Students take learning out of classrooms and to the outdoors


The brilliance of the Rockies takes your breath away as you climb the winding roads into the Rocky Mountain National Park. You reach for your cell phone to take a picture and remember that you’ve left it at home on purpose. No distractions on this trip. That’s not what this is for. You’re seeking inspiration, and understanding. You’re learning. This is not vacation, this is class.

Outdoor Semester 2009 is currently seeking students who want to be part of an educational experience like this.

Since 1995 Missouri Western has offered Outdoor Semester, a set of classes concentrated on human being’s relationship with the natural world.

The multidisciplinary course is not just fun. In fact, 12 weeks will be spent inside classrooms.

Students will study sustainability and alternative forms of energy in Sustainable Energy, GEO 340. Environmental Literature, ENG 210, will be required as an English course. Students many also choose from a short list of other courses, with online substitutions available. Substitutions include: Fitness and Wellness PED 101, Introduction to Psychology, PSY 101 and Writing and Research, ENG 108.

“Students ideally take all courses together,” said Dr. Elizabeth Latosi-Sawin, Outdoor Semester director and professor of English at Western.

She explained that this is an effort to create a learning community and helps faculty to build class work around each other. In addition, it keeps students from missing other classes while they are on the field trip.

“It has been one of the most creative ways to do general studies,” Sawin said.

Students who have completed general studies should contact Sawin as there is some flexibility with scheduling. Some professors will allow students to take independent studies courses in place of classes they have completed. Sawin explained that the semester is better fit for freshman and sophomore students, but has had seniors participate.

This year’s field trip will take students on the road to Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone National Park for a total of 13 days.

Students will enjoy hiking and white water rafting trips led by park rangers while visiting the national parks.

In past years students and faculty tent camped in parks. This year they will be enjoying cabins in both of the parks.

“You’ll never forget this experience. It may likely be the highlight of you college career,” Sawin said.

She wishes there would have been a program like this available when she was a student.

Sawin is the contact person for Outdoor Semester 2009. She can be contacted at

A $125 deposit is due by April 20th. The trip costs $1,150. This is in addition to tuition and normal student fees. Payment arrangements can be made. Payments can be made until September.

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