Program offers students in-the-field experience

A student paddles by a glacier in the Alaskan rain forest.

A student paddles by a glacier in the Alaskan rain forest. Photo courtesy of Wild Rockies Field Institute.

The Wild Rockies Field Institute, which offers college course credit for rigorous in the field outdoor classes, had a representative on campus this week to educate students on the program.

The WRFI was created in 1993 and has since had over 700 students in the program. RMFI aims to mix traditional academics with service projects that foster environmental responsibility and critical thinking.

Students participate in courses which vary in length from a few weeks to two months.

One course beginning in May includes an energy production study in Montana, researched through bicycling around the state. Students will meet with climate policy experts at the state capital and visit Glacier National park.

Another course offered this summer will travel through Alaska rainforest, studying the areas ecology.

“We will travel by kayak, hike in the rainforest and camp every night on the beach,” says the WRFI course description.

The courses can offer up to 12 credits for students, and an arrangement with the University of Montana allows students to easily transfer the coursework to their own university.

SOU adjunct instructor Steve Kem is a former instructor from the WRFI and said that taking the courses can be life changing for students.  Kem enjoyed teaching a restoration ecology course in Yellowstone because of the “beauty of the different areas travelled through and the interdisciplinary nature of the academics involved.”

Kem encourages students to give the program a try.

“If you have the chance, go for it. No one will regret taking any of the courses,” Kem said.

Students are accepted into the program on a first-come first-served basis, with a course limit of ten students.

More information about the Rocky Mountain Field Institute can be found on their website.

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