Acknowledging that physical wellness can take many forms, the PE department should move to include a PE/101 Invasive Plant Management class in the Spring 2024 catalog. This proposed course would focus on removing invasive English Ivy on campus as an outlet for students to be active outdoors in a way that also contributes to our campus community.
Left unchecked, English Ivy chokes out surrounding biodiversity and threatens the livelihood of our trees. Students in biology courses have studied the spread of ivy, documenting its takeover of forested areas around campus. However, past management efforts at Lewis & Clark have shown the immense potential for increasing forest biodiversity following the ivy’s removal.
Establishing a PE course would contribute to mitigating the ecological threat posed by ivy, while also providing an alternative way for students to fulfill this graduation requirement. Stripping ivy from trees and pulling up ground ivy is physically demanding work that builds upper body strength. On top of that, studies including one from the National Center for Biotechnology Information have shown that exercising outdoors creates additional physical and mental health benefits like improved mood and a reduced perception of physical effort.
An ivy-pulling class would include stretching, physical labor and taking care of your body while working outside. The instructor would teach about the impact of ivy, how it spreads, as well as the wellness benefits of being active outdoors.
From our own experiences as LC’s student representatives on the Tryon Creek Watershed Council (TCWC), we have seen how satisfying removing ivy can be. Clearing an area of ivy is arduous, yet oddly therapeutic, as each action contributes to a tangible impact on the landscape. Pulling ivy with a group, even for just an hour a week, quickly creates camaraderie and a sense of pride in the work accomplished. TCWC, which works closely with the LC community, has already helped to engage interested students in invasive plant removal work, providing a framework for future efforts.
While we typically imagine physical fitness as taking place in a gym or on the track, these sorts of activities do not appeal to everyone and represent only one approach to fitness. We call for a more holistic approach that addresses the specific desire for a PE course that focuses on community and sustainability-centered outdoor work. Polls of students by SEED (Students Engaged in Eco Defense) have shown strong interest in our proposed ivy removal course as an alternative to more traditional options.
SEED and future TCWC student representatives will continue to push for an Invasive Plant Management PE course to create an alternative way for students to engage with physical and mental fitness during their time at LC.
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