“Instead of meeting at Aderhold Hall once or twice a week, those students go to an elementary school, a middle school or a high school,” she says. “We have about 500 students at the schools, either taking courses, volunteering or doing early field experience or student teaching.” Students have long engaged in this kind of experiential (or hands-on) learning at UGA, but the university’s requirement is new. Beginning this fall, all incoming first-year and transfer students will be required to engage in experiential learning before graduation. The initiative is designed to take UGA students out of classrooms for real-world experience in a variety of ways, including internships, service-learning projects and study abroad programs. While history majors have a wealth of opportunities in places like Washington, D.C., and local school systems are a natural fit for education majors, the experiential learning choices for some students are not as clear. “If you’re in philosophy, there are many career paths you can take,” says Linda Bachman (EdD ’13), director of university experiential learning. “Through the initiative, the university will help students find hands-on experiences that help them understand how their education at UGA translates in the nonacademic world.”
learning course called the Athens Urban Food Collective (AUFC). Students grow vegetables in a garden on the roof of the geography building and partner with local organizations to distribute the food. Materials initially were donated by Athens businesses. The AUFC program is a perfect fit for the experiential learning initiative, Heynen says. “From the very beginning of it, it’s been a community-oriented endeavor,” he says. In Heynen’s new Maymester class, Geography of the Georgia Coast Domestic Field Study Program, he expects students to “think through reallife problems” while living among the residents of Sapelo Island. Participants study the historical geography of the coast, learn about ongoing pressures due to increased development, and engage in a service-learning project. “To be able to experience the changes on the Georgia coast, while reading about them and thinking about how to do some problem solving, it’s like a one-two-three punch,” he says.
amp DIVE—an acronym for Discover, Inquire, Voice, Explore— is the College of Education’s newest opportunity for students to gain practical experience working and teaching outside of the classroom. The camp will provide College of Education students another avenue to work with kindergarten through middleschool students in the classroom. Janna Dresden is excited about the rewards it will offer to the Athens-Clarke County students who will attend it and the UGA undergraduates who will engage with them in hands-on activities. “The idea for Camp DIVE has been brewing for many, many years, but the timing is very fortuitous,” Dresden says. These examples show that UGA’s experiential learning program is building, Bachman says, as even more faculty develop “cutting-edge, innovative, hands-on, transformational experiences for students.”
he university-wide experiential learning requirement goes into effect this fall, but many faculty and colleges have long had programs that take students out of the classroom and into practical learning situations. “Faculty with significant experience in experiential teaching are being recognized and validated for it,” Bachman says. Geography Professor Nik Heynen became acquainted with experiential learning as a graduate student at the University of Indiana. He implemented programs at the University of WisconsinMilwaukee and did the same when he arrived at UGA in 2006. For eight years, Heynen and two colleagues have been teaching a service-
ANDREW DAVIS TUCKER
Josh Hinson (BSEd ’15), far right, gained real-life experience in the classroom at Cedar Shoals High School through UGA’s College of Education Professional Development School District, a partnership with the Clarke County School District.
JUNE 2016 • GEORGIA MAGAZINE