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Nature Awareness and Tracking Change in Centennial Woods The University of Vermont ~ Teage O’Connor Fall 2010 Email: badger.meli@gmail.com Phone: 802.860.7284 Class day/time: TBD Location: Centennial Woods, meet each class period at main entrance on Carrigan Dr Course Description: What does it mean to be and feel connected to nature? What about to a specific place within that nebulous concept of nature? What does it feel like to know where the deer bed in the woods behind your house in the sum
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Nature Awareness and Tracking Change in Centennial Woods The University of Vermont ~ Teage O\u2019Connor Fall 2010 Email:badger.meli@gmail.com Phone: 802.860.7284 Class day/time: TBD Location: Centennial Woods, meet each class period at main entrance on Carrigan Dr Course Description: What does it mean to be and feel connected to nature? What about to a specific place within that nebulous concept of nature? What does it feel like to know where the deer bed in the woods behind your house in the summer or where their yards are in the winter? To know how a place changes with the seasons? To feel what it looked like 200 years ago and what it will look like 200 years from now? We can read Thoreau\u2019s Walden or McKibben\u2019s Age of Missing Information, but how might their philosophizing translate to our experience of our own place in the world, the world they so eloquently describe? In this course students will connect deeply with one location, watching and documenting it change over the course of a single season. We will delve deeper into our personal experience of place by intertwining it with our interpretation of how it has changed over time \u2013 from the geologic past to the recent European colonization. Our personal experiences of the land will inform how we interpret the past, but they will also enable us to see more than we might without an intimate knowledge of the landscape. That is, through time and experience we will calibrate and attune our senses to perceiving change as it happens and as it has happened. Centennial Woods\u2019s proximity to campus make it the perfect backdrop to explore nature as it exists in our own backyard. While it is one of the most utilized Natural Areas for classes (e.g. Ecological Approach to Living Well In Place, BCOR12, NR1, etc.), literature documenting its history is relatively scant. And so while contributing to our own understanding of what it means to be connected to place, students will help facilitate public knowledge of the history of the Woods through a service learning component. The course will culminate in a public presentation to the community, relating their personal experience of the landscape to the complex history of the landscape as they have interpreted it. Course objectives: \ue000 To connect deeply to a landscape by marrying a scientific understanding of the spatial relationships of that landscape with a personal connection to the same land \ue000 To utilize unstructured time observing and engaged with the land as a means for understanding \ue000 To increase awareness of changes as perceive through a multitude of inputs, from sensory to academic \ue000 To develop a develop a strong connection to Centennial Woods as an intersection of static and dynamic processes. \ue000 To develop a significant understanding of the natural history of Centennial Woods \ue000 To synthesize evidence seen on landscape into an internally coherent story Learning Outcomes: Students will become familiar with: 1. Mapping tools, from GPS to pencil and compass 2. Resources specific to understanding landscapes in Vermont 3. Making meaningful observations (through bird language, tracking, etc.) that will allow students to track change through time 4. Landscape interpretation that matches personal observations with academic researchResources (recommended): Books: Dean, Elizabeth. Field guide to Centennial Woods Natural Area : including section on food & medicinal uses for each plant plus their poisonous qualities. 1978. Elbroch, Mark. Mammal Tracks and Sign. Seidl, Amy. Early Spring. Wessels, Tom. Reading the Forested Landscape Vidal, Elaine. Urban sanctuary : the value of natural areas : a senior thesis. Part I. Vidal, Elaine Wildness in our midst : stories of Centennial Woods : a senior thesis. Part II. Newspapers (Archives available on Library website): 7 Days Vermont\u2013http://www.7dvt.com The Other Paper - http://www.otherpapersbvt.com Burlington Free Press - http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com Maps: Sanburn Fire Insurance maps Google Earth Aerial photos (located in map room) Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI) \u2013http://www.vcgi.org Vermont Geologic Survey \u2013 (Bedrock and Surficial maps) http://www.anr.state.vt.us/DEC/geo/catalog.htm Schedule Week 1 \u2013September 1: Intro to Centennial Woods Delimiting boundaries. What is Centennial Woods? Who owns it? Who uses it? What does it look like? Exploration of time scales and discussion of boundaries. Activity: Walking the perimeter Assignment: Tourist test (due Sept 8) Week 2 \u2013September 8: Mapping How do maps assist our interpretation of a site. How might they limit or expand our knowledge of a site? What impact does the issue of scale have on our understanding? Activity: Compasses, pacing out distances, creating a base map Week 3 \u2013September 15: Hydrology \u2013 We will start class at the upper branch of Wool Pullery Brook (or the eastern fork of Centennial Brook) and walk the length of Centennial Brook watershed down to the Winooski River. Emphasis will be on water\u2019s current role in shaping the landscape. How does substrate impact speed, width, topography? By walking the watershed, how might this add to our understanding of the various