Like a party of artists creating a mural, students collaboratively develop a complete portrait of the ecology and the geology of the Connecticut River, with each group of three to four students sharing their daily information gathering with every other group at the end of the day. Nobody rests until everybody has reported their data.
When they do get to sleep, it’s three men to a tent (all 21 students are male this year). They’re often woken by the sound of ducks or peacocks along the river; or, appropriately, by the feel of rocks beneath their sleeping bags. But because Westerman has declared today “spring break,” they’ve slept in until 8 a.m. and may get some free time after dinner.
The evening meal may be anything from spaghetti and American chop suey to fancy meals of ham steaks with pineapple and sweet potatoes. Nobody is assigned to cook or to wash dishes; Westerman and Dunn trust their charges to pitch in, as 10 points of their grade are for cooperation. But forget s’mores around the campfire. Instead, the class shares ecology data, so students munch on some of the eight cookies they’re rationed for each day.
On Saturday, A.J. Diaz and Brian Mora discovered they were both turning 20. There was no cake, so they jokingly sang “Happy Birthday” to each other and went back to their geology reports, due each morning before breakfast.continue