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New Wilderness Institute Comes to LTCC

Cory Fisher

Holistic learning, or an awareness that everything interrelates – that’s the wave of the future in education, according to Brian Stricker.

“More people are making connections among the different disciplines,” he said. “That perspective is enabling us to create learning experiences that are unlike anything we’ve seen in the past.”

As one of three coordinators, Stricker said an integrated, experiential approach to learning will be the foundation for the Tahoe Wilderness Institute, a pilot program offered in July through Lake Tahoe Community College.

Using the wilderness as a common theme, students will spend six days in the basin’s backcountry exploring geology, wilderness literature, field biology, art, ecology, eco-psychology, backcountry navigation and mountaineering – all with a little backcountry gourmet cooking thrown in. Strong emphasis will be placed on minimal human impact, or “leaving no trace.”

“It’s not just dry academics,” said Stricker. “The course will be very hands-on, along with fostering a sense of community.”

Open to anyone prepared to carry a backpack two to five miles a day, the course is generally geared for those in their teens or older.

“The diverse, experiential approach will definitely keep people’s interest,” said co-coordinator Shawn Butler. “I think the collective experience will be something students won’t forget.”

In addition to recruiting guest faculty members, the institute’s three core instructors – Stricker, Butler and Dimitri Keriotis – bring with them strong academic backgrounds and a wealth of backcountry knowledge.

Stricker holds a master’s degree in social work and has worked as a wilderness therapist for the past 12 years. With Butler, he has co-taught Sierra Wilderness Experience, Outdoor Wilderness Recreation and Nordic Downhill Skiing at LTCC.

Butler, who co-taught Wilderness Literature, holds a bachelor’s degree in Parks and Natural Resources and has worked as a wilderness ranger. He now works for the California Tahoe Conservancy. Both he and Stricker are certified emergency medical technicians.

Keriotis, who teaches various LTCC English and literature courses, spent time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire and Bolivia. He is currently working toward his master’s degree in literature and environment.

“We want to break down the literature barriers that academics have set up – literature is not just for intellectuals,” said Keriotis. “We want to explore society’s separation from wilderness and why it’s such a shock for many of us to go back out in the wild.”

In the wake of the college’s successful Spanish Institute, future goals for TWI include expanding course offerings and drawing students from a wider geographical area, said Butler.

“Our intent is for students to not just learn academically, but to learn how to take care of their basin,” said Stricker. “If we are the ones to introduce people to the wilderness, we want them to value where they are and treat the Tahoe Basin as their home.”

Students may earn 3.25 units in credit through the Wilderness Institute. Those interested are encouraged to register through the college as soon as possible, as the course is limited to 30 pupils. In addition to regular tuition fees, there will be a field trip fee of $45. Two mandatory orientation meetings are scheduled prior to departure on July 14.

For details call 542-4584 or 577-0826.


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