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COLLEGE OF THE CANYONS : Classroom Is Big as All Outdoors

Most college courses never meet outside the classroom. But Winston Wutkee’s geology class at College of the Canyons is one exception.

Each spring, summer and fall for the last 20 years, Wutkee has taken his students on overnight field trips to explore California’s many and varied geological formations.

This year, during spring break, Wutkee and his students will visit Northern California’s Gold Rush country, including Sonora, Columbia and Ebbett’s Pass.

“The trip is a very integral part of instructing,” Wutkee said. “It is one thing to teach in the classroom and show movies. It’s another thing to go there--to see, feel and taste.”

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Summer and fall field trips explore the June Lake and Death Valley areas. The trips generally are two to three days, but are extended depending on the amount of interest among students. Between 100 and 300 people travel in a caravan of as many as 75 vehicles.

Students are allowed to bring family or friends and have a choice of camping or staying in motels. Wutkee estimated the average student spends $200 on a three-day trip.

During this spring’s trip, which begins today, students will view rocks and minerals, collect fossils and photograph specific landforms in the Gold Rush country. Wutkee expects his students to use their photographs as study aids. He also gives spot lectures along the way.

Quite often, students go on Wutkee’s geological expeditions more than once. Keith McLean, who went on his first trip in 1972, has been on a dozen more since.

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“A lot of things Mr. Wutkee pointed out were very relevant to what we had learned in class,” McLean said. He said the trip this weekend will be a vacation.

McClean and other students use citizens band radios during the trip.

The radios “add to the sense of oneness of the trip,” said Mary DeLatorre, geology lab assistant who has also been on several trips. “We can talk to each other and ask questions. You have an understanding of things you are seeing.”

Since the trips are overnight, students cannot be required to go. However, Wutkee gives extra credit to those who do.

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