The power of experiential learning

This post is brought to you by guest INDEVOUR blogger Lucy Hinton from her blog  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Saving the World. 

On Tuesday, June 19 our lovely professor (Dr. Bruce Frayne) took us on a field trip. Now, think back to elementary school. Remember the excitement that came along with a field trip? Same thing with university students. We got on a school bus, and drove out of town to the… wait for it…


Aww yeah. It was great. And if you don’t remember from my previous post about CSAs (found here!) – CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. If you need a little catch-up, it’s all in that post! There was all the excitement about being on a field trip, and double the excitement for those of us in INDEV who are super into food. On the way out we passed a pick-your-own strawberry place, and we started getting more and more excited. I think Canada is this incredibly beautiful country, and summer just makes me so happy. I’m not going to lie, I’m really not the biggest fan of winter. BUT SUMMER. FOOD. SUNSHINE. (I wrote that in an excited craze, and then stopped, because those are really my two favourite things about summer.) And of course all the great things that go along with those: hanging out with friends and family, celebrating anything and everything, being outside all the time, etc.

Back on track. We went to the Garden Party CSA just outside of Waterloo. The owner, Theresa, is currently working on her PhD in Geography at UW. Which gave the CSA a pretty interesting spin. She talked to us a lot about the evolution of the CSA program in Ontario, as well as the research that she’s completed in China. It was really cool to talk to someone who’s so involved on both sides – the physical farming side and the theory and research-based academic side. Theresa spent a lot of time telling us her story, and how that plays into the larger food system. After getting the talk, we got the tour – and then we got to work. (Credit goes to Keith Mai for documenting our field trip – find his blog here!!)

This was a really awesome field trip. In university, we often learn theory but rarely get to practice. I’ve tried to improve my own knowledge by volunteering at another CSA, but let’s be honest. I’ve killed every plant I’ve tried to grow, and have absolutely no idea how to garden or farm. I love the idea, I want to be great at it, but I haven’t the faintest idea where to start. And that’s why experiences like this are so integral to our education. I can tell you what policies have led to the Wheat Board in Canada, or huge ethanol production in America. I can tell you about the history of the Green Revolution, when Monsanto started to get really scary, and that 1/3 of products in your average grocery store have corn in them (NOT just food!).

But this field trip got us out and about. We got really hot, really dirty, and really happy. Experiential learning makes a big difference in the way that people learn, and it often lacks in the university system. So thanks to Dr. Frayne for getting us out there in the field (hahah.. yeah? field?). But really, it makes you think. Experiential learning is what I’m going to be learning for 8 months starting in September. Cool eh? 8 months of getting dirty in the field. Not many other programs in university let you do that. Sure there might be some bumps a long the way, but that’s part of it, isn’t it? We could have chosen an easier program. We could have done development studies where we get to study it out of our books for 4 years. But Waterloo isn’t really meant for that kind of learning. So now we’re gearing up to get dirty, and learn a lot.

If a two-hour field trip can hold this for us, then I’m looking forward to seeing what 8 months will do. Wish me luck!

Peace & Love,

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