Tag Archives: Saint Joseph’s College

The Power of Immersion: Why the Environmental Science Semester Works

People have heard of experiential education.  This is the educational practice in which learning is enhanced and made meaningful by engaging with and working with the subject matter, as opposed to just reading or hearing about a topic.  The Environmental Science Semester takes experiential education to a new level and requires a different name. We’re calling it immersion education–students are immersed off campus and in the field only in the study of environmental and marine science topics for ten weeks.  

Students will live and breathe glacial geology, climate science, marine ecology, and oceanography day in and day out.  It will seep into their pores.

The immersion educational experience has led previous ESS participants to report that they not only remember and understand so much more of what they’ve learned on the ESS compared to normal classes, but they can also remember when and where they learned most of it.  

When I return in October, I won’t return with the same students I left with.  They won’t be the same people – they will be transformed into confident students and practicing scientists who have shared an experience that bonds them to each other and to our team of faculty for a lifetime.  

We’re off on another ESS!  And I couldn’t be happier!

         Dr. Johan Erikson


Bog Brook Cove and Quoddy Head

The gang at the iconic light house at Quoddy Head State Park. The most eastern point in the United States.
The gang at the iconic light house at Quoddy Head State Park. The most eastern point in the United States.


Just doing a little rock climbing. From the left: Andrew M., Nhu V., Ayla R., Matt P., and Alana D.
Just doing a little rock climbing. From the left: Andrew M., Nhu V., Ayla R., Matt P., and Alana D.

On Wednesday afternoon, after being literally distracted by “Wild Blueberry Land“, we arrived at the trail head for our 2-3 mile stroll along the Norse Pond Trail. We arrived at one of my favorite classrooms of the day (of the trip for that matter) – Bog Brook Cove. The trail led out to a beautiful cobble stone beach with lapping waves. Prior to class, the group broke off in various directions to explore. Some of us went swimming while others searched for rocks with intricate designs and patterns. It could not have been a nicer day for the beach: the sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, and our minds were wandering. When Dr. Erikson reeled us back in, we sat down for a lesson. We learned about nonconformities in rocks, remnants of glaciers, and how sea level affects the topography of an area. Things such as drop stones, marine clay, the size and location of cobbles, and different layers of sediment. We later finished the day with an exhilarating trip to Quoddy Head State Park – the eastern-most point in the United States. After a few group photos, the majority of the group took off over the fence and scaled the cliffs. Fun fact: In 5 days we’ve eaten 12 loaves of bread, 7 lbs cheese, 10 lbs of deli meats, and 55 ounces of pretzels.

-Alana Dougherty

Prepare to Launch.

SJC 3pms logoStart time and place.  We will meet between 8:00 and 8:30 on Saturday morning, Aug. 16.  Our gathering spot is the Maine State Pier in Portland.  This is the pier at the Casco Bay Ferry terminal on Commercial St. in Portland, and it’s where the schooner Bagheera is tied up.  We’ll be on Bagheera for two weeks at the beginning of October, so this is your chance to see her before we actually get on board.

We’ll have light breakfast food available (including coffee and juices), so if you find that getting here is a bit hectic, you will have a chance to fuel up here.  Parents/guardians/etc. are certainly welcome to come (and there will be sufficient food for them).

Parking is challenging near the Maine State Pier, so I recommend that you pull in, drop off your stuff where you see me and our group, then go park the car (if you have parents/guardians/etc. wishing to see the group before departure).

If you have a spare bag with extra clothes, etc., that you want to NOT take for the first month or so of the ESS, then this is the place where you’ll drop it off.

This is also the spot where you’ll return to at the end of the ESS (actually, it will end over on Peaks Island, but this is a logical pick-up spot) on Saturday, October 18.