Science at Maine Coast Semester
The discipline of Natural History is embedded within much of our work and daily life at Maine Coast Semester. Our work in the classroom and on field lab is supported by our community’s culture of observation, which is evidenced by the experiential nature of our outdoor skills curriculum and English students’ sensory writing exercises informed by place. For those students taking Environmental Issues or Art and the Natural World electives, many of the ecosystem analysis and scientific illustration skills taught in Natural History complement the content and scope of these courses.
Natural History and Ecology of the Maine Coast (H)
Required, Prerequisite: None
In this hands-on, place-based science course, students learn about marine and terrestrial ecology through immersion in the varied ecosystems found on the Maine coast. Chewonki Neck is located where the rivers meet the sea, along an estuary, with proximity to rocky coasts, sandy beaches, freshwater streams, bogs, beaver ponds, and forests. During the semester students hone their powers of observation and description, and develop an in-depth understanding of the natural history of the Maine coast.
Students attend three class meetings per week, as well as a weekly five-hour field lab. Additionally, students record observations of the natural world at their unique phenology site for one hour per week.
A variety of assessments during the semester are used as a means for providing feedback to students regarding their mastery of essential knowledge, concepts, and skills. This can include weekly species quizzes to build familiarity with the organisms present in each ecosystem we study; review reading checks; weekly field journal entries; phenology observation sites and a field final exam.
Students will work with a variety of texts in this course, including field guides, peer-reviewed research articles, and classic natural history texts that focus on description and interpretation of the natural world. Supplemental texts for this course reflect recent developments in natural sciences.
Core texts include:
- Winter World and Summer World, Bernd Heinrich
- Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
- North Woods, Peter J. Marchand
- A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern North America, Roger Tory Peterson
- A Naturalist’s Guide to the Atlantic Seashore, Scott W. Shumway
- Reading the Forested Landscape, Tom Wessels