By Helen Luo, Work-Study Student, Teaching and Learning Centre
SFU’s Learning Garden, shown in March 2013 as it was being developed, is visible from the south walkway along Convocation Mall.
A tour of the garden
SFU’s Learning Garden is an outdoor space established this year by Sustainable SFU near Convocation Mall on the Burnaby campus. It offers student groups a chance to grow their own food on rented plots of land, and on June 5 it was the site of the first event marking UNEP World Environment Day at SFU: a tour led by gardens manager Athenaise Guertin that demonstrated the potential of the space as a location for learning about food, garden management and sustainability.
A dialogue about food
In all, Sustainable SFU and the Teaching and Learning Centre collaborated on three events to address the day’s theme of “think-eat-save.”
The second event was a dialogue titled “Talking about Learning about Food.” Diana Bedoya, an SFU kinesiology instructor, shared her experience with KIN 110 Human Nutrition: Current Issues, in which students are introduced to concepts related to nutrition and food choices. Bedoya noted that the course attracts students from various disciplines with dynamic opinions about food and nutrition issues. She described the Diet Analysis assignment, an important component of the class in which students record their diets for three days and then analyze the nutritional content. Students reported that the course caused them to become more conscientious about their food choices and prompted them to speak with friends and family about the importance of good food choices.
Bedoya also spoke about her use of iClickers, an audience response system used to facilitate in-class participation. She found iClickers to be a powerful tool for getting students’ attention, encouraging participation and helping them understand their level of comprehension of course material.
The next speaker was Eric Sannerud, a recent graduate and Udall Scholar from the University of Minnesota. Sannerud shared stories about Cooking on a Student’s Budget, a course offered at the University of Minnesota’s Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute. The course is intended to teach students about food security through the preparation of nutritious meals. The lab component incorporates topics of food safety, basic nutrition, cooking instruction, budgeting, time management, menu design, and food preservation and storage. Students take on a project that will create a resource to benefit the local community. Through weekly assignments (e.g., a blog post about a trip to a local farm) as well as through acquisition of cooking techniques, they obtain hands-on experience with food.
Both Bedoya’s and Sannerud’s courses offered experiential learning opportunities for students, including self-reflection on diet and food choices and activities that improved analytical and problem-solving skills.
Embedding experiential education
The day ended with a workshop for instructors and students interested in planning an experiential education activity within a course. Eric Sannerud was joined by David Zandvliet, an associate professor in SFU’s Faculty of Education, in a presentation that aimed to empower students and challenge faculty members to view education as a dynamic space for student-driven learning and impactful experiences.
The workshop began with a discussion of the pedagogical approaches that underpin, respectively, environmental learning and sustainable agriculture education. Sannerud presented a case study about Cornercopia, a student-run certified organic farm that produces more than 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables and provides students with valuable skills in farming, business management and marketing.
Zandvliet then illustrated Kolb’s experiential learning theory with a short video about a group of elementary students and teachers who tried the “100 miles diet” in Victoria, B.C. (Kolb’s theory proposes a four-stage learning cycle consisting of concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation.) Class activities included visits to local farms and meal preparation using ingredients grown within 100 miles of Victoria.
Workshop participants were then put into groups to devise a plan to use experiential learning to make a change at SFU. The activity was designed to simulate the decision-making process of a student-led experiential education session.