In the Fall 2015/Winter 2016, Dr. David Greenwood (Canada Research Chair in Environmental Education) and three graduate assistants (Leanne Bazdarick, Muga Miyakawa, Gemma Romano) in the Education Faculty conducted a research project around the theme of place. The project was funded by the Centre for Place and Sustainability Studies via the Faculty of Education and a SSHRC grant. The research began with the three graduate assistants developing an “alternative” campus tour. Their work has been inspired by Dr. Anders Sandberg who runs a similar project at York University. This alternative tour engages participants (students, staff, or faculty) to critically think about how various sites on campus relate to sustainability. It is designed to open space for discussion around how a particular place came to be, the multiple perspectives of that place, and different human and more-than-human experiences and stories of that place. In doing so, it enhances community engagement and encourages people to think critically in the role they play as place-makers.
In considering relationship to place, the research project was taken to a first and fourth-year undergraduate course. Both classes were given assignments that explored questions around how the university community engages with the campus as a place, and what meaning the place has to them.
The first year undergraduate class (approx. 30 students) from the school of Outdoor Recreation, Parks, and Tourism (ORPT), visited a site of their choice within campus and were instructed to reflect on their personal relationship to the place using 500 words and a photo. They did this twice to see how their experience changed.
The fourth year undergraduate class (approx. 20 students) also from ORPT, came up with proposals to engage the student body around place and relationship to place. Ideas included a geocaching activity, a database for sustainability events and activities, and a living mural in a high-traffic hallway of the history of Lakehead.
The experiences with the two classes are being used to publish an academic paper.
The alternative campus tour is still being developed and will be further funded by the Office of the Provost and VP Academic/Office of Sustainability. It will be offered as an orientation activity in Fall 2016. The project acknowledges that ‘big picture’ sustainability requires a culture shift that goes beyond facts and figures, and rather calls on individuals to reflect on their personal connection to, and impact on, the places they inhabit.