Professors and students take the classroom to Jasper, Alberta.
Some students learn best through direct, first-hand experience. Earlier this month, the members of the GENS 3401 and GENV 3701 classes at Mount Allison were fortunate enough to gain such a learning experience in Jasper, Alberta.
While the hustle and bustle of orientation week was underway on campus, twenty-four students, along with chaperones Colin Laroque, Michael Fox, Lori Bickford, and Jason Maillet, travelled to Jasper to spend a week studying the natural environments and landscapes the area has to offer. The students partook in day hikes, attended meetings, and collected samples for personal projects.
The objective of these classes is to expose students to the benefits of experiential learning and to provide them with unique experience working in the field. The classes encourage students to develop a project idea that is both relevant and important to the Jasper National Park area. Great care was taken by the chaperones and other guides to ensure that students were exposed to many aspects of the park (physical geography, human-environment interactions, and cultural history) in order to give the students the opportunity to understand the park as a holistic environment.
“Picking my own project was really great in that I was already invested in the topic. Being able to go into the field, develop a question, and learn with others is what learning should be about,” fourth-year student Norma Jean Worden-Rogers said.
Data was collected over a number of days after students determined their projects. Since their return to Sackville, the students who went to Jasper have been utilizing labs and equipment to begin interpretation of their data. All of this experience provides students with a valuable opportunity to learn current and relevant research methods in environmental science and studies.
This experiential learning opportunity has allowed students to participate in discussions, ask questions, and learn directly through the natural environment.
“These experiences allow students to become grounded in what they are learning, something that is impossible to do on any campus,” said Colin Laroque, the professor teaching the GENS 3401 course (research methods in environmental science).
“My job is to be a walking textbook on the hikes,” Laroque continued, “It’s hard for students to not be engaged in what they are learning because it is right in front of them.”
An increased interest in these courses, and other experiential learning opportunities, perhaps illustrates that students seem to be looking for more real-world, hands-on experiences with education.
The projects are currently being completed by class members, and concern themselves with many aspects of Jasper National Park from both a physical and human geography standpoint. In coming articles, some of these projects will be featured, allowing other students to be exposed to the research that is occurring and to promote both of these exceptional classes.
Adam Cheeseman is a fourth-year environmental science major. Read The Argosy to learn more about the Jasper trip.