Funding helps students explore the outdoors

January 11, 2017

As a fifth-year computer science and geographics information systems (GIS) student, Matt McLean spends a lot of time looking at pictures of the outdoors.

As a student taking the elective Outdoor Recreation Tourism Management 100 – Introduction to Outdoor Recreation and Tourism (ORTM), he gets to experience and explore the outdoors in real time.

“It’s nice to get outside,” he said. “We’ve looked at motivations behind tourism, the importance of conservation and making sure future generations can enjoy the same experiences we have. 

Thanks to funding from UNBC’s Undergraduate Experiential Service Learning program, courses are designed to extend the classroom experience beyond the university setting. ORTM students have taken their learning off campus with hiking, canoeing and even rock climbing excursions. 

For ORTM professor Dr. Pamela Wright who teaches the class, the UESL funding has allowed her to design the curriculum in a completely different manner and diversify the learning experiences.

“The first day is to do an outdoor experience day, where students do a bunch of different activities with different people at different kinds of sites,” said Wright. “This day is all about the experience.”

“It allows us later, in talking about how recreation sites are managed, to ground that in their experiences. Or if we talk about the conflicts between outdoor recreation and other resource management use we can refer back to our experiences, hiking (the) trails and forest.”

Wright redesigned the class into five different content modules that begins with an off-campus outdoor activity day where the benefits and motivation for participating in outdoor recreation and tourism are discussed.

For Kian Draper and Ekaterina Filatov, second-year students in biochemistry and biomedicine respectively, they’re also taking the course as an elective. And they’ve both gotten so much out of it.

“Going to a university like UNBC and being a resident of B.C., it’s really important to have a formal understanding of outdoor recreation and tourism because it’s such a huge contributor to our economy,” said Draper. 

“I’ve noticed in my last year that I spend less time outside because of course demands,” added Filatov. “I thought it’d be really nice to take a class that forces me to go outside and I’m really enjoying it. It contrasts really well with the current courses I’m taking and it’s a whole different perspective. You don’t hear much about how tourism is a business. We’re being exposed to it in this class and it’s nice to learn about all these impacts of recreation on our community and in our region."