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Canada: SFU professor brings adventure-based learning to the world
an article by Alexander Agnello, The Source (slightly abridged)

SFU chemistry professor, George Agnes, has created a curriculum that give students from 125 schools worldwide the chance to interact with the biodiversity of adventure settings. His longtime interest in exploring demanding and diverse environments is fueling innovations in a youth development project that began with a conversation with physician and Order of Canada inductee, Ewan Affleck.


George Agnes in Altiplano, Bolivia.

click on photo to enlarge

Agnes and Affleck are now both members of impossible2Possible (i2P), a community of field researchers, environmentalists and young professionals, committed to turning a natural environment into a classroom setting. The locations explored, and themes encountered are ranging, but the overarching goals are preserved.

“We want to make students aware of their imprint on an ever- changing environment, with the hopes that they use this knowledge to form a positive impact on the global community,” says Agnes. . .

The relationship Agnes shares with students . . .has the mentorship qualities of a graduate student/senior supervisor relationship, but also differs from this traditional exchange, as expeditions tend to present students and professors with new and unique challenges.

“The connections between the particular geographic location and the chosen theme are further developed as expeditions progress. This could raise topics that are not in one’s area of expertise, but that is in large part what fuels the self-exploration process,” explains Agnes.

As the expedition moves forward, students pass on their fieldwork experience to students in nearby communities, and to their peers back home through classroom stories that are broadcast via satellite communication. The classroom stories are mean to serve as a clear example of what can be gained through experiential learning. But what the program organizers feel really differentiates adventure learning on an i2P expedition from other out-of- classroom experiences are the omnipresent physical challenges students must collectively address, sometimes in order to ensure their safety and well-being. Ray Zahab, i2P founder and expeditions director, says his trek across the Sahara desert is a testament to the importance of collaboration.

“Ray admits that he wouldn’t have survived the Sahara without the support of his team. With the same spirit, our students battle the elements together, convince one another of their own inner strength, and encourage intellectual curiosity,” says Agnes.

Agnes and Morley have reconvened with the i2P group for an expedition to the Lost Coast of Northern California. Morley will take part of the educational team, and will focus on capturing footage of experts and Youth Ambassadors throughout their explorations. Agnes has developed a curriculum that examines the redwood species of trees and marine ecology, with the overall aim of highlighting the connection between terrestrial and aquatic life of the forest at the riparian zones where salmon spawn.

“We will be paying close attention to the stream, particularly the activity of the salmon, in order to better understand those interactions between marine ecology and forest ecology that are crucial to the survival of wildlife in the region,” explains Agnes.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

DISCUSSION

Question(s) related to this article:


How can we encourage people to care for the environment?,

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LATEST READER COMMENT:

Nature is fascinating! Children are walking, or crawling, sponges--starting from scratch--and that's the right time to input the right stuff.
So talk about birds. They are always visible and audible. They call each other, listen to what they are saying. Cheerilee, dee dee, caw caw, and which beautiful songs come from which birds. They are perfect pilots, they swoop and dive and do barrel rolls and never have an accident (unless we do something stupid). Crows marry for as long as they live.
Youngsters' interest is easily piqued but parents have the responsibility to do it (so they might bone up on nature). . ...more.


This report was posted on November 7, 2014.