Extreme Physiology Class Connects Students to Outdoors

Hiking along the Frost Hollow Trail in Lackawanna State Park my husband Terry and I found ourselves discussing ways to attract the region’s college students to the enriching outdoor opportunities available in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Janet Sweeney
Janet Sweeney

Terry, Professor and Chair of the University of Scranton’s Biology department, had for several years been teaching a human performance travel course in Arizona – Extreme Physiology. That course capitalizes on the diverse environments of Arizona. Why not design a new course in Northeastern PA that would bring students in tune with all that our region has to offer?

Now, just 10 months later, University of Scranton students have wrapped up the Extreme Physiology, NEPA Edition class, a course made possible through a partnership between the university and the Pocono Forests and Waters Conservation Landscape (PFW CL).

Throughout the four-week summer term, students learned first-hand how aerobic training enhances human performance and health, and they did it by training in some of the region’s most beautiful and challenging environments.

Terry and his colleagues Tara Fay (biology) and Michael Landram (exercise science) delivered the physiological aspects of the course, including laboratory pre- and post-training fitness testing of the students and themselves, often in the early morning before the real workouts began.

Extreme Physiology photo
University of Scranton students and PEC Vice President Janet Sweeney (left) pose for a photo at Lackawanna State Park.

As the external lead for the PFW CL, I set up an Activity Site and Outreach Steering Committee, whose expertise in serving as stewards of Pennsylvania’s natural resources enabled us select the best sites for the courses training activities, while broadening the learning outcomes of the course at the same time.

PFW CL partners made this unique course possible. I reached out to Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) regional advisors and parks and forest managers, local land trust preserve managers, and trail groups to arrange the outdoor class activities and venues, along with speakers and service projects.

Between biking 28 miles from Clarks Summit to Nicholson and back, kayaking on both the Susquehanna River and Peck’s Pond, and hiking in Ricketts Glen and Lackawanna State Parks (to name just a few of the activities), the students were immersed in the natural resources of the region.

In the end, our partnerships were a win-win. In addition to educating students about the synergism of nutrition and training in the enhancement of human physical performance and health, the Extreme Physiology, NEPA Edition course supported the PFW CL’s core goals of conservation, community, and connections.

  • Conservation
    Teaching students about how organizations not only conserve and maintain lands, but also why they do the work that they do.
  • Community
    Engaging the community (students) and educating them on all the wonderful close to home parks, forests, preserved lands, and trails there are to explore in Northeast Pennsylvania.
  • Connections
    Introducing them to the growing trail network in Northeast Pennsylvania and the people who are working tirelessly to build, maintain, and connect these trails.