Feature Article for the Robert Morris College Eagle Newspaper
as it appeared in print in May, 2006

DuPage students collaborate on nature journaling experience

On Tuesday, April 11, 2006, the Cultural Connections Program at the DuPage Campus sponsored a field trip to the Morton Arboretum, which is a nature sanctuary located a few miles from the Robert Morris College DuPage campus. Art and Design instructor, Mary Russell and her Introduction to Humanities course students joined English faculty Gerard Wozek and a group of honors students from his lit-based English 211 classs in this collaborative study.

Wozek said, "I based all of my rading in my short story course around the forces of nature. Students did writing exercises in class to emphasize the thematic power of humankind as it interfaces with the impact of nature. Students also drew images and symbols embedded in the literature that related to nature. When we got to the Arboretum, the class was primed to make connections between the characters in the stories, the outdoors, and themselves. Combining text with image, nature with the human perspective, is a powerful opportunity for our students.

For almost a decade now, Russell and Wozek have worked collaboratively with image and text. They decided to come together and join forces academically for this filed trip because they wanted their students to observe nature and record their findings in journals.

"Nature is the place where students can often really bloom and see their potential manifest. You can't put a price on the kinds of breakthroughs I've seen when students interact in the natural environment. Our class, mostly comprised of hockey students at the DuPage campus, made pinhole cameras and took great pride in creating nature jourals that can really be viewed as works of fine art," said Russell.

Russell and Wozek believe that nature journaling is grounded in the complimentary elements of drawing and writing. The instructors came together to combine class and art forms, so their students could use nature journaling as a learning device.

Wozek said, "Nature journaling can be viewed as a tool for breaking through many disciplines because it combines art with writing, along with science, history, and physical education. Being in nature helps to support one's ability to observe and be more human."

Honors student and first year Medical Assisting student, Melissa Schmidt said, "It's so good to get outside of the walls of the classroom. I felt like I could really apply the lessons we learned in class by physcially being away from campus and in nature."

The instructors and students were thoroughly impresssed with this unique field-based opportunity.

Russell said, "The results were amazing. Students were completely absorbed in their notations and gesture drawings. The drawing elements of the nature journal included some gesture and some blind contour exercises. These exercises were initiated in the classroomm and then taken into the field. The Morton Arboretum provided the students with an opportunity to immerse themselves into the environment and to use their new powers of observation, writing skills and drawing skills.

This month, Russell and Wozek will be presenting a nature journaling workshop to RMC executive administrators, during which they wll be demonstrating methods for incorporating observation, drawingand wriitng techniqes into a more formal work setting. Russell and Wozek feel that the passion they share for their writing and art is something that can be shared with everyone.

This article was written by Tammy Neitzer, DuPage Campus Staff Writer
for The Robert Morris College Eagle Newspaper, May, 2006.
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