The Bethany College writing-intensive interdisciplinary class (Global Positioning: Writing as Place Mapping) attended a geology field trip through a remote area of Kanopolis State Park, Nov. 3, led by Josh Svaty. Svaty’s family has lived in Ellsworth County, Kansas since 1864. Although Svaty is not a geologist by profession, he has inherited his family’s knowledge of the Smoky Hill and Kansas River Basins and has spent his life coming to know the rocks and rivers of this region. Guided by Svaty, Bethany ID students trekked through pastures and wooded areas to see petroglyphs carved in sandstone by indigenous peoples between 250 and 500 years ago. Students also looked for fossils in river sandbars.
“Josh shared a hidden corner of Central Kansas with students; in this place we could see traces of past lives—people who left their illustrated stories on stone, and animal remains which are still here because they have become stone. Josh guessed fewer than 50 people living now have explored this tucked-away area,” says Dr. Kristin Van Tassel, Professor of English and Chair of the Department of English. “It’s special we could be included in that number.”
Svaty is a fifth generation Ellsworth County farmer. He served 3 1/2 terms in the Kansas House of Representatives (108th House District), was a senior advisor to the EPA Region 7, was vice president at The Land Institute in Salina, and is currently running for governor of Kansas.
Van Tassel’s writing students have been using writing to map and analyze their home regions and other places they know. They have also been exploring through writing the relationships between places, spaces, and identities.