Community Learning is central to the general mission of the Castle Rock Institute. We sponsor a semester-long study program for college students that combines a range of outdoor adventure activities and 300-level courses in the Humanities. This is a unique outdoor education program. Unlike other outdoor education programs, the Castle Rock Institute semester program has a significant academic component.
An Alternative to Ordinary College Life
The Castle Rock Institute is an off-campus research center for the Humanities newly affiliated with Brevard College (a liberal arts college in western North Carolina). An outdoor education program, it seeks applications from college students and scholars from the United States and abroad to live, study and experience the outdoors together for a semester. Housed in a lodge set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the Institute aims to enliven the study of the Humanities both through focused interdisciplinary classwork, 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. By eliminating the ordinarily compartmentalized nature of ordinary college life, this program demonstrates what an integrated and meaningful college education can be.
The Institute's outdoor education program encourages interdisciplinary thought and experimentation by focusing each semester or theme drawn from the Humanities. This theme serves as the main topic of discussion and area of research for residents at the Institute.
A Full Semester of Academic Credit
Visiting students enroll in four 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. Through this outdoor education, the Institute strives to balance and integrate scholarship and adventure, and believes that doing so can realize significant benefits for 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 French Existentialist conceptions of self can inform a Jane Austen 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 outdoor 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. Like the best learning, it sees, in other words, a mutually reinforcing relationship between direct and intense contact with the outdoor world 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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