April 6, 2018

Experiential learning can happen anywhere ... even over dinner

Global Challenges course brings students together with community to discuss food security
First-year student Megan Koevoet gives closing remarks at the Global Challenges dinner on March 28, an experiential learning opportunity for the class.

First-year student Megan Koevoet gives closing remarks at the Global Challenges dinner.

Benjamin Laird

On March 28, the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation (CDCI) in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning hosted its second Global Challenges dinner, bringing students from the course together with university leaders, community members and experts in food policy, production and agriculture for a discussion around food security. Megan Koevoet, first-year student in German Studies and first-time course participant, discusses how the dinner provided an unexpected, but incredibly informative, experiential learning opportunity for everyone.

In the Global Challenges course, both in first and second semesters, I have looked into food waste in Canada, researching all the different dimensions, including where the food is coming from, where it’s going, how it’s being used, and what is being wasted where. My group and I are currently working on presenting a bylaw draft to Calgary City Council, which would make it illegal for grocery stores to waste food, in turn mitigating food waste and providing food to organizations who can properly redistribute it.

Experiential learning has played a big role in class this term, because rather than reading textbooks and listening to lectures, we’re going out and learning hands-on. The dinner reflected the idea of experiential learning through real opinions and experience. We were able to dig deep and carry on real conversations, learning what we could from the guests, but also providing our opinions and making ourselves heard. It gave us an opportunity to immerse ourselves into the community, related to the challenge of food security.

The dinner provided an opportunity for student to connect directly with the community to share their ideas for innovations in food security.

The dinner allowed students to share their ideas for innovations in food security with the community

Benjamin Laird

How do you study for a dinner?

In class, we prepared for the dinner as we would an assignment, helping us know how to address people properly and engage them in the conversation. In class, we discussed different ways to engage people through pathos, ethos and logos. We did 60-second pitches, where we had to summarize our innovation and present it in a minute. Each student chose roles for the dinner including discussion leader, provocateur, and connector.

Connectors were the first to introduce themselves and linked students with people that they felt would bring important perspectives to their innovations. The discussion leaders led the conversation and made sure that all opinions were expressed and heard. The provocateurs promoted strong and contradictory conversation topics and helped fuel these debates. In-class preparations really helped us — myself included — who have never attended an event like this, to best present ourselves and our ideas to leaders and the community.

It was a great learning opportunity, where we could pitch our ideas to the people of their respective fields and get their perspectives and feedback. There were so many people from all areas in the community, who all chose to be at the dinner and were really interested in hearing what we had to say.

I had the privilege to talk to a board member from a local grocery store and run our innovation by her. I gained some new opinions and suggestions to keep in mind as we go forward with the project. I talked to so many other people from all sorts of backgrounds, who were more than happy to hear what students had to say, and want to hear more about our projects even after the dinner, keeping us connected with the community outside of the class.

Learn more about the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation and the Global Challenges course on the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning website.