GROWING AS LEARNERS
We take writing seriously at the OE, and we take time to enjoy the writing process. Skilled writing students find ample opportunity to work on their craft and to receive feedback, while those who are intimidated by writing often find themselves growing more confident in their written work because of the practice and the individual attention they receive.
While the project culminates with a research paper and a small group presentation, just as important are students' broad reading and their daily meetings with a faculty advisor.
Each project begins with students selecting a topic that provides credit in the academic discipline desired. Students may select from topics suggested by faculty members or design a project in coordination with the OE faculty and their home school advisor.
During the project period, we do not meet for classes. Students dedicate each day to reading about their chosen topic.
For up to an hour each day, students meet privately with their faculty advisor to engage in conversation about their work, ask questions, and receive guidance.
At the end of this period, students write a paper exploring some aspect of their thinking on the topic they have chosen. They spend two days revising and editing, in response to their faculty advisor's suggestions.
The project period ends with several days of small group presentations, where students lead discussions on their research with their peers and a faculty member.
In Segment Three, "What Is a Sustainable World?," we do something different. After one week of core readings and discussion, students elect to work in small group "skill tracks" under one of the professors. The track options are:
Sustainable Business and Social Entrepreneurship
Toolcraft: Making and Fixing
Sustainable Forestry, Conservation and Restoration Science
Each of the tracks is approached as a craft to be practiced, with an emphasis on doing the craft, working one's way into a coordination of mind and body that is known as "tacit knowledge," and coming to understand it as a way of practicing sustainability. There will be some reading and discussion to reflect philosophically on the skills being practiced, but most of the time will be devoted to honing the skills themselves, making habits out of very complex actions.
The list below illustrates the diversity of topics chosen by our students for study during the research project portion of our month-long courses. They are offered only to stimulate your own imagination.
-Water wars in the Klamath Basin
-Christopher Alexander's human-centered architecture
-Hieronymus Bosch and the apocalyptic imagination
-Media representations of the Iraq War
-John Muir and the American wilderness movement
-Globalization and its discontents
-The material culture of Christianity
-Shusaku Endo and Elie Wiesel on human suffering
-Friendship as a philosophical virtue
-Jacques Ellul and the reign of technique
-The biophilia hypothesis
-Albert Camus and French existentialism
-Antecedents of the Syrian civil war
-How do institutions think? Hugh Heclo and Robert Bellah
-Oliver Sacks’ studies of brain disorder
-Moral idealism in the fiction of Iris Murdoch
-Loren Eiseley’s Darwinian naturalism
-Jean Vanier and the theology of human brokenness
-Unintended consequences of the war on crime