Field School for Human Geography and E&S Students

Dr. Siobhán McPhee recently received a $29,500 grant from TLEF to fund an undergraduate field school course over the summer term. I sat down with Dr. McPhee to find out how field school could enhance an undergraduate’s educational experience in Geography.

So what exactly is a field school? What would the course(s) be composed of?

Some of the best learning is done by doing, and this is the cornerstone of geographical research. A field school is a course which centres on student learning through direct and real-life experience with the knowledge which they acquire through research techniques and location visits. Specifically the field school will allow students to be exposed to issues of public concern through engaging with local community organisations in BC. The course will run in the 2015 summer term 1 where students will initially take classes, do mini projects and learn about the location they will visit before ending the term with a visit to the chosen location within BC. The course will be assessed through the mini projects the students do, and also through blogs which they create at the end of the trip outlining their research findings and experience.

Why Human Geography and Environment & Sustainability students?

The new Environment and Sustainability stream has been growing in Geography with very valid global concerns for our sustainable futures.  A strong link should however be fostered with Human Geography and indeed Physical Geography, as environmental issues will affect everyone in the future. The field school allows further development of the relationship between Human and Environmental Geography as well as working with colleagues across campus on issues of sustainability and engagement. In linking in with UBC’s 2013 Sustainability Attributes the field school offers students “knowledge, skills and values that lead to discourse on how to foster the mutual well-being of people and nature”.

There are talks that if the program is successful, there could be funding for a 4th year international field school; what would that look like? How would it impact an undergraduate’s overall Arts degree?

We are absolutely going to apply for funding for a 4th year international field school and are already in discussions with Go Global about how they can assist us with this for summer 2016. The format of the international field school would initially be similar to the 3rd year course where students are equipped with necessary research techniques and also a general understanding of the context they are going to study through mini projects and seminars. The summer term course would then end with a trip to the international location where students would meet local groups, interviews people concerned with local issues and generally engage with the context. This will be facilitated through relationships built with institutions and organisations in different international countries. Some initial ideas of locations include: Guatemala, Mexico, Ghana, Senegal, Lebanon, the UAE.

As with the 3rd year course the international field school would give students the opportunity to learn by doing, but also by doing in a totally new context. The objective is to equip students with the skills to be engaged global citizens with applicable skills when they graduate.