Interested in sustainability?
Like thinking about big ideas and then seeing how they apply “in the real world”?
Want to spend some time outside?
Want to learn more about the people and places that make Cincinnati unique?



Consider Bicycling Our Bioregion as your FYS!

For more information, read on! Or, contact Dr. Kathleen Smythe.


Course Description

This experiential course will introduce students to Cincinnati, its larger bioregion, including other towns. Students will participate in seven half-day bicycling history and ecology excursions around Cincinnati meeting a wide variety of people and end with a three-day trip up the Little Miami River valley. Students will also meet once/week (for approximately 10 weeks) to discuss readings and prepare for the bike trips. The course is built on themes prominent in sustainability education, including ways of viewing humans as part of nature. There is a $75 fee to enroll in this course to cover lodging, guest speakers and entrance to historical sites. In addition, students are responsible for necessary equipment (including their own bicycle) while on excursions.


Course Schedule

For fall 2018, the course will follow this schedule: 

August 20 - October 30: M 8:30-11:50 and W 11-11:50
extended trip over the fall break

Why this Course?

This course, like all my courses, comes out of my professional and personal commitment to continue to learn myself. Bicycling Our Bioregion represents my boldest experiment to date in education—combining my love of biking, exercise, and seeing the world at a slower speed with my passion for creating a better world by first understanding who we are as humans, what our past has been like (because of how it shapes us now and in the future but also as a laboratory for what is possible in the future), and how people in different regions are addressing the large-scale economic, ecological, social problems that we face.


Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Our Common Home” notes: “We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes, and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal (202).”


In this spirit, this course will literally require your and my full engagement, something that all pedagogical literature attests to as a highly effective way to learn—incorporating intellectual, emotional, and physical learning (among others). The expectation is that we will all give our full attention to the course for the days that we are together biking and learning. In addition, there will be assignments, readings, and additional meetings to learn about bike safety and to take advantage of related on-campus events.


I have three main questions that drive the course and derive from four layers as a means to understand the history of a place and, thus, our role and potentially different role in it. The four layers are: the region’s ecology (particularly riverine), Native American settlement, early European settlement, and current attempts to promote a more sustainable kind of human settlement.



1.What does it mean to be human and why does it matter for a sustainable future?

2.How are humans and their societies shaped by nature and how have they shaped nature? (civilization and nature)

3.What was the Ohio River Valley landscape like prior to European settlement and how have humans (Native Americans, Europeans and recent generations) shaped it and been shaped by it?  (Ohio River valley landscape and humans)