Field Experience

Explore, study, and apply academic content in a purposeful way outside the classroom through short-term field trips and/or field-work (less than 20 hours) or intensive and immersive long-term field-work (21+ hours) within Canada.

Field Experience at Brock

Consider these examples of field experiences designed by faculty and instructors at Brock.

Instructor: Dr. Frank Fueten, Professor

Course: ERSC 3P99 – Field Camp-Solid Earth

Program: Earth Science, Environmental Geoscience

10 Days in the life of a field geologist

Life as a field geologist is very different from any typical office job. Chances are you will be flown into a remote location where you will live and work with a small group of people for weeks on end, likely sleep in tents, and your daily commute may involve a trip in a helicopter to your field site.  It is simply not possible to duplicate this experience in a University course, but the ERSC 3P99 Field Camp Course (Field Camp-Solid Earth) comes close. The helicopter is replaced by rental vans, and instead of tents the students stay in a rustic lodge, but daily life in field camp is otherwise close to the real thing.  For 10 days, a group of roughly 20 senior-level Earth Science and Environmental Geoscience students along with their instructors stay at Charlton Lake Camp near Espanola in northern Ontario. The location enables students to see a more diverse set of geological locations than the Niagara Peninsula. After a communal breakfast at 7 am, the vans leave for the day’s field site, rain or shine (or snow!).  Students embark on their daily exercises examining rocks, measuring features in those rocks using a geological compass and identifying their location on an air photo  – all requirements of many geological jobs. For safety reasons, students work with a partner, which also provides an opportunity to discuss the geology examined and problem solve as a team.

The one aspect that makes this ERSC 3P99 arguably one of the most rewarding experiences in many students’ university studies is the immersive nature of the trip. After the day’s exercises the entire group returns to camp to prepare and share dinner together. In the evening students and their instructor discussion of the day’s data and a begin to strategize for the next day.  A completed geological map and report are due the morning of our departure.  Spending 10 days in close proximity with the same people provides students with an authentic experience as a field geologist. In addition to learning, refining, and experimenting with geological skills, ERSC 3P99 also often serves to cement long term friendships and future career paths.

Instructor: Dr. Nicola Simmons, Assistant Professor

Course: EDUC 5P35 – Adult Teaching & Learning

Program: Master of Education

Experiencing being Adult Learners: The Theory-Practice Connection

Creating meaningful supports for students to connect theory and practice can be tricky. Intending to give graduate students in the Adult Teaching and Learning course an experiential opportunity to do this, Dr. Nicola Simmons planned a field trip to Determination Martial Arts in east Hamilton. Dr. Simmons said, “Despite my (unfounded) concerns that students might be reticent about participating in such a venture, there was a lot of excitement both before and after the event!”

Students read two articles in preparation for the field trip – one on emotional responses of adult learners and one on facilitating adult learning. They were invited to write in personal journals about their expectations and experiences of the trip and were also encouraged to observe how the martial arts instructor, Miss Emily, facilitated learning by working with individuals and their strengths and limitations so they could accomplish tasks – including breaking boards!

In a follow up assignment, students were asked to write about their anticipations, experiences, and reflections on the Tae Kwon Do lesson; to connect it to something else they had learned as an adult; and to use literature on adults as learners as a critical lens on the experience for their assignment. They also took these reflections into their final assignment, where they designed a course or workshop for adult learners.

Would Dr. Simmons do it again? “I would love to! Not only were the students able to write about theory from personal experience, they re-applied their learning to their other work. The way they connected theory and practice after the field trip exceeded my expectations. And, the field trip created a very close class community – one that I think allowed us to explore subsequent topics more deeply and richly – something the students commented on frequently.”

Instructor: Dr. Ryan Plummer, Professor

Course: SSAS 5P01 – Foundations of Sustainability Science and Society

Program: Master of Sustainability

EXPERIENCING THE INTERACTIONS BETWEEN NATURAL AND SOCIAL SYSTEMS

In SSAS 5P01, experiential education serves as a vehicle to enable students to explore the enactment of sustainability science. By incorporating multiple short-term field experiences, students have the opportunity to critically reflect upon the concepts of sustainable development, sustainability, and sustainability science in different context. “We train students to be leaders in sustainability. They need more than just classroom instruction to prepare them to take on leadership positions when they graduate,” says Dr. Plummer. “Sustainability science extends beyond the classroom and the University campus. Modifying the curriculum in our foundational course to include an ‘experiencing sustainability’ module enables new ways to connect theory and practice.”

