“Are you going to be challenged?” says David Westerman, Dana professor of geology at Norwich. “Absolutely.”
Westerman wears not only a hunter’s plaid shirt and rain pants, but also the stubble of an outdoorsman and the wry smile of someone who has taught this course for 25 years. While most of academia packs up their regalia and retreats to personal projects, Westerman and another Norwich senior faculty member (this year, Prof. Dunn) pack up sleeping bags, nets, chemistry kits and shovels and usher students to the Connecticut River. “I need an annual fix of outdoor living,” says Westerman, who was a registered Maine guide at age 16.
But for the professors and their students, the class is about more than the great outdoors, or even geology and ecology. It’s about confronting and overcoming physical and mental boundaries, learning by teaching and living with sweat-stained clothes. It’s about discovering new layers in the surrounding world—and new layers inside oneself. It’s about dealing with soggy boots and eight cookies a day. The class is about life.continue