Take a Semester Outside in the City

February 15, 2016

By Ian Bryce

Simon Fraser University’s Semester in Dialogue program wants students to learn outside this summer.

The Semester Outside in the City, a partnership with CityStudio, is a full-time, 10-credit course open to all students. It features courses in urban ecology, lessons in facilitating dialogues with stakeholders, and a project to design an educational space in Vancouver’s Everett Crowley Park.

“Given that over 80 per cent of the world’s population now live in cities, parks are one of the most accessible ways to connect people with the natural world,” says Laura Piersol, course instructor and educational researcher.

Students will participate in dialogues with a variety of experts, including artists and officials from both government and non-governmental organizations. This engagement offers students a glimpse into different networking and career possibilities.

Piersol, who taught the course last summer, says she is looking forward to returning to the park.

“Everett Crowley Park was identified by the City of Vancouver as a biodiversity hotspot,” she says. “The park used to be the former city landfill and now it’s ‘re-wilded’—which means it’s been restored to a natural wilderness habitat. When you go to the park now, it’s hard to see remnants of the landfill.”

Piersol doesn’t use the word ‘re-wilded’ lightly. While facilitating a dialogue session, students in the park observed a coyote enter a nearby pond and eat a duckling.

“It was upsetting for some,” says Piersol. “But it was a great learning moment that showed how we share space with wild creatures and challenged our preconceptions of what nature should be.”

The Semester Outside in the City runs from May 9 to June 24.

Applications are due Thursday, Feb. 19, 2016.