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The Nonconformist Class | AMERICA'S COOLEST SCHOOLS

Going green may finally be "normal," but some schools with eco-agendas remain miles from mainstream

By Tim McDonnell

Deep Springs College

Courtesy of Jonathan DeWeese

At most colleges, "manual labor" means taking notes in class by hand. But Deep Springs, on an isolated California ranch not far from Yosemite, was founded on the principle that the best way to learn how to care for the land is to get your hands dirty working it. Forget about plopping down on the couch after a lecture: For the school's 25 students, there's alfalfa to be baled, cattle to be managed, and range to be ridden. "What would be considered work for a hired hand anywhere else, here it's considered part of their overall educational program," says David Welle, the school's vice president.

The administration has shied away from highfalutin green technology like Energy Star appliances, so students set up the solar panels and hydroelectric generator from which the institution draws 80 percent of its energy. Some attendees stay behind after the two-year academic program to serve as full-time "student cowboys." Above, Don Bickmann, class of 2007, herds cattle in Deep Springs Valley.

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