Field Curriculum Collaboration At August 2005 Gathering


The first curriculum gathering for the Patagonia Learning Center occurred from Tuesday through Friday, August 16-19, 2005 in Patagonia, Arizona at the 55-acre Spirit Tree Inn.

We were delighted to receive, and have posted below, the outcome of the curriculum get-together. This document is the work product of Michael Greer, Tawnya Bissell and Samantha Berst, students of Hampshire College and New College of Florida, who took the baton from the contributing group and created an infrastructure and curriculum proposal that reflects the thoughtful commentary of the original student groups who spoke so eloquently—–in October 2004 in Olympia, Washington and at the Circle Z Ranch Colloquium in January 2005—–about their vision for a place of collaborative creativity in the natural world that would enable them to address some of their most vital needs before graduation. We hope you will enjoy reading and contemplating this document for it is a blossoming student-inspired and student-led conceptualization that may be the catalyst for a natural evolutionary advance in American education.

While there is a great deal of work ahead, and plenty of modifications, we believe these students have made some history together.

Here are some of the first photos of the get-together at the 53-acre Spirit Tree Inn in Patagonia, Arizona.

The site of the Patagonia Learning Center is on the 53-acre Spirit Tree Inn, three miles south of Patagonia, Arizona.

The curriculum team (left to right): Karen and Steve Strom, Larry Winship, John Boyer, Patricia Fallon (seated), Pat Dolan, Samantha Berst, Tawnya Bissell, Carol Soth, and Sallie Naylor. Missing: Michael Greer.

Left to Right: Carol Soth, Patricia Fallon, John Boyer, Samantha Berst, Pat Dolan, Tawnya Bissell, Larry Winship, Steve Strom, and Sallie Naylor.

At the Spirit Tree Inn (left to right): Patricia Fallon of Ursuline College (arm outstreached); Samantha Berst of Hampshire College; Michael Greer of Hampshire College; Tawnya Bissell of New College of Florida; Michael Werner of Americor; Carol Soth, educator in Patagonia, Sallie Naylor, resident of Elgin, AZ, John Boyer of Savery, Wyoming; and Pat Dolan, co-founder of Bellows Foundation.

Michael Greer has the floor.

Moving out into the natural world; a key element of the curriculum.

A quiet contemplation of Sonoita Creek, which flows year-round.

And cooling off!!

Off they went to begin designing the natural world component of the curriculum.

The nearby San Rafael Valley is a paradigm case of wide open spaces—–the core image of the American West.

Dinner on the back porch at Steve and Pat’s home.

More thinking, comparing notes, and blending.

They did some heavy lifting to get the curriculum elements to blend together: Tawnya, Michael and Samantha took the baton on Friday, working intensively on the rough curriculum model, and aligned it to the recommendations of the earlier students’ gatherings in Olympia, Washington in 2004 and at the Circle Z Ranch Colloquium in January 2005.


Patagonia Learning Center
Patagonia, Arizona

Draft created on August 19, 2005 by:

Student Team:

Michael Romy Greer, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA
Tawnya Bissell, New College, Sarasota, FL
Samantha Berst, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA

Contributing Team:

Larry Winship, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA
Pat Fallon , Ursuline College, Cleveland, OH
Carol Soth , Patagonia, AZ
John Boyer, Antelope Retreat and Education Center, Savery, WY
Steven Strom, Sonoita, AZ
Karen Strom, Sonoita, AZ
Sallie Naylor, Elkin, AZ
Patricia Dolan, co-founder, Bellows Foundation
Stephen Boyle, co-founder, Bellows Foundation

The goal of the Patagonia Field Center is a learning environment that integrates a combination of skills to prepare students to enter the world as socially responsible, civically engaged citizens. Student projects will be based in the community of Patagonia. Students will navigate the complexity of social structures and answer real world questions. Traditional and innovative methods of learning will address border issues, economic development, environmental sustainability and community identity. The program will be balanced by an emphasis on personal development and creative expression. The artistic, cultural, and spiritual elements of the past, present, and future of Patagonia will provide students with a multi-disciplinary approach to universal issues.

A list of proposed infrastructure needs is followed by an outline of a fourteen week curriculum. This proposal describes a program which is intended to be open to innovation rather than a template. Specific details are provided for clarification of concepts.

Pre-Arrival/Infrastructure Needs

o Buildings and structures
o Presentation space for work/artwork
o Yurts for students (with platform)
o Yurts for staff (singles with platform)
o Showers
o Toilets
o Hand washing/Laundry station
o Community meeting space with musical instruments
o Cooking facility
o Computers/Internet access
o Library
o Permanent structure to be used as a clinic. Includes EMT kit, phones, refrigerator, washing machines, shower
o Study yurt

o Community Needs
o Farm/trail tools (shovels, rakes, hoes, rock bars, Pulaski)
o Beds/cots for students and staff (possibly lofts)
o Organization for personal items and clothes
o Desks for each student
o Computers with internet, desks
o Phones
o Lighting
o Bicycles
o Camp chairs
o Meal time/community meeting tables and chairs
o Projection screen with DVD player for project presentations
o Water
o Library books
o Computer and phone for each staff person
o Electricity in staff yurts
o White board in community space
o Furniture for yurts (sofas and chairs, lighting)

