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Coursework and Research


The coursework for Green Oaks Term begins during winter term after students have been accepted into the program. A half-credit course prepares students for the Green Oaks program through reading and discussion of core background texts.

During Green Oaks Term, students take three regular one-credit courses and one half-credit course: "Natural History of Green Oaks" is taught by a faculty member in the natural sciences; "The Natural Imagination" is taught by a faculty member in the creative and performing arts; and two courses, "Deep Maps of Place" and "Dynamics of Intentional Community" are taught by a faculty member in the social sciences.

Students in each course take part in research projects to be presented in seminars and poster presentations at the conclusion of the term. In addition, the term includes workshops and experiences in relevant topics such as astronomy, photography, first aid, and weather signs.

Students Reflect on Their Final Green Oaks Term Projects

  • "I worked on using GPS and GIS to map out Green Oaks a little bit better. Currently the map we have has different landmarks and incorrect data (like forests where the prairies are or vice versa). So what I did was go out hiking with my hand held GPS unit and take data points at every curve, 20 feet, or drastic change in altitude. After getting the data I needed for the creeks, I went to Knox and used the GIS computer to lay out on top of a satellite photo the data points we had to create a better map."
  • "My final project was a large wooden sculpture, carved from part of a downed white pine tree at Green Oaks. We used a two-person saw to cut the chunk off. I would estimate that the log I used was two and a half feet in diameter. The rest was done with mallet and chisels and then rasps and sand paper once the basic form was completed. I tried to make a flowing, organic sort of form that continues itself all the way around. Generally speaking, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out."
  • "For my course project, I studied the feeding behaviors and habits of the Great Blue Heron at the Green Oaks biological field station. My goals for the project were to determine which species the birds preyed upon most often in Lake Sharvey, determine whether they were still nesting on the Green Oaks property, and identify their common feeding locations. After the ten-week course, I was able to determine where their common feeding areas are and that they are no longer nesting on the Green Oaks site."
  • "For my final project I studied the changes in the cognitive maps drawn by all the Green Oaks Term participants from the time before we went out there until after we had been there for a few weeks. My results showed how our understanding of the spacial layout of Green Oaks improved over time. I really enjoyed looking at everyone's maps, especially the really crazy looking ones they drew when we first started living out there."
  • "I collected a variety of mosses from all over Green Oaks and wove them on a loom of hemp and linen. At first, when I said what I was going to do, people asked how that was going to work. I wasn’t sure either. But it worked. It surprised even me. They were alive and green and living and aging and hanging on the wall. I also put together a portfolio of color and black and white photography, experimenting with the different equipment available to me through the term. I’m not an art student. I'd never taken an art class at Knox. Green Oaks gave me the opportunity to explore my artistic side and truly make my education at Knox a liberal arts experience. "
  • "(Another student) and I studied coyotes for our independent project in the Natural History course. After some cursory observations of the coyotes; scat, tracks, howls, etc., we attempted to estimate the number of groups and their location by the distance and direction of their calls throughout the night. To do this, we camped out at various places on the Green Oaks property. Every two hours between dusk and dawn we used a "coyote caller" to invoke coyote calls. While we did hear some coyotes, there was no significant difference in response to the "caller," and we were only able to get a very general idea of the coyote population size and location. The research project we did for this class was different from other science classes at Knox in that it emphasized the starting point of the scientific method: observation. I am using these preliminary observations as a basis for my honors project on the behavior of the Green Oaks coyotes and the attitudes of local people towards wildlife, especially the coyotes."
  • "My project was focused on reconciling human nature with being a part of nature. I explored this philosophical question through artistic expression. I created a six-foot oil painting that also incorporated poetry that I wrote both prior to and at Green Oaks. I cannot say that I found a conclusive answer to my question of reconciliation. I can say that I felt deeply engaged with the creative process on a level I had not previously experienced. "
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