Community Learning (a new concept that claims students are better learners when they are members of a supportive community) is central to the gap year programs at the Castle Rock Institute. We sponsor semester-long gap year programs that combine a range of outdoor adventure activities, cultural experiences, and college-level courses in the Humanities.
The Castle Rock Institute is an off-campus center for the Humanities affiliated with Brevard College (a liberal arts college in western North Carolina). Each semester it seeks applications from students and scholars from the United States and abroad to live, study and experience the outdoors together. Housed in a lodge set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, the Institute aims to enliven the study of the Humanities both through focused interdisciplinary classwork, international travel, and through organized group outdoor activities. The Castle Rock Institute is dedicated to investigating links between scholarship in the Humanities and the practical dimensions of human life in the natural and social world.
Study and Travel
The Institute encourages interdisciplinary thought and experimentation by focusing each semester on a particular issue, idea or theme drawn from the Humanities. This theme acts as the main topic of discussion and area of research for residents at the Institute. This is a unique gap year programs offering.
All students enroll in four college-level courses taught at Castle Rock by Institute Senior Fellows. Each course meets regularly throughout the semester and awards four hours of college credit. Students also spend several full and half days per week participating in small group activities like rock climbing, backpacking, and paddling. The gap year programs at the Institute strive to balance and integrate scholarship and adventure, and believe that doing so make exceptional contributions to both.
Different from the historical approach of most college Humanities programs, the curriculum at the Castle Rock Institute is organized thematically. Instead of sweeping through a series of "great books," all of the courses offered during each semester at the Institute address a single issue, idea or theme drawn from the Humanities. Accordingly, each class explicitly considers how insights offered by the other disciplines can contribute to an overall understanding of the theme at hand. For example, a semester devoted to the notion of "identity" may consider how the use of masks in African religious rituals or how Maori conceptions of self can inform a New Zealand novel, or can affect the composition of a painting or pencil sketch.
As a complement to its academic mission, the Castle Rock Institute organizes for its residents a variety of adventure activities. The Institute takes seriously the idea that there is a fundamental connection between body and mind, between the embodied practice of lived experience and the more abstract, theoretical concerns of the intellect. It sees, in other words, a mutually reinforcing relationship between direct and intense contact with the natural world (different from other gap year programs) and the scholarly goals central to the Humanities. Focusing on meaningful expressions of this relationship, challenges students to find a balance between real life and their studies.
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