Watch E&H Students Blaze Their Own Educational Trail
Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va. has launched this spring a unique program that provides 12 hours of academic credit to students who attempt to hike the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
The Semester-A-Trail is for the student seeking a learning experience that goes well beyond the classroom. The program, a synthesis of academic learning and outdoor adventure, is an intensive, goal-oriented journey that seeks to challenge students both physically and intellectually.
Located in the Highlands of southwest Virginia and just 15 miles from the Appalachian Trail, Emory & Henry College provides an extensive outdoor program that engages students in a wide variety of activities, including, among other activities, rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing and spelunking.
“I wanted to move learning beyond the metaphor,” said Professor Jim Harrison, who developed the program and serves as both an English professor and the director of the E&H Outdoor Leadership Program. “We talk about education as a journey and an adventure. This course offers students a very meaningful opportunity to move beyond the traditional classroom to obtain real world experiences and competencies.”
Students who participate in the program must complete some vigorous preparation that includes obtaining a Wilderness First Aid and CPR certificate and completing a course in hiking and backpacking with a grade of B or better. Students must also be active members of the College’s Outdoor Program and must complete at least three Outdoor Program backpacking trips.
Credit will be awarded in a "Nature Writing" English course, which is both a survey of nature writing and an exploration of its narrative craft. Students take the course during their semester of travel, beginning course work before embarkation and finishing work upon the completion of the hiking experience.
The Semester-A-Trail also presents students with the opportunity to build independent studies and projects with field-based implications. Independent study options being explored currently by students include art and photography projects, water quality studies and a botany study.
Students in the program begin the semester studying on campus, preparing for their hike, which begins in March and runs through August. They will start their journey at Springer Mountain, Ga. and end at Mount Katahdin, Maine. Students will remain in contact with Harrison by cell phone and email throughout their journey.
“On the trail they will find a wonderful community of hikers who will add to their life experience,” said Harrison, who has hiked the full length of the trail. “This experience will open a lot of doors for these students and will say a lot about them as individuals.”