Footprints on the James: The Natural and Human History of the James River Watershed



The principal goal for this class is to expose the students to the importance of the James River watershed to the residents of Virginia in the present, past and future. This collaborative, experiential learning opportunity will combine faculty from the Biology Department, the Center for Environmental Studies and the Outdoor Adventure Program. By immersing students in a natural landscape prominent in Virginia’s history for four weeks, backpacking and canoeing through the watershed and down the river, this program represents a unique opportunity for students at VCU to learn about human history, natural history and how the two have shaped each other. The goals for each student will be to learn more about the specific features that make up this river system by identifying and stimulating individual ownership of particular issues of interest to each student before and during the class. In addition, students will learn and practice advanced camping, canoeing/kayaking, and outdoor living skills, including leave no trace camping. Students will also learn to function as team members, and will be instructed in expedition management, group dynamics, and leadership skills.
This expedition will be a collaborative field experience between the units indicated above, taking place over five weeks in the summer of 2015. It will begin with a series of topical seminars and skill development classes at the VCU Rice Rivers Center on the James River in Charles City County, VA. The class will continue to investigate the lower James by paddling to the colonial capital at Jamestown. The class will drive to the headwaters of the James River near the Blue Ridge Mountains and proceed by foot, canoe, bateau and kayak through the watershed and down the river back to Richmond. During this journey the students will be engaged with a wide variety of hands-on interactions in the three disciplines, guided by faculty from each department and guest experts. The Outdoor Adventure Program will be providing trained students from their Student Outdoor Leader Program to act as program guides to teach the other students a wide variety of practical outdoors skills and to introduce traditional expedition management technique. The students will be camping out each night and managing their own daily affairs including camp duties and class work, keeping journals and generally making it real.


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