University of Toronto Outdoors (UTO): Engaging place-based and expeditionary learning

University of Toronto Outdoors (UTO): Engaging place-based and expeditionary learning

  • Frances Garrett, Department for the Study of Religion, Faculty of Arts and Science
  • Matt Price, Department for the Study of Religion, Faculty of Arts and Science

Abstract

This project evaluates both the pedagogical benefits and the administrative, logistical, and financial best practices associated with what we are calling “immersive” experiential education. The President’s Three Priorities call upon the University community to (1) “leverage our location,” integrating our practices more fully into our immediate natural, social, and economic location in the largest and most diverse city in the Great Lakes Region; (2) “deepen international partnerships”; and (3) “redefine undergraduate education,” in part by dramatically expanding and reconceptualizing experiential education. This project is aligned with all of these goals.

Our long term project seeks first to enrich and animate the University’s connection to our physical environment by developing a strong and immersive pedagogical practice in the humanities and social sciences around histories, cultures, and politics of our environment. Second, we plan to continue our work building bridges between the University and local communities in remote mountain, lake and ocean areas in Asia & the Pacific (“international”) as well as with First Nations communities in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada (“inter-National”). Third, we propose to interrogate and intensify experiential education at the University by providing new kinds of learning experiences that draw out the impact of lived, embodied experience on learning and knowing. Here, we propose to evaluate the benefits and practicality of immersive experiential programming at the University through investigation into established practices, theoretical frameworks, and local faculty interest in place-based, land-placed, and/or expeditionary learning, and assessment of pilot courses that experiment with adding such modules to a classroom-based course.