Partnership with The Ecology School provides new hands-on learning opportunities

Thomas Klak is giving his students hands-on learning opportunities through new partnership
Thomas Klak is giving his students hands-on learning opportunities through new partnership

A historic 105-acre farm located next to the Saco River gave UNE students in Environmental Studies new opportunities for hands-on learning.

The farm is home to The Ecology School, a non-profit environmental education program started in 1998. It sits on a protected parcel of land that cannot be developed.

Thomas Klak, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Environmental Studies, took his students there in September for his Sustainable Agriculture and Biodiversity course.

“As someone who is interested in living sustainably, it was very attractive to me,” explained Klak. “I'm practicing sustainable agriculture and working on bio diversification over the long term.”

Students worked on new sustainability projects each week and interacted with employees of The Ecology School to learn about their long-term sustainability vision.

“The theme is collaboration,” said Klak. “The class was learning how to work with other people in order to create something bigger.”

Some of the projects included creating a shiitake mushroom farm, planting a native wild flower garden, restoring the American chestnut tree and removing non-native invasive plants from the forest.

Students were encouraged to get some experience in each of the 10 projects and commit significant volunteer hours outside of class time.

Flynn Willsea (Environmental Studies, ’19) spent most of his time working with the chestnut and shiitake projects.

“The shiitake mushroom project involved creating your own agriculture and showing that it can be easily done,” he stated.  “It's creating your own food in a sustainable way, and that's pretty cool.”

Willsea says in his field of study it’s important to get outside to learn about our environment.

“I love being out in the field learning in that way, actually getting my hands dirty,” he said. “It's way more engaging and the things you're learning really stick with you.”

The projects students started in the fall will continue to provide learning experiences for both UNE and The Ecology School students for years to come.

“They're all educational projects for the future,” commented Klak. “We need to continue monitoring and measuring them. So, we’ll continue carrying them forward and help create a model sustainable landscape.”

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Flynn Willsea (Environmental Studies, ’19) says hands-on learning is more engaging and really sticks with you
Flynn Willsea (Environmental Studies, ’19) says hands-on learning is more engaging and really sticks with you
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Students were encouraged to get some experience in all 10 projects at the farm
Students were encouraged to get some experience in all 10 projects at the farm

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