by Katelyn Draper
Last summer, Environmental Studies Professor William Nelson and History Professor Thomas Horton took students on a five-week course exploring the open waters of the Delmarva Peninsula, engaging with local artists, politicians, park rangers and American Indians.
“We want to immerse the students in the different worlds of the bay,” Nelson said.
Nelson and Horton will host the second “Exploring Delmarva- A Water’s-Eye View” kayaking class this summer.
The ten students “lived by the rise and fall of the sun,” said environmental studies major Amy Bennett, who participated in the course last year. The kayakers began each day at sunrise with a quick breakfast while packing up camp, loading the kayaks and heading out to learn from a speaker at lunch.
The speakers not only had a rich background in and a passion for the local environment, but they lived off the land and water. Thomas Nordhoff, a waterman on the upper peninsula, brought the students alongside his average day catching snapping turtles.
“The class was really based around the culture, natural environment and essence that makes up the Chesapeake Bay,” said junior environmental studies major Victoria Bauer.
Bauer will be returning this summer as a student helper.
Students witnessed firsthand the issues that the different locations experience by studying nets, boats, wildlife and pollutants.
On one particular day, the students harvested the fading eelgrass of the Virginia Barrier Islands. Bennett said she felt like they were making a difference as they jumped into the water with Bo Lusk from the Virginia Coast Reserve Nature Conservancy and said it was a highlight of the trip.
At the end of a long day, the students set up camp at a park, riverfront or even an island with hopes that high tide wouldn’t overtake their campsite. The group would discuss the day over a soft crab sandwich cooked over the campfire.
Students would have down time during the day to dive into weekly readings and write in journals about their experiences, sometimes presenting them at dinner. The journal entries were combined into a final presentation during the fifth week.
With a 360-degree view of nature, no cell phones and vast miles of open water, the students learned things simply as a people.
“This class helped me discover that I have found a home in the Chesapeake Bay,” Bennett said. “I can feel a connection to the land different to that which I feel to my home state.”
Whether it was finding confidence in a major, a desire to make the world a better place or even a new home, students came back to Salisbury University very much changed.
Students of all majors can apply for the course, which fulfills Environmental 460 and 495. Dates and costs are yet to be determined for this year.
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