By Mary Giunca
Students who take Dr. Eric Frauman’s recreation management classes may find themselves reading such classic environmental writers as Rachel Carson and John Muir, as well as such quirky ones as Dr. Seuss, whose parable of “The Lorax” illustrates the problems caused by deforestation and habitat loss.
“My teaching philosophy is founded on being relevant, engaging and memorable,” he said. “Each day I meet with a class, my primary goal is to tell a story.”
Frauman, who joined Appalachian’s faculty in 2004, is an associate professor in the Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education, an area of interest nurtured by a life outdoors.
A patch of woods near Frauman’s childhood home in South Florida gave him and his brother a place to hike, build forts and develop an appreciation for nature. And, during three summers as a teenager, he followed his parents – both teachers – to Eagles Nest Camp near Brevard where they moonlighted as program directors. There he was introduced to the mountains, fresh water streams and rock climbing, all of which deepened his appreciation for the outdoors.
After college, he moved to California and began frequenting the national parks of the Southwest and Northwest, ultimately pursuing degrees that would enable him to shape a career around his love of parks and the environment.
Frauman’s class, Natural Resources: Becoming an Informed Citizen, was designed to give students the tools they need to make informed decisions about environmental issues and natural resources using outdoor recreation as the primary filter.
The course features a number of field trips to locations such as the Blue Ridge Parkway or Appalachian’s wind turbine. Sometimes Frauman simply walks the class to Durham Park, on campus, to hold class.
“That’s what John Muir would do,” Frauman said. “He’d hold a session outside.”
The class also exposes students to the range of organizations involved with the outdoors. These include everything from local cycling groups to Appalachian Voices, a nonprofit in Boone that fights such practices as fracking and mountaintop removal coal mining. As part of the course, students are required to take some sort of action on an environmental issue, such as writing to a politician they either agree or disagree with.
Frauman doesn’t espouse a singular viewpoint in the classroom. In fact, he’s been known to jump in and argue the opposing side of an issue if there’s no disagreement among students.
He said that he’s more concerned with helping students understand how to be informed citizens, and how to create change. Not all of his students will go onto careers in the environment, but they enjoy being outdoors, and they can still be guardians of the environment.
“In 10 years, I hope they’re making a difference,” he said. And then, thinking like the Lorax he adds: “And I hope they’re speaking for the trees.”
“Each day I meet with a class, my primary goal is to tell a story.”
– Dr. Eric Frauman