Field Tripping

Posted: October 16, 2012

Ag Sciences field trips offer real-life settings to test out what you learn in class.
A hill behind Medlar Field where we profiled our landscape--trust me, this is way steeper in real life.

A hill behind Medlar Field where we profiled our landscape--trust me, this is way steeper in real life.

While it’s true that there are many great colleges within Penn State, I think the College of Ag Sciences has to take the cake with fun classes. Besides subject matter, which naturally interests me, and labs which deal with real situations rather than just separated chemicals in vials, our classes usually get what the others don’t: field trips.

We have a private bus station in front of the Berkey Creamery and our own collection of blue school buses to take us all over the area, and my professors have certainly taken advantage of these resources, even for the most basic courses. And the best part is that I’ll have plenty more to come.

This semester, one of my classes, Soil and Water Resource Management, has had us traveling around campus and Centre County. From the first lab, in which we did our first landscape profile survey, measuring various elevations around Ag Hill and receiving many amused looks from passersby, I knew this would be a good class. The following week took us to a hill near Medlar Field, the baseball field behind Beaver Stadium. There we did the profiling as we had before, only this time in a much steeper, more difficult setting. It was rewarding to measure elevations in a quarter-mile loop and come within a tenth of a foot of accuracy. From the class’ results, we even discovered that the United States Geographical Survey had actually incorrectly measured some of the landmarks!

A few weeks after this, Dr. Brandt (our professor) took us outside once again. We went a ways out of State College to the site of Ag Progress Day in the summer, an annual university-hosted event that presents farmers with the best technologies and practices they can employ. For our class, however, the location had plenty of working demonstrations of runoff capture and erosion prevention for us to check out. And it’s really cool to see the devices you learn about in class working, successfully, in reality. The calculations aren’t just numbers--they create things that help and protect both farms and urban environments. Still to come is our field trip to stormwater basins. Maybe to some people it’s not the most exciting thing, but to me, it’s fascinating to see and understand the concepts I learn realized.

For any Ag Sci class, I think field trips serve to inspire us in our careers. Not only do I learn about the industries and sciences my studies are applied to, but also get that realization of relief that I can do this! For example, that Landscape Profile Surveying showed me that I could use analog equipment just as well, if not better, than the professionals use their high-tech equipment. That can brighten anyone’s day.