Lewis & Clark students venture to Mt. Fuji

Provided by user kimura2 on Pixabay.com

Students analyze lava flows using google earth and ipad minis

Meghan Zea///News Editor

In an effort to further focus the Environmental Studies program on global issues, the Summer 2014 Mt. Fuji study abroad program combined both history and geography with modern tools like iPads and Google Earth.

Initiated by Director of Environmental Studies Jim Proctor, the Northwest Five Consortium program includes other liberal arts colleges in the Northwest, like Reed College and Willamette University, and works to create more globally focused Environmental Studies programs. The Mt. Fuji Abroad program, along with Proctor’s Swaziland study abroad program, focused on encouraging students in Lewis & Clark’s Environmental Studies program to travel outside the United States to do fieldwork.

 Associate Professor of History Andrew Bernstein spearheaded the trip, drawing upon his research for an upcoming book about the multifaceted history of Mt. Fuji. He recruited Associate Professor of Geological Science Liz Safran to join him on a reconnaissance trip during Summer 2012 and she agreed to co-host the program the following summer.

“(The program) was rich and fascinating,” Safran said. “Not just Fuji itself, but Japan and its culture. “Everyone learned a lot because they were supportive and mutually curious.”

The Mt. Fuji Study Abroad trip required the 13 attending students to take 12 credits, including an Independent Study, History of Japan and Environmental Program. Additionally, the students joined in religious ceremonies, toured a toilet paper factory and even climbed Mt. Fuji.

One of the most unique aspects of the independent study aspect was its use of digital tools in the field. In fieldwork groups of three distinct focuses (geology, botany, and history), students analyzed three lava flows on the north side of Mt. Fuji. They documented their work by creating surveys of the land and making maps with Google Earth. Additionally, students blogged about their experience and posted it onto the Imagining the Global website.

Students from a myriad of majors went on the trip, which Bernstein maintains helped add diversity to the trip.

“Students really brought what they learned at LC and shared with the group,” Bernstein said. “I think the Mt. Fuji program was the liberal arts at their best because it was truly interdisciplinary.”

Both Bernstein and Safran maintain that the trip will likely not happen again until Summer 2017.

This article was updated on Oct. 22nd at 17:35 because some of the details of the trip and its associated research projects were misstated:  Associate Professor of History Andrew Bernstein’s book is a multifaceted history of Mt. Fuij, not simply a geological one; The students toured just one toilet paper factory; The students studied three lava flows, not one; The reconnaissance trip was in Spring 2012, not Summer 2013; The third foci of the lava flow research was geology, not geography; and Bernstein described the program as truly “interdisciplinary,” not “international.”  

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