o Gear for Wilderness Trips
o Backpacking stoves (1 for every 3 students)
o Water filters (1:3)
o First aid kits
o Tents, tarps, sunshades
o Water carrying containers
o Cell/Satellite phone
o Topographic maps
o Water bottles for students
o Backpacks, sleeping pads, sleeping bags (negotiable)

o Corporate provided goods/prodeals
o Water bottles
o T-shirts, fleece
o Sun hats
o Notebooks and binders
o Backpacks, sleeping pads, sleeping bags

o Infrastructure needs
o Emergency money accessible by ALL staff
o Emergency Response Plan (ERP) and protocol (anaphylaxis, sickness and injury, behavioral)
o Insurance
o Rules and Expectations for students
o Rules and Expectations for staff
o Staff pictures and bios (on the community board and online)

o Resident Assistant (RA) Responsibilities
o Safety of camp and students
o Medical Technician
o Conflict resolution
o Community meeting facilitators
o Community building activities
o Human pathfinders
o Leaders of community projects (garden, compost)
o 2 active RAs on call at all times, 3 total
o Retreats and scheduled RA days off

o Resident Assistant training/retreat
o EMT training
o Driver training
o Conflict resolution
o Building yurts, setting up camp
o Ecology of area, area tour

o Desirable qualities in RAs

These are skills the RAs must have for the program

o Leadership experience
o Outdoor experience
o Medical training (EMT)
o Ability to drive a 15 passenger van
o Leave No Trace wilderness ethics
o Knowledge and understanding of Bellows Foundation

Preprogram responsibilities

o Available for student and parent questions
o Pathfinder for desert life (Leave No Trace, flora, animals and insects to expect, equipment lists, letters, etc.)

Semester Syllabus Proposal

Weeks 1-14

Three weeks of group activities and assignments foster a sense of community among the students to promote civic responsibility.

DAILY CHORES WOULD BE ASSIGNED DURING THE FIRST WEEK AND CARRIED OUT ON A DAILY BASIS. These chores would include dishes, waste management, gardening, cleaning, etc.

Week 1

o Day 1

o All Day – Arrival, unpacking, acclimation (with accommodations provided in hotel/inn)
o Evening – Welcoming Dinner – dinner will include a meet and greet opportunity, history of Bellows Foundation and sharing personal stories

o Day 2

o Group / Living Assignment – Group assignments by areas of interest and responses to pre-arrival questionnaires
o Logistical Overview (location of food, accommodations, and resources)
o Picture Day
o Building Yurts

o Day 3

o Morning – Group Hike and student introduction sessions. This is ideally a 2-3 hr., moderate hike to encourage cooperation and sense of place in a historically significant area of Patagonia.
o Orientation Introduction
o Faculty and Staff Introduction (initial meet and greet and overview)
o Mission Statement and Goals of Program – An explanation of the formation process of the field study program. Emphasis on student initiative and individualized self actualization process. Introduction of the idea of question and project based learning.
o Overview of Curriculum (includes preview of 14 week schedule and syllabus) -This is a detailed, week by week explanation of the semester.
o Outdoor activity information session (may include vision quest, horseback trip, backpacking, etc.) – Explanation and preparation for the next three days.

o Day 4-6- Outdoor Activities. These activities will be “off campus” and emphasize team building and sense of place. The goal of each activity will be a detachment from external distractions and an immersion experience to prepare students for individualized learning.

o Day 4- Outdoor activity (TBA, may include vision quest, horseback trip, backpacking, etc.)

o Day 5- Outdoor activity (TBA, may include vision quest, horseback trip, backpacking, etc.)

o Day 6- Outdoor activity (TBA, may include vision quest, horseback trip, backpacking, etc.)

o Day 7- Free Day (focus on self-reflection and direction, possible team building activities.)

Week 1 serves as an opportunity for students to establish a community. Team building activities during orientation are designed to give students a sense of place. The three day Outdoor Activity is crucial to allowing students an opportunity to shed the external distractions of college life. The goal of this week is to allow students the opportunity to focus within themselves and bond with one another in order to set a framework for the work ahead.

Week 2

o Day 8- Continuation of staff and faculty introductions, including personal interests of the faculty and staff. This session of introductions will include individual activities designed by the staff to give students a better understanding of the staff, their backgrounds, and the ways in which they approach the learning process.

o Introduction of mini-projects (explains the ideas and formats). Mini-Projects will be chosen by professors. Each project will be lead by one professor and focus on a specific strand and strength of that professor. Ideas for mini-projects could include:
o Green building activities
o Ecology / Biology of high mountain desert
o Creative expressions
o Economic development: cost / benefit analysis
o Spiritual expressions
o End the day with a sunset hike

o Day 9- Mini-Project #1

o Day 10- Mini-Project #1

o Day 11- Guest Speakers, Storytellers, Outdoor Activities, Spiritual Explorations or Personal Time (Guest speakers will provide real world knowledge of areas that students may find themselves involved in after graduation. These topics will not necessarily be related to project based work. Spiritual explorations would introduce students to ways of self-actualization through nature and place.)

