Experiential Learning

A four-year pathway

Students in the Department of Natural Resources Science work with a coordinator and an academic advisor to set their objectives and goals, and then select up to 24 credits of experiential learning courses, as well as taking courses with hands-on labs. Each student produces a Professional Development Portfolio that includes a statement of goals, an experiential learning curriculum plan that the student has formulated, and examples of academic work. Below you’ll find an overview of the opportunities, in addition to forms and instructions.

First year

All students who have declared an NRS major will participate in a special one-credit course, NRS 101, Issues and Inquiry in Natural Resources Science, held during the last 7 weeks of the fall semester, following completion of URI 101. Students are introduced to the research and outreach of the department, and gain exposure to inquiry-centered learning while they get to know the faculty. Students will also begin to formulate their Professional Development Portfolio with the guidance of the experiential learning coordinator.

NRS 101 includes a day-long field experience in late fall. During this inquiry-intensive experience, students will actively participate in two- to three-hour modules on various NRS topics such as:

  • interpreting soil profiles
  • introduction to field ornithology
  • forest ecosystem processes
  • ecology of soil microbes
  • a primer on wetland ecology
  • citizen water quality monitoring
  • introduction to New England’s mammals

Second year

During their sophomore year, students will be required to formulate:

  • a dynamic plan of possible experiential learning opportunities that the student hopes to participate in to fulfill their educational objectives;
  • a program evaluation statement from the NRS experiential learning coordinator, along with the signatures of faculty members associated with the student’s planned program of study.

Students are allowed to develop an Experiential Learning Curriculum Plan with a maximum of 24 credits of experiential learning courses outside of the classroom. The approval process helps faculty anticipate the number of students working in labs, teaching practicums, and field research projects.

During the fall semester of their sophomore year, students take the Seminar in Natural Resources, NRS 200, which provides an overview about possible careers in natural resources and career pathways to aid them in the formulation of their Experiential Learning Curriculum Plan.

Also during their sophomore year, students have their first opportunity to participate in a research or outreach project through NRS 395, Natural Resource Research Apprenticeship, or NRS 397, Natural Resources Internship. NRS 395 allows students to be active participants in laboratory and field research conducted by NRS scientists. NRS 397 provides students with supervised work experience in natural resources management. The number of students participating in NRS 395 and 397 depends on the availability of opportunities with researchers and internship supervisors.

Third and fourth years

In the junior and senior years, students review and revise their Experiential Learning Curriculum Plan as necessary, while adding to their Professional Development Portfolio. The plan varies depending upon the needs and desires of the individual student and the availability of experiential learning opportunities. Students will complete senior-level courses with hands-on labs and a capstone course requiring evidence of ability to synthesize information from a number of academic areas and the completion of a real-world project.

With an advisor’s consent, exceptionally strong students might elect to propose a project leading to a Senior Thesis (NRS 499). The Senior Thesis is intended for those students who have a demonstrated desire to pursue an extensive and focused topic in research, outreach education, or teaching.