Over the course of the term, Dr. Plummer’s students participate in three field experiences which were organized with financial support from a Teaching & Learning Innovation Grant made possible through Brock’s Centre for Pedagogical Innovation and the University’s Experiential Education unit. Each experience provides different perspectives on the interplay between natural and social systems in sustainability efforts at Brock and in the broader Niagara region. In 2018 the short-term field experiences included:

  • Nature Conservation and Reserves: Students explored Brock’s privileged location in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, led by UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability, Dr. Liette Vasseur, and were provided with an introduction to the Niagara Biosphere Reserve by the Senior Strategic Advisor for the Niagara Escarpment Commission, Lisa Grbinicek.
  • Sustainability in Institutions: Students visited the Brock’s co-generation plant which generates and supplies power to the university. Scott Johnston, Associate Vice President of Facilities Management, led students on a tour of the facility, as well as Brock’s underground tunnel system and explained university sustainability efforts undertaken by facilities management and the Brock University Charter Agreement. The second component of this field experience exposed student to the sustainability efforts in Brock’s Dining Services through their waste-management program.
  • Innovative Partnerships: Students were provided with an overview of the Brock-Lincoln Living lab Partnership in the Town of Lincoln. A second stop on this field experience included a tour of the Vineland Innovation and Research Centre where students learned about crop management techniques being developed in Niagara. Finally, students were able to provide insights into research when we visited our partners at the Niagara Parks Commission.

To solidify their learning through the field experiences, students demonstrate their understanding of partnership agreements and their role in sustainability by producing a social media communique. By using mediums such as blogs, vlogs, videos, or a series of tweets, Instagram or Facebook posts, students not only reflect on how their understanding of the relationship between research and application in sustainability has developed through the field experiences, but also translate their knowledge for the general public. Supporting students in translating their knowledge to a variety of audiences is a key component of developing effective communication skills and contributing to scholarly discourse, which are key learning outcomes for the course.

Instructor: Dr. Michael Ripmeester, Professor

Course: GEOG/TOUR 3Q93 – Vancouver Field Course

Program: Geography and/or Tourism Studies

Exploring the Geographies of a Major City 

This field course concentrates on Vancouver as a major metropolitan area. Topics the students engage with include:

  • The historical geography of Vancouver;
  • Planning and architecture;
  • Public space in the 21st century;
  • The social and cultural geographies of Vancouver.

The goal of this course is to expose students to the intricate, conflicting, and contradictory geographies of a major city. The course emphasizes participation in walking tours during which students engage geographical theories, concepts and ideas. This class enhances students’ ability to recognize geography’s influence on planning and social policy.

Through the immersive nature of their study, students participate in guided tours throughout the city, while also experiencing SITU seminars, research design, and active participation, where learning is framed through, scheduled and unscheduled discussions.

During the entire experience, students are required to keep a field notebook (complete with diagrams, images, and maps) as a means of documenting their reflections on the material they collect in addition to recording facts. The field notebook includes reflective writings and work with their final assignment being a paper in which they are to focus on experiential education. They are to review the literature and then write a paper on their experience of being immersed in an experiential field study. As part of the assignment they are to use examples from their field notes to illustrate the points they are trying to make regarding experiential learning and the field study itself. If they are able, they are to formulate a supported opinion about how experiential education (for good or for ill) compares to in-class learning.

What students have to say about the Vancouver Field Course

“I loved how much of the city we were able see. It was an experience I know I otherwise would have never had. Both Mike and Ebru were excellent guides and taught me so much about the city and its history as well as made me realize there always a deeper story behind everything. Honestly I don’t think this course could have been any better I would go again once a heartbeat.”

“GEOG/TOUR 3P93 (Vancouver Field course) is an amazing experiential course that covers concepts not only in geography but other disciplines as well, making it an amazing choice for students to take coming from any faculty. Mike and Ebru are amazing at facilitating the lecture material as they are very knowledgeable about a variety of topics specifically relating to the geography of Vancouver. They are passionate about what they teach, and you can feel that energy as they speak, making the course that much more enjoyable. The cost is more than reasonable for a trip to Vancouver. 10/10 would recommend.”

“Learning can occur inside and outside the classroom however being hands on and in the city itself, not only hearing about its history but seeing it, made the course more enjoyable and gave me a much deeper understanding.”