"Everyone has their own set of values that shapes them; it’s important that we are encouraged to think for ourselves.” Hearing a classmate’s presentation on Acadia National Park in Maine motivated Natalie Lenoch to apply for a scholarship to participate in “Partners in the Parks,” an outdoor experiential learning program coordinated by the National Collegiate Honors Council.
In the Honors section of the National Parks Geology and Preservation class at Edgewood College, Lenoch learned about geological features and the processes that form them, as well as society’s need to preserve such features and make them accessible to the public. Exploring the historical and political side of the parks’ establishment complimented geological study.
Lenoch said her professor, Sandra Rutherford, has a teaching style that allows “students to think critically, freely, and question material. Information was presented in a way that encouraged us to form our own opinions on the subject matter. Everyone has their own set of values that shapes them; it’s important that we are encouraged to think for ourselves.”
While such reflection prepared her for participation in the Partners in the Park program, she discovered new opportunities for growth through experiential learning.
At the start of the trip, Lenoch - a native of Kansas City, Missouri - had to learn some outdoor skills; she had never set up a tent before this trip. She mastered that skill and quickly progressed to helping lay the sides of a path in the park’s carriage roads. The service learning project provided an opportunity for students to build character and foster growth. During this experience, she said the participants quickly went from 12 strangers to “a group of wonderful women who inspired me.”
The rewarding experiences this trip provided have inspired Lenoch, who is majoring in Business, to visit all the national parks. She’s already visited three and bought her National Parks Passport to document her upcoming journeys.