I have been involved in developing a new initiative called University of Toronto Outdoors, which aims to bring together instructors, students, and community members interested in engaging forms of teaching and learning that may be described as place-based, land-based, or expeditionary studies. This project is for those who teach and learn in courses and special programs across the University that focus on experiential activities, service learning, inquiry-based projects, and community collaboration.
Expeditionary Learning is an international movement that developed as a collaboration between the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Outward Bound, with the desire to create new educational models that engage students to think critically while taking active roles in their classrooms, communities, and natural environments. Expeditionary education unites intellectual and physical challenge in adventurous learning environments, creating classrooms out of city streets, virtual spaces, or wilderness areas.
Our most recent UTO projects have involved taking two groups of students to Sikkim, in Northeast India, to study local histories and pilgrimage practices in the Himalaya. After visiting Buddhist monasteries in Darjeeling and Gangtok, including our project’s host monastery Lingdum, these groups traveled throughout West Sikkim to visit a series landscape features, such as caves, rocks and lakes, that are historically attested in Tibetan texts and that are present-day pilgrimage sites for Sikkimese people.