Human Ecology is the study of the relationship between humans and the natural world. Students at Maine Coast Semester complete an independent research capstone project grounded in this discipline because we believe this area of study is a meaningful framework to understand the ways in which we as individuals and communities interact with and change the natural world, and vice versa.
Human Ecology Capstone
Required, Prerequisites: none
Every student at Maine Coast Semester completes an independent research project that culminates in a presentation and concrete action taken in their home community. This practical inquiry-based project is rooted in the investigation of a topic relevant to human ecology and strives to improve some aspect of that community’s relationship to the natural world. Research for the project is independently executed and strongly based on direct interviews with individuals in the community of study. Students are guided through the process of question development, research, and action plan development by their advisor. Thematic support and modeling for the project are provided by two seminars (outlined below) that all students attend once each week: Farm and Food Systems and Energy Solutions.
Farm and Food Systems is a holistic seminar that uses Chewonki’s farm and food system as a means of investigating the larger implications and opportunities in making day-to-day choices about the food we eat and farms we support through that process. We explore our farm as an ecosystem, focusing on agricultural practices related to livestock and pasture management, diversified vegetable production, and forestry management. The arc of the course includes exploration of food and farm economics, labor and social justice issues, food policy and regulation, and food ethics. The course culminates in each student writing a personal statement of belief about their relationship to food and engaging in a dialogue around how to apply what they know about food systems back in their home environments as empowered and thoughtful consumers. We read a wide variety of sources for this course, including current articles about farming and food systems and essays and articles written by farmers. Many of our course materials are resources and records generated on our farm, including economic overviews of cost versus value of different livestock and vegetable systems.
Energy Systems discusses the current state of energy production, use, and efficiency in the United States and globally as we investigate technological and behavioral solutions to our most pressing challenges in sustainability. The course surveys fundamental concepts in the sustainability movement, new techniques and challenges within the conventional energy industry, and emerging technologies in renewable energy and how those are adopted by society at large and implemented on a small scale at Chewonki. We take a look at our personal energy use and environmental impact through ecological footprinting and take inspiration from developing innovations in the field of biomimicry, electric and autonomous vehicles, and green city design.