Classroom turns into a fleet of canoes

Each fall, the third-year Honours students in the Department of Geography leave the conventional classroom behind and embark on a week that takes geography back to its roots — in the field.

As part of Field Camp Week 2013, sections of the Field Methods and Practices course headed to three wildly different regions: the major urban centre of Montreal, Que.; the deep caves of Kentucky; and aboard a fleet of canoes in Killarney, Ont.

Eight students started planning the Ontario excursion in September, in association with Western Geography professor Micha Pazner and lab coordinator Erika Hill. The group pulled together gear, shopped for supplies and brainstormed trip project topics.

Once in the field, the group quickly bonded, learning to depend on each others’ skills and abilities.

In addition to locally relevant academic topics, students learned how to paddle, portage and set up a wilderness camp. They also navigated with maps, satellite images, compasses and GPS, to create field maps and co-exist with the local fauna. (The students also learned Killarney raccoons have become so successful at zipping open daypacks and opening coolers that the animals are noticeably obese.)

“I enjoyed my first Canadian outdoor experience with some awesome people,” said Rachel Riley, an exchange student visiting from northern England. “I definitely made the right decision choosing Killarney.”

Pazner said the students, all safely back in London, are working on their term projects, and looking forward to the post-trip dinner, slide show and photo exchange. “Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Field Camp Week is the enthusiasm for hands-on geography that can only come from this kind of experience,” he said.

– Special to Western News