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Sustainable Urban Adventure

This page is authored by Tom Beery, University of Minnesota Duluth. The activity is used in the course, Outdoor Skills.
University of Minnesota-Duluth, Center for Environmental Education
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Summary

In this field based activity students explore Duluth Minnesota in an effort to get acquainted with the community beyond the campus and to experience accessible recreation on a nationally recognized hiking trail. The adventure relies solely on bus and foot powered transport in an attempt to both encourage student exploration of the city's unique nature-based outdoor recreational opportunities, and also to emphasize the unique value of collective transport.

Students ride the city bus to the downtown hub, transfer buses and ride to a trailhead of the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) located in the middle of the city. Small groups then hike the trail, a climb of approximately 400 ft. (122 m.) and 3 miles (5 km) distance. Along the hike students discuss various course topics such as Leave No Trace ethics, the SHT, proper hydration and nutrition for active recreation, etc. while also stopping to observe and discuss significant natural and cultural features, e.g. a stand of Jack Pine, a view of Lake Superior and the St. Louis River, the geomorphology of the Duluth/Superior Harbor, outcroppings of the Duluth Gabbro Complex, history of Enger Tower, homeless residents use of public space, etc.

Learning Goals

1. Students learn how to access and use the free Duluth Transit Authority buses.
2. Students become aware of how both cultural and natural elements are key components of place.
3. Students are able to recognize the landforms of the Duluth Harbor as a synthesis of geomorphology and cultural heritage.
4. Students reflect upon how nature-based outdoor recreation can be a part of sustainable behaviors.

Context for Use

This course and activity are designed for freshman and sophomore students at a mid-sized public university. Each class group is ~25 students and hiking groups are divided into smaller groups of no more than 7 students per. The field experience lasts for approximately 3.5 hours and is not contingent upon specific course skills or previous knowledge. The site specific content of the activity would be impossible to situate in another setting, however, the theme of exploring accessible nature-based outdoor recreation is highly adaptable for other settings.

Description and Teaching Materials

1. Students meet at the transit hub of the Kirby Student Center.

2. Students ride the city bus to the downtown Duluth transit hub, transfer buses and ride to a trail head of the Superior Hiking Trail located in the middle of the city.

3. Small groups then hike the trail, a climb of approximately 400 ft. (122 m.) and 3 miles (5 km) distance.

4. Along the hike students discuss various course topics such as Leave No Trace, the Superior Hiking Trail, proper hydration, etc. while also stopping to observe and discuss significant natural and cultural features, e.g. a stand of Jack Pine, a view of Lake Superior and the St. Louis River, the geomorphology of the Duluth/Superior Harbor, outcroppings of the Duluth Gabbro Complex, history of Enger Tower, old ghostscapes, etc. Some topics and background information are provided, but time is reserved to address topics that each group spontaneously experiences, e.g. a homeless resident living in a tent along the trail, a flock of cedar waxwings feeding, broad winged hawks kettling in migration, vandalism on exposed bedrock, a startled red fox darting away from the group, etc.

5. Midway through the hike all groups gather to learn the history of Enger Tower, to observe a formation of the Duluth Gabbro Complex, to enjoy the amazing view of the Twin Ports and Lake Superior, and to consider other topics from the hike.

6. After the large group discussion, small groups break away again and continue to hike along the SHT until arriving at a return bus stop.

Teaching Notes and Tips

A risk assessment form (RAMS) should be completed prior to the activity.

Assessment

Assessment is based largely on the outcomes previously noted and is administered via a short reflection conducted one week after the activity.

References and Resources

1. Superior Hiking Trail

2. Geology and Natural History Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail

3. Leave No Trace

Author Notes

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