Brian Craig | ERS375 Restoration Class of 2015

Brian Craig | ERS375 Restoration Class of 2015

There is no master plan for how your post-secondary education should look. Go to university, go to college, go to college before university, do both. Get a master’s and a PhD. Take six years to finish your undergrad. In 2015 there are so many ways to map your education. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure situation.

I’ve spent a lot of time questioning my education path, but now that I’ve made it to the finish line, I know I made the right choice. I know because the very last class I took in my undergrad changed my life in a way I least expected. 

I needed one more credit, and my academic advisor presented me with the option of Restoration in Practice in the Long Point World Biosphere. “Just take it,” she said when I hesitated. I’d never taken a field course and restoration is not one of my strong subjects. But I didn’t want to spend all summer in a lecture hall, so I was in no position to be picky.  

In that class I ended up learning so much about environmentalism, community, and myself that every moment during my undergrad that I thought I was in the wrong place became worth it. It was all worth it because it led me to that very last class. 

For five years I sat in lecture halls and around seminar tables, talking about the environment without experiencing it. I remember learning about the invasive species Phragmites (frag-mite-ies) in my very first class. In Long Point, nearly five years after that first class, I saw first-hand just how damaging Phragmites is to the integrity of ecosystems, and how hard people there are working to control it. The invasive reed is destroying coastal habitat, making already vulnerable species even more at-risk. Despite learning that five years ago, it didn’t even come close to sinking in until I saw it first hand in Long Point. 

Brick and mortar classrooms are part of education in Canada, but field courses need to be given the same value. My eyes were opened at the last possible chance to how important non-traditional and experiential learning is.

In Long Point I was surrounded by environmental professionals passionate about protecting the land they loved. People who will take hours out of their day to prove to a group of undergrads that an environmental education, persistence and hard work will take you places. I was taught by people with degrees, diplomas, or both, master’s degrees, and PhDs. No matter what their formal education background, all understand the deep value of experiential education. 

What I learned in that last class expands far beyond what any textbook or PowerPoint presentation could communicate. I learned how to be a better human being, a better friend, colleague and steward of the environment. I saw first-hand what passion and hard work can do and it motivated me to kickstart my own post-grad career. 

A\J’s environmental education guide is full of opportunities to start your journey. I hope that you can find the program and school that will connect you with peers and professors who inspire you to take the opportunity to learn in some less traditional classrooms. 

Megan is A\J's editorial manager, a lover of journalism, and graduate of the University of Waterloo's Faculty of Environment. 


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