o Day 12- Mini-Project #2

o Day 13- Mini-Project #2

o Day 14- Guest Speakers, Storytellers, Lectures, Outdoor Activities, Spiritual Explorations or Personal Time

Week 3

o Day 15- Mini-Project #3

o Day 16- Mini-Project #3

o Day 17- Guest Speakers, Storytellers, Lectures, Outdoor Activities, Spiritual Explorations or Personal Time

o Day 18- Mini-Project #4

o Day 19- Mini-Project #4

o Day 20- Guest Speakers, Storytellers, Outdoor Activities, Spiritual Explorations or Personal Time

o Day 21- Mini-Project #5

Weeks 2 and 3 are designed to orientate students to the issues in the local community. Through the mini-projects, students will gain a general understanding of local concerns in order to better focus their efforts for the following weeks. The projects involved in these weeks are also designed to introduce students to the idea of project based work.

Week 4

o Day 22- Mini-Project #5

*Advisor shopping and meetings will be determined by a first come, first serve sign-up sheet and must include second choices for advisors. EVERY EFFORT MUST BE MADE TO MATCH STUDENTS WITH THEIR FIRST CHOICE. But some students will inevitably end up with their second choice advisors.

o Day 23- Advisor shopping. (Includes meetings with all potential advisors and mentors and discussion of interests.) This will also include meetings during which students can present questions about the process and get a feel for how professors work in order to determine best fits.

o Day 24- Advisor assignments and initial meetings. – After assignment, students will arrange meeting times in order to discuss in detail the goals and processes for the following weeks.

o Day 25- Identify questions and begin work on contracts. – Students should be prepared with a tentative list of question to explore through their project work.

o Day 26- Identify resources with professors, iron out questions and revise contracts. – During these meetings, students should have a rough draft of a contract that includes a list of necessary resources. (library needs, internet, trips, etc.)

o Day 27- Turn in contracts and self-assessment / expectations. – Self evaluations should include a 2-3 page, detailed self- assessment, expectations and goals for project work.

o Day 28- Turn in contracts and self-evaluations, expectations and goals.

Week 4 is a crucial week during which students solidify the questions they will be addressing during the next 8 weeks. This time also serves as an opportunity to build relationships with advisors, mentors, and faculty. By the end of week 4, students will have an outline of the weeks ahead, a group of staff and faculty to advise them, and a list of resources necessary to accomplish their goals.

Project Weeks-

These weeks will include the following weekly activities:
o Advisor Meetings
o Scheduled Free Days
o Guest Speakers
o Community Meetings
o Bi-Weekly Outdoor Activities
o Staff Meetings

Week 5- Project Work

Week 6- Project Work

Week 7- Project Work

Week 8- Project Work

Week 9- Group Excursion (Possible destinations include: Rocky Point, Mexico, Chaco Canyon, Arizona and Moab, Utah.) NO PROJECT WORK.

Week 10- Project Work / Materialization stage

Week 11- Project Work / Materialization stage

Week 12- Project Work / Materialization stage

Weeks 5 through 12 give the students a unique opportunity to explore issues generated by the community through individualized, project based work. Projects could explore:

o Day care and child care needs within local single parent families
o Issues concerning equitable land development and low income housing
o Environmental impact studies of current and proposed developments
o The effects of development and migration on local art and culture
o Sustainable development and renewable energy options

The culmination of these projects could be initiating day care facilities or local, low income housing projects, or creating detailed reports of the effects of development and globalization on local border communities. Regardless of the final project, all students will have had the opportunity to work within real world environments and face real world challenges within their area of focus. Students will have worked closely with mentors, advisors, and local activists in order to better understand the issues at hand.

In conclusion, students will leave the project based portion of this curriculum with a tangible piece of work through which they will better understand community issues in Patagonia, Arizona. The goal of the center is to send these students back into their own communities with the skills they need to tackle similar issues across the globe.

Week 13-

o Presentations to the Patagonia community, students, faculty and relevant organizations.
o Portfolios and Self-Evaluations due; Final Advisor meetings. – This will include the culmination of project works.

Week 13 will be a chance for students to present their work to the community, and to their peers. Along with the responsibility gained by presenting their work in public, students will also have an opportunity to meet local activists and officials and discuss future developments in the community.

Week 14-

o Four day wilderness trip – This will be focused on a retrospective analysis of the semester. It should include time for self reflection on personal growth along with an opportunity for reflection of the personal bonds formed during the semester.
o Camp Breakdown
o Final Community Meeting
o Departure

Week 14 provides students with time for self reflection on their experiences. Through personal time in nature and sharing stories with other students, they will be able to reflect on the meaning of their endeavors and the possibilities for the future.

The fourteen week curriculum offers students a rare experience to be engaged in local issues by developing individual projects in conjunction with community needs. The practicum learning environment in Patagonia will provide students with real world experiences which they can use to reflect on their responsibilities as global citizens. The program aims to send students into the professional world with the skills to become fully active and engaged in life.