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Building on the Block: Field Study Symposium

The Charge: The center will be a dynamic place, a centerpiece, where students, faculty, staff and alumni come together and where resources are available to discover and share best practices and support new ideas.

What's Happening: Colorado College held its inaugural Field Study Symposium, welcoming 56 participants including various members of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and other top liberal arts institutions. This distinct style of learning, its outcomes, and its contribution to students' development are an emerging field, and the symposium provided an opportunity for participants to define - and refine - the practice of teaching and learning in the field.

"Field study allows you to learn things there that you cannot learn in the classroom," said Martin Farrell, a political science professor from Ripon College, as he stood in a meat locker at Ranch Foods Direct, the location of the symposium's final session. "It fosters long-term learning, not memorization. It's a life experience. It's not like cramming for an exam, and then it's gone. It stays with you for the rest of your life."

Presenters from all three disciplines - the humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences - made the case repeatedly: Small classes at liberal arts colleges are uniquely positioned to make use of field study to create high-impact experiential learning opportunities.

Among the 17 CC presenters was Miro Kummel, an associate professor in the Environmental Program who discussed "Remotely Controlled Aerial Drones (UAVs) as Field Instructional Technology" with Matt Gottfried, director of innovative technology, and Darren Ceckanowicz, technical director. "Field study helps abstract concepts make sense," said Kummel, who uses aerial drones to monitor thermal micro-environments at tree line.

Associate Professor of Sociology Kathy Giuffre, keynote speaker for the symposium, noted that the Millennial Generation is the first to grow up almost completely under the overwhelming rubric of standardized testing as an educational way of life. Standardization, however, is anathema to innovative thinking and creativity, she said. "Field study provides students with the building blocks of social structures that facilitate creativity and innovation," said Giuffre.

Report an issue - Last updated: 12/16/2020