Final lectures in ‘Outdoor Education Series’ explore Utah’s national parks

Bryce Canyon National Park, Stock photo | St. George News

CEDAR CITY — April marks the final month of Southern Utah University’s free “Outdoor Education Series” lectures for the spring 2016 semester. Only two presentations remain: Southern Utah University’s “Semester in the Parks” program coordinator Anne Smith on April 7 and Cedar Breaks National Monument Superintendent Ken Watson on April 12.

Stock photo | St. George News
Stock photo | St. George News

Smith’s lecture will focus one of the newest programs at the university that takes place in Utah’s own backyard: Semester in the Parks. The program was modeled after the university’s study abroad program.

In celebration of the National Park Service centennial, Southern Utah University and Bryce Canyon National Park have collaborated to create an opportunity for students and non-students to work, study and live in and around Utah’s National Parks while engaging in field-based learning.

“SUU has made it a priority for all students to have learning experiences inspired by its unique natural surroundings,” Smith said. “We’re excited to offer a new program to help celebrate our national park neighbors’ 100th birthday.”

For the April 12 presentation, Watson — who has been with Cedar Breaks since December — said that rather than focusing solely on what Cedar Breaks has to offer the community, he plans to take a broader look at how nationwide conservation efforts have impacted the ecosystems of national parks.  

“It’s more (about) the protected landscapes and how they help protect the biodiversity that we are protecting as a whole through our public lands,” he said.

The concept and values of protected lands — whether parks or wilderness areas — will be explored, Watson said, explaining that it is important to consider both the tangible and intangible values of why these issues matter in the first place.

“Something simple like clean water and clean air are really tangible values that we get out of that,” he said. “An intangible value might be something where there is a chance to go recreate and re-create yourself — take a break.”

The lecture will have a biological edge to it as progresses, Watson said, stepping back and looking at the broader perspective of how humans impact the biodiversity of the ecosystems within public lands.  

The Outdoor Education Series is a collaborative endeavor between the Southern Utah University Outdoor Engagement Center and biology department in an effort to bring the public a new education series that focuses on the environmental world surrounding Southern Utah.

Half of the series is dedicated to biology discussions every other Tuesday in the university’s science center building, Room 114, at 4 p.m. The other half of the series features a casual “lunch and learn” atmosphere every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. in the Sharwan Smith Living Room.

“On occasion, extension activities are planned for the weekend following a lecture to apply practical application,” Outdoor Education Series Coordinator Ashley Starr said in an email.

Attendance at “Outdoor Education Series” lectures can range from eight to 30 people of all ages. Audience participation is encouraged through rhetorical questions, hands-on activities, probable scenarios, printouts and post-lecture question-and-answer discussions.

The series will continue until April 12, offering Southern Utah University students, faculty and staff — as well as the general public — an opportunity to learn more about the natural playground available in the region.

Event details:

  • What: Outdoor Education Series lecture: “Semester in the Parks Intro” | Biology seminar: “Public Lands Conservation and Biodiversity”
  • When: April 7 at 11:30 a.m. | April 12 at 4 p.m.
  • Where: Sharwan Smith Living Room, Southern Utah University campus | Southern Utah University Science Center, Room 114, Southern Utah University campus
  • Both events are free and open to the public


Semester in the Parks:

  • Registration is open to students and non-students interested in the program
  • Registration closes April 15
  • See website for registration information

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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