After a long, arduous school year, students welcome summertime with open arms and are faced with the decision on how to spend it. Some stay in the city, some head back home, some go abroad, and some decide to continue their studies. For students taking summer courses, Loyola offers a different kind of experience at the Retreat and Ecology Campus that does not include sitting at a desk all day, pining for the sunshine.

Senior biology major Emily Sandall is taking Oak Woodland Restoration, one of five summer courses being held on the Woodstock campus. These courses have a very low faculty to student ratio, with most classes hosting 10 or fewer students, and get students out of the classroom and into nature.

“We are trying to restore a small section of land, clearing it of invasive species and hoping to enable the growth of the traditional oak woodland landscape that used to dominate the McHenry county region,” Sandall says.

She and her classmates spend the majority of their day cutting down trees and digging out plants that are not native to the environment. Before taking the three-week intensive course, for which she will earn three credit hours, Sandall had never been to the Retreat and Ecology Campus.

“It’s a great place with many opportunities to get involved in a wide range of projects and really embrace nature.”

Anthropology professor Daniel Amick, PhD, is teaching an archaeology field school at the campus for the second time.

“There is no better way to learn something than by doing it,” Dr. Amick says. “The Retreat and Ecology Campus offers the chance for an intensive course with close faculty-student interaction. I enjoy getting to know the students very personally and watching them grow and develop as careful researchers and helping them bond as a supportive and caring team.”

By means of systematic and careful digging, Dr. Amick and his students have excavated remains of what appears to be one of the first pioneer homesteads in McHenry County. Building upon the research findings of last summer’s archaeology field school, Dr. Amick and his students are fairly confident that the remains are of Christopher Walkup’s homestead, which was established in 1835.

“Our particular contribution is to help develop a sense of place by documenting the long-term environmental and human land use history of this location,” he says. “Caring for the land begins with feeling connected to it and knowing how our relationship to it has changed over time.”

In addition to the hands-on learning experience and picturesque scenery, students and faculty stay in guest rooms, have access to computer and research labs, and eat sustainable, fresh food grown from the on-site student-run farm during their stay.

But, is a Retreat and Ecology Campus summer session all it’s cracked up to be?

“Absolutely!” Sandall says. “If you want to get your hands dirty and really become immersed in a subject, the campus is the place for you.”