Expanding experiential learning to all Faculty of Health and Community students

Every other year since 2003, Associate Professor and Eco Tourism and Outdoor Leadership (ETOL) Program Coordinator Joe Pavelka has conducted field school expeditions to Peru.

Previously open only to ETOL students, the field school is now giving all Faculty of Health and Community Studies (FHCS) students the opportunity to embark on this incredible journey.

The field school lead by Associate Professor Joe Pavelka is now giving all Faculty of Health and Community Studies (FHCS) students the opportunity to embark on this incredible journey.

This year, seven ETOL students and seven Child and Youth Studies (CYS) students will be heading south to get a broader educational experience and interpret the world from a new perspective by interacting with locals in an intimate setting.

During the time spent in Peru, students will have the opportunity to stay with a local families, experience regions such as the world famous Machu Picchu and go on an Amazon jungle trek - providing the educational opportunity to explore different approaches to Ecotourism.

"When we study tourism we study from an economic, social and cultural point of view with a huge emphasis on the socioeconomic side of things," says Pavelka of linking ETOL education with CYS. "In a lot of developing countries there is a great focus on children and youth and when you look at child poverty, odds are it's related to tourism in some way. They are interconnected."

Seeing is believing

Even though this field school was just recently change to include all FHCS students, the CYS students certainly won't feel like they are just along for the ride.

"One of my previous students did a study on Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Cuzco and about 70 per cent of the organizations in Peru deal with children and youth, so it's a great opportunity for the CYS students who are attending to learn a lot," Pavelka explains.

Pavelka also notes that each student will get something different out of the experience whether from ETOL or CYS.

"There are great cultural differences between Canada and Peru and certainly within areas of family and children," he says. "The way you care for people in your community and how you value people is different and I think that will be interesting for the students to see on a fundamental level."

Students will also put themselves in the shoes of others during home stays with locals throughout the trip, which is a great opportunity for CYS students to learn about the differences in how children are cared for in a country with little government and school support.

"We are staying with families along the Salkantay trail - a secondary trail for reaching Machu Picchu - where there is an amalgamation of five families living there and kids absolutely everywhere," says Pavelka.

One interesting and slight change to the schools programming will happen during the group's seven-day Amazon trip to three different communities situated in the jungle.

"It will be hardcore camping in the jungle," explains Pavelka. "I wanted to make this part of the trip much more community oriented."

A full-circle experience

Pavelka is excited to see what the CYS students will bring to the table during the trip.

"One thing I am doing is mixing the groups so ETOL and CYS students will be working together," Pavelka explains. "My experience is that the more diverse the group, the more rich the analysis."

Within the field school, students in groups of three are expected to choose a research question and carry out data collection and analysis during their time spent abroad in order to complete a final write- up when they return to Canada.

"Our CYS students will be looking at different aspects of the child and youth vendors," says Pavelka. "I hope that through this, students garner a different view of the world. If you're observant, you learn there are a million ways to live a life and they are all good.

"One of the great things about academic experiential learning is that we have a luxury to immerse ourselves in a meaningful way, ask questions, and walk away with a different view of the world."

- Angela Sengaus, March 7, 2013