Surviving 1607

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Would you be able to survive the year 1607 as an early colonist?

Last Friday (February 14), undergraduate students enrolled in ENGL 381 “American Survey I” with Associate Professor Steffi Dippold took a field trip to the Flint Hills Discovery Center to answer that question.

American Adventure,” on exhibit until May 10 in the Tallgrass Gallery, offers “an immersive, role-play adventure”:  to “survive the year as one of the original colonists.” Though only “38 of the 104 colonists survived” that year, visitors may fare better, depending on the choices they make.

Individual “Life Charts,” based on the names and occupations of the original colonists, allow visitors to track their well-being in terms of health, food, wealth, and morale as they navigate the four seasons of the exhibit’s year.

Based on the photos, the students in ENGL 381 seem on track to survive at a greater rate. Without question, their visit offered perspective on the literature and culture of the period beyond what classroom conversation and reading alone could provide.

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We’re grateful to donors like Connie Stamets and Brice Tarzwell, whose contributions to the English Department allowed us to cover the full cost of admission for all of the students to experience the exhibit and, in the process, to support a local cultural institution, the Flint Hills Discovery Center.

As students remarked after the field trip, “We survived — who knew morale would be so important?” (Haley and Luke), “Like real-life Oregon Trail with less dysentery” (Zoey and Maddie), “I couldn’t have drowned in an icy river without you!” (Lorna), and  “Dying has never been so fun!” (Abel and Hannah).

Our thanks to Connie and Brice — and to Steffi Dippold for including the exhibit in her lesson plans for ENGL 381!

Karin Westman, Department Head

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