaries and making cross-disciplinary connections.  Environmental policy and natural resource management are key topics as students explore the rules and regulations that govern society’s use of our most precious resources. Food production and food systems are analyzed as a key but often controversial link between environment and society.  An additional area of focus for this course is the global nature of the problems that we face in the Chesapeake, using our experiences in Central America as a means to compare and contrast coastal environments around the world.  Students will use interdisciplinary tools like the “Chesapeake Semester Intersections” to help frame these concepts.   A substantial amount of learning will take place in the field with particular design and focus around “Journey 4:  Resources and Regulations of the Chesapeake.”  Finally, this course will explore the ways in which a fuller understanding of place and people can be used to construct visions for the future, empowering people to take an active role in positively influencing society’s impact on the natural world.   In doing so, students will learn the elements of becoming “student-citizen-leaders,” taking on the evolving role as they explore the Chesapeake area’s rich culture and environment.

Course Topics

The general outline for the course includes:

  • An orientation to interdisciplinary learning
  • Coastal water impairment and environmental degradation 
  • Environmental policy and management, particularly concerning the Chesapeake Bay
  • Natural resource management (using the eastern oyster as a case study)
  • Climate Change
  • Agricultural policy and management
  • Food production
  • Land-use, population, and planned growth

Broad Concepts:

  • Creative communication of complex issues and controversies (photography)
  • Student-citizen-leadership
  • Interdisciplinary understanding of controversies centered in the environment i.e. based on the science of climate change, how will the culture of coastal       communities change?
  • Learning and prioritizing information through conversation with diverse audience
  • Learning and prioritizing information through immersive learning outdoors
  • The power of comparison in learning 

Chesapeake Semester Intersections:

CS. intersections are “key words” or concepts that highlight the trade-offs, dichotomies, tensions, synergies, catalysts, and contradictions  relevant to the Chesapeake Bay and abroad.  The “Intersections” are used as cross-disciplinary tools to analyze, dissect, and discuss the various topics that are often approached through independent academic lenses. These “Intersections” are integrated throughout the curriculum of the Chesapeake Semester in order to create a framework for discussion.  

Although the “Intersections” can be explored in isolation through the Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Humanities disciplines, our objective is to create bridges for students to confidently move between academic “silos.”