Students from the land-locked Storrs campus gained a deeper appreciation for New England maritime history by participating in their own sea voyage off the coast of Avery Point this September.
The trip was part of HIST 2210: History of the Ocean, a course co-listed with the maritime studies program, which is being offered on the Storrs campus for the first time this semester. Students in the class explore the cultural, environmental, and geopolitical significance of the oceans, and how the relationships between people and oceans have changed over time due to processes like industrialization and modernization.
“The purpose of the trip is for the students to get some hands-on experience with the ocean to put some of the stuff we’re talking about in class into context,” says course instructor Jason Chang, associate professor of history and director of the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute.
Students tried their hands at traditional nautical chart navigation and learned about lobster traps, plankton trawls, and other commercial fishing methods. They also came face-to-face with some of the marine life that inhabits the Long Island Sound, including clearnose skate, broad claw hermit crabs, and summer flounder.
The tour was led by instructors from Project Oceanology, a marine science education program based in Groton, Conn. The organization partners with local school districts and universities like UConn, and offers opportunities for classes to board their research vessels for guided tours and immersive educational experiences.
“These kinds of activities help give the class more meaning,” says Chang. “Last week we talked about how some of the navigation technologies came about. Getting first-hand experience with them really adds to the backstory.”
The course is also special in that it attracts students from a variety of majors, from environmental studies and biological sciences to English, mathematics, and digital media and design, according to Chang.
“Most of the students are CLAS majors, but ninety percent of our students have some kind of passion about the ocean, whether they sail or they’re from the coast,” he says. “They come from different angles, which is pretty unique.”
“The course is a requirement for environmental studies, but it’s different from other general education courses,” says Anne Longo ’20 (CLAS), an environmental studies and political science major, who’s also a member of the UConn Club Sailing Team on the Storrs campus. “It’s cool to do hands-on stuff…this is so-far my favorite class of the semester.”