uses of the site? Activity: River ramble Week 4 \u2013September 22:Topography & Soils Tying last week\u2019s walk in with the general topography of Centennial Woods. Where are the ridges, the valleys? In what ways has water shaped what we see in Centennial Woods? How has water flow/distribution been impacted by beavers? Humans? Activity: Mapping erosion Assignment: Base map, including hydrology, trails, and other notable features due today Week 5 \u2013September 29: Vegetation Centennial Woods is a hodgepodge of plants, from regal wolf pines and pitch pine plantations, to delectable ostrich ferns and apple trees. Students will select a small area of Centennial Woods and look for patterns in the vegetation. Where are the conifers? What about the shrubs? Are animal signs concentrated in one gourp of plants versus another? Activity: Mapping vegetative communities Assignment: First sit reflection due Week 6 \u2013October 6: Skiing, Powerlines, and Bunkers Since UVM started acquiring the property in 1904, disparate uses have come and gone, many of which are still evident in topography and relic pulleys, poles, and concrete structures. We will look at two past uses (ski slopes and a removed powerline) and see how we can piece together evidence on the landscape to interpret past events. How are vegetative communities shaped/altered by human structures? Activity: Reconstructing human land-use history Week 7 \u2013October 13: Birds\u2013(Reading: Bird nesting data from Allan Strong) Pileated woodpeckers, great-horned owls, fall migration of warblers, robin\u2019s nests. We will hunt out signs of birds and map out how birds are impacted by our presence by a bird language sit activity. Activity: Bird language mapping Week 8 \u2013October 20: Mammals From deer to fisher to dogs and people, we will look at CW from the perspective of mammals. How might access points via the 3 culverts under I-89 or the Centennial Brook culverts on Grove St shape how mammals are utilizing the woods. How do signs vary in proximity to people\u2019s presence whether in the form of makeshift houses, trails, or a dog park. Activity: Identifying wildlife corridors Week 9 \u2013October 27: Beavers Beavers have had a significant impact . We will traverse Centennial Brook in Centennial Woods and reconstruct the various stages of beaver inhabitance by looking at old dams, decomposition stage of chewed stumps, and current signs. Activity: Beaver activity, past and present. Assignment: Second sit reflection due Week 10 \u2013November 3: Community perception Barry Mansfield, Betty Milizia, and Mary will share stories of growing up with the changing landscape. Activity: Interviewing community members (think about this activity in relation to finding an audience for final presentation \u2013 i.e. how might people who know the land over 40,50, or 60 years be interested in learning about the current use and recent changes to the landscape?) Week 11 \u2013November 10:Urban interface - We will look closely at how borders have influenced the ecology of Centennial Woods, from the sand pit along the northern edge across from JD Ireland, to the constructed wetland and Sheraton parking lot along the southern edge, to the interstate bordering the eastern edge. Week 12 –November 17: Maps UVM’s special collections offers a number of invaluable resources. We will uncover ag records, census records, maps (with Bill Gill), and utilize primary historical documents from phone books to Sanburn Fire Insurance Maps (with Chris Burns in Special Collections). Week 13: November 24: Assignment: Third sit reflection due Assignments 1) Tourist Test – 5% a) The Tourist Test was developed by Jon Young and the Nature Awareness School; it allows those who take it to see what they know and don’t know about their local environment. It also will help students identify what they want to know more about to focus learning over the semester. Due on the second week of class 2) Field Reports – 25% a) Students will complete and submit 5 field reports, each 2-3 pages i) Drawings and photos are highly encouraged ii) Mixed media (e.g. video, audio, html, animations, etc.) are encouraged as alternatives to a written field report b) Field reports should reflect the story we reconstructed in class. Strong emphasis should be placed on scale. That is, how might what we saw be related to the more generalized histories of Vermont like Jan Alber’s? 3) Time-lapse – 10% a) From the same vantage point, students will take at least one photo each week to document the change of that particular spot over the semester b) A short (less than one-page) reflection on the series of photos will accompany the photo series. 4) Sitting reflections – 15% a) Students will select three times throughout the semester (once each month) to sit quietly for at least 2 hours. The spot should be the same as for the Time-lapse assignments. A short 1-2 page reflection on each sit will be submitted on the last class of each month (except December). 5) Final Map portfolio – 20% a) Finished base map, plus 5 separate maps overlaid onto base map b) Maps may be hand drawn or created in Google Earth, ArcGis, or with another mapping program but should be entirely based on the students field work c) Submaps should include: wildlife corridor map, vegetation map, topographic map, human structures map, and experience map. 6) Final presentation – Group Project – 25% a) Students will identify a target group and create a presentation that they will deliver to their audience b) The presentation should focus on some aspect of Centennial Woods (e.g. beaver ecology, old farm boundaries, ski jumps, etc) that has caught the student’s attention over the course of the semester. c) Format will be determined by audience and location (slide show, field walk, book, website, etc.)
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