July 18, 2014 , BY Heather Johns

Welcome to "Cool Classes," a regular feature that highlights the interesting, intriguing and unexpected in the Bucknell University course catalog.

What class? ENST 315: Cold Places

Who teaches it? Professor Andrew Stuhl, environmental studies (@andrewstuhl)

"ENST 315 uses cold as a lens for understanding the human relationship with the world around us. We explore three extremely cold regions — the Arctic, the Antarctic and mountaintops — as they have changed since the 1800s. These changes are both the physical kind — transformations in the landscape — and the ideological kind, the evolution of social thought about them.

"To get more acquainted with the power of cold to shape how we live on earth, we took an overnight field trip in February and camped outside in tents. The temperatures dipped down to 10F. That was pretty cold, but nothing compared to what humans have confronted in the far north, the far south or atop Everest!

"One of my favorite moments came during the field trip's 'solo' activity. Students spent about an hour sitting by themselves next to Buffalo Creek, which was mostly frozen. They were spaced out from one another so they couldn't see anyone else. It was just them, the fresh pack of snow, the winter forest and the occasional gurgles of the babbling brook. They were adequately prepared in terms of gear, with winter coats and pants as well as a ground pad and a fresh Nalgene of tea. For many, this one hour outside in the cold was a lasting memory of serenity, and forged a true connection with nature.

"I think the surprising thing for students is that cold places have a history. Many of us see them as pristine wildernesses or perhaps as void of life. It took a few weeks of the course to get past the notion that cold places are not 'untouched,' and that, for each image of a polar bear or a barren expanse of ice, there is another, more powerful story of people living in the cold. This perspective is critical as cold places become warmer and life on earth shifts in response to climate change."

See what else is being offered by the Environmental Studies Program.

Are we missing out on a cool class? Send your suggestions to heather.johns@bucknell.edu.

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