Whale Tales

Students study nature writing and global change during trip to Mexico

Above: Students and faculty in Randolph’s Journaling Global Change course get an up-close look at a gray whale while boating off Baja California Sur.

After having their whale watching expedition postponed twice, a group of Randolph College students and faculty members eagerly watched from two small boats as a huge gray whale swam toward them in the mirror-calm waters of Magdalena Bay.

“She started coming closer to the other boat,” said Lee Nutter ’13, one of the participants in Journaling Global Change, Randolph’s winter international study seminar in Baja California Sur. “She swam right under their boat, pulled her tail out of the water, and practically waved at us!”

The gray whale encounter was just one of the highlights of the trip, which was part of an interdisciplinary course that emphasizes creative nature writing and journaling as a way to study global change science. The students, along with Karin Warren, an environmental studies professor, and Laura-Gray Street, an English professor, spent part of the winter break studying the geology, climatology, ecology, and culture of Baja California Sur.

“This kind of study course is so much more than just travel to an exotic location,” Warren said. “It is hands-on learning. It fosters intercultural awareness, and it motivates the thinking and action that we need in addressing global issues.”

For Justin DeSmith ’12, seeing firsthand another culture’s efforts to use sustainable practices was eye opening. “It’s from these seminars that students can learn from experiences that they simply would not be exposed to in a classroom,” the environmental studies major said.

Nutter, who plans to double major in English and environmental studies, said the experience blended her interests in writing, animals, and the environment into one three-credit course.

“This trip removed any doubt in my mind that I have chosen the right career path,” she said. “This trip may have been for college credit, but it was so much fun that it felt more like an epic adventure.”