Field practicums (also known as field camps) have long been a traditional component of many university forestry curricula. Natural resource professionals need a balance of knowledge in multiple disciplines, as well as applied technical and communication skills. The field practicum at Michigan Tech, a cornerstone of the School’s degree programs, has evolved in the courses offered, level of instruction, and the make-up of participants over the past decade. For the first time in 2003, students from two majors (forestry and applied ecology and environmental science), as well as graduate students and Peace Corps International students, took two different tracks at the camp simultaneously. Approximately two thirds of the credits are overlapping core courses and one third are major-specific. Courses taught by a group of instructors include multiple resource assessment, land measurements and GPS, wildlife habitat, forest health, insect ecology, geomorphology and vegetation, silviculture, and timber harvesting. The current structure of the field practicum involves a balance of classroom- style lecture, field-based instruction, field and laboratory exercises, and integrated group projects. Instructors are using a variety of active learning strategies, with varied success. The final assessment tool involves a complete land assessment and management plan prepared by small groups of students on a tract of land on the School Forest. This project requires competency, understanding, and integration across disciplines, and fosters teamwork skills. After the first year of integration of the two majors, the field practicum was deemed a success, with several areas of improvement identified. Some of the major challenges encountered revolve around balancing instruction to accommodate different student backgrounds and levels of experience, student dynamics in a residential field camp setting, and logistical coordination and integration of instructional material across distinct courses.
Nagel, Linda Marie
"Teaching and assessing an integrated field practicum for forestry and applied ecology majors,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 12, Article 38.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol12/iss1/38