Five EcoLeague colleges made the list of recommended schools for students looking for “the perfect balance between academics and outdoor activities you can enjoy” according to the article 30 Great Small Colleges for Nature Lovers, featured on Great Value Colleges. Universities and colleges were ranked via a points system that takes into account the number of nature-focused courses/degree programs, proximity to outdoor opportunities, a university’s green status, the campus and surrounding area, and the number of outdoor-oriented sports, clubs and teams.
Here’s what the article has to say about each EcoLeague School:
#15: Within the 155 acres of Green Mountain College’s campus, students will find an organic farm, a ropes course and many hiking and biking trails. This college’s curriculum centers around nature with undergraduate majors like adventure education, animal conservation & care, environmental studies, natural resources management, renewable energy & ecological design, sustainable agriculture & food production and wilderness & outdoor therapy.
If choosing one of those majors is not enough to satisfy your love for nature, you can join any of the many outdoor trips and clubs, such as the outdoor recreation alliance, skate club, Farm Crew, equestrian, the ski shop and more.
Green Mountain became the second college in the nation to become carbon neutral in 2011 after installing a biomass plant, a wind turbine and solar panels.
#21: While Anchorage offers students a vast base of exploration in the wilderness of Alaska, Alaska Pacific University promotes responsible stewardship of the environment through its “Active Learning” program. Students can study the terrain and wildlife of the state through this program with hands-on interactions with their natural surroundings. And Alaska Pacific offers a variety of nature-related majors and minors, like marine biology, outdoor studies, sustainability studies, Earth sciences and environmental science. In fact, five out of the seven undergraduate degree programs deal with nature.
On the school’s 175-acre campus, students can connect to the Anchorage Trail System, which provides 5 km of continuous trails and includes Hillside/Service, Bicentennial Park, Chester Creek Greenbelt, the Coastal Trail and Kincaid Park.
#22: Northland College has a distinctive environmental liberal arts curriculum with a beautiful natural location for nature-loving students to achieve their goals. According to Her Campus, a typical student at this school is described as a “friendly ‘environmentalist tree-hugger’” with a penchant for activism and outdoor activities. A student’s experience at Northland actually begins with a required Outdoor Orientation trip, which consists of five- to 12-day adventures with kayaking, sailing, camping, astronomy-themed backpacking and more.
Northland works with the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute to promote stewardship, identify opportunities, deliver educational programs and facilitate solutions that address environmental issues. The sustainability advances of this school are beyond most on this list.
#23: The College of the Atlantic is said to live and breathe sustainability. The few hundred students at this school are all enrolled in human ecology, which is the study of our species’ relationship to the planet. It was the first school to go completely carbon-neutral in 2007. The school’s teaching methods largely consist of field-based learning and community involvement, making it impossible to stay indoors. The campus surrounds two organic farms and two off-shore island research stations. The campus is situated in the Mt. Desert Island, which is covered by the Acadia National Park.
Incoming students have the opportunity to go on the school’s many outdoor orientation programs, which explore Maine’s wilderness with rock climbing, sailing, kayaking, diving and more. Although the school only offers the one major in human ecology, students have the ability to design that major by choosing different classes in subjects like animal behavior or jazz, rock and blues.
#25: Prescott College is based in a mountain town where rock climbers flock for trad and sport climbing on Granite Mountain; the town of Prescott has an elevation of 5,347 feet. According to Outside Magazine, 60 percent of Prescott students—who self-design their curriculum—choose environmental studies or adventure education. The school also operates a marine research station in Bahia Kino, Mexico.
For those of you nature lovers who like the sound of majoring in adventure education, Prescott’s website explains, “An Adventure Education graduate may be found guiding clients safely up a vertical rock face, forecasting avalanche dangers at a Forest Service avalanche center, piloting a raft on a whitewater river to monitor ecosystem health, or managing logistics and field risks while scientists work on a remote ice cap.”
Students who attend an EcoLeague member college have the opportunity to attend up to two other schools in the consortium for the same tuition as their home school; their financial aid package and other scholarships also apply toward their semester away from home. This means a nature-loving student from Prescott College can round out their degree with a semester spent studying sustainability at Northland College, whale watching during biology class at Alaska Pacific University, or any other number of unique experiences offered by the EcoLeague Consortium.