Paddling pathways, June 21, 2016 Pinery Provincial Park, Ontario

Paddling Pathways: Experiential Learning in a Collaborative Environment

Facilitated by Alan Wright, Alice Cassidy, Judy Bornais, and Dave Andrews

Pinery Provincial Park on Lake Huron

This full-day workshop follows an established experiential format first introduced at the Prince Edward Island STLHE conference in 2005. Participants, including novice and expert paddlers, will be lead through a series of aquatic and land-based activities by accomplished colleague-facilitators. The day will involve return group transportation between London and Pinery Provincial Park on Lake Huron, canoe rental from the Park equipment centre, an excursion on the Old Ausable River Channel under the guidance of the group leaders, a communal lunch, and a site-specific opportunity to explore the themes of the experiential learning cycle and innovation, interdisciplinary approaches to learning, team work and the collaborative environment, the interplay of space, place and identity, and the development of a sense of community. This unique session also capitalizes on the potential benefits of the outdoor setting for personal well-being.

To accomplish these ends, the facilitators will draw upon their vast experience in the higher education community as well as their past involvement in STLHE and other site-specific outdoor workshops. Those of us who have been involved in such events ( 6 different sites in 5 provinces) in the past have gone beyond the usual “participant feedback survey” in an attempt to capture the sense of the professional outdoor experience. We published an article in CELT in 2010 describing our work with participants in the Fredericton concerning paddling (and other physical pursuits) as a metaphor for teaching. We published the lead article in the STLHE Newsletter in 2013 based on the “paddling through time theme” experienced in Cape Breton. In 2015 we again published in CELT, this time pulling together ideas about “the interplay of space, time, and identity”. All of this work has been motivated by our idea of contributing to an evolving literature concerning the impact of experiential learning, a theme of growing importance in our higher education community.

Two other references inspire this workshop. One is fundamental. Kolb’s article on “experiential learning” appeared in 1984. It has had a great influence on higher education and continues to guide our thinking. The newest reference of interest puts the canoe and canoeing into perspective in Canada. Roy MacGregor’s new (2015) book “Canoe Country: the Making of Canada” links the water craft with our nation’s history as European settlers learned about canoes from First Nations people and it has become a symbol of this country on a par with the maple leaf. (A CBC contest named the canoe as one of the “seven wonders of Canada”.)

This workshop links action and reflection in what we think will lead to a fruitful dialogue regarding teaching and learning in a higher education and an unforgettable experience in a unique setting beyond the built environment


Cassidy, A.L.E.V., Wright, W.A., Strean, B., & Watson, G.P.L. (2015). The interplay of space, place and identity: Transforming our learning experiences in an outdoor setting CELT, Vol. 8, p.1-8

Kolb, D.A., (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall

MacGregor, R., (2015). Canoe Country: The Making of Canada. Random House Canada

Wright, W. A,  Monette, M.J., & Hamilton, B. (2010). Paddle your own canoe: Metaphors for teaching between the tides. Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching,

Wright W.A., Cassidy, A., & Monette, M.J. (2013). Paddling through time: Learning for life in the coastal zone. Newsletter of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE), 62 (Fall 2013), p.1-2