The Northern Forest Canoe Trail course

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Publication Title

Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal


The Northern Forest Canoe course is a freshman general education (“core”) course developed by an interdisciplinary team of three faculty (Joseph Staples, chemical ecology; Robert Sanford, environmental planning; and Elizabeth Vella, psychology) at the University of Southern Maine (USM) to provide an experiential, non-residency learning experience. This course was designated an “entry year experience” (EYE) that reflects the principles of Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER). We wanted to create a course that would provide learners with basic competency in environmental science field skills (GPS, compass, dichotomous keys, transects, shoreline field assessment, tree and aquatic plant identification, use of canoes and field equipment for water quality sampling) through an immersion experience that connected students to a natural community and would foster a sense of stewardship.