Xavier students participate in sustainability field trip

By: Justin Worthing

Dozens of students from four separate classes attended the third interdisciplinary field trip in Xavier’s sustainability field trip series this past Friday. The event, which took place at French Park, was designed to broaden the educational experience of each student by learning beyond the typical classroom format.

History professor Dr. Kathleen Smythe and economics professor Dr. Nancy Bertaux organized the trip, which was designed to cover different perspectives depending on what class each student is taking. While the history class studied the changes in how the park has been viewed throughout time, the economics class focused on the role of the park as a public good and the economic effects of pollution.

“There really are multiple layers to what could have happened or what has happened (on the trips),” Smythe said. “Even if students aren’t necessarily talking to each other, we’re sort of planting the seed that these trips, these locations, can be learning environments for a variety of perspectives and questions. While discipline is important, it is not the only way we learn.”

The comprehensive tour of the 275-acre park, which was led by naturalist Michael George, included everything from examining some of the park’s fossils to discussing the environmental practices of the Native Americans and pioneers that inhabited the area.  Those on the tour observed the effects of pesticides and herbicides from neighboring developments and the environmental contributions the park makes.

As a part of the sustainability field trips, the tour of French Park is rooted in the idea that education should foster a deeper understanding of the subjects taught and should help people develop a deeper appreciation for sustainability efforts in the Cincinnati community.

“Here you are, you’re in this area for four years.  Where are you?” Bertaux said.  “Sometimes people who are even born and raised here are not even very familiar with what is the ecosystem of this area.  And next to the rainforest, the ecosystem we have here (in Cincinnati) is the second most diverse type of ecosystem in the world.”

Previous trips in this series include a trip to Smale Park on Sept. 27 and a trip to French Park on Sept. 6, and there have been classes from the departments of economics, history, biology, philosophy and education in attendance.

“There’s great value in this kind of education, no matter what your degree is,” Smythe said.  “In some ways, I see them as the beginning of what I hope will be a larger movement at Xavier to kind of carve out time in our academic schedules and our academic classes to talk across disciplines and to use the wider community as our classroom.”

All trips are open to everyone — you do not need to be in one of the courses to attend.  Xavier’s calendar contains more information on upcoming trips, including a spring trip to French Park.