Learn More

From the Classroom to the Countryside: MacNaughton Prize Recipients Share Impact of Experiential Learning

Huron University
Dec 21 2023

Dr. Kendra Coulter (Management and Organizational Studies) and Dr. Jennifer Epp (Philosophy) have been awarded the John and Gail MacNaughton Prize for Excellence in Teaching. The MacNaughton Prize, valued at $5,000, serves to encourage innovation and reflection to enhance teaching and learning at Huron.

With the support of the MacNaughton Prize, Drs. Coulter and Epp have paired skills from courses in Management and Organizational Studies (2185A Animal Welfare and Sustainability Leadership) and Philosophy (3750F Embodiment) to thoughtfully, ethically, and effectively integrate multispecies experiential learning with animals and nature - approaching other species not as tools or mere objects of study, but rather as sentient beings and stakeholders in both the processes and results of education.

Throughout the fall term, students visited community partners Leading Edge Equine Academy and Nourishing Hearts Wellness Care Farm to participate in multispecies experiential learning opportunities, discussing and translating their nuanced cross-discipline observations to one another. After the trips, students exchanged ideas in groups with peers from both classes.

"Many students shared how meaningful the experience of being with animals was for them, and how grateful they were to physically and intellectually move into a different way of learning, thinking, and feeling. We saw them relaxing and become more animated, curious, and brave in real time,” says Dr. Coulter. “Over the course of one hour, I witnessed one student, for example, who was initially unsure how to touch a horse learn and grow so much that she soon groomed and engaged in peaceful communion with the lead mare of the herd. Two leaders with heart, from different species. It's powerful to watch - and even more powerful to experience” she adds.

Two dimensions were crucial for the learning experience: physically moving away from campus to learn with animals in their homes and workplaces, and engaging in the exciting but challenging work of explaining key ideas and concepts to students who are in another area of study and using different lenses to understand and reflect on the same animals and experience.

“This was a revealing and touching experience for students, some of whom had never interacted with animals, even as pets,” says Dr. Epp. “Experiences like this help students to understand their relationships with the living beings who are our neighbours. Animals, insects, and plants make up the vast majority of earthly life. They are our life-support system. We need to know how to understand and value the more-than-human world if we are to live ethically and survive environmental challenges. Our project is helping to meet that need. Not only that, it’s also fun! Connections with animals enable students to thrive, including in university” she adds.

With the knowledge gained from the experience and feedback from students, Drs. Coulter and Epp plan to co-develop a new course focused on multispecies experiential learning for students in subsequent academic years, highlighting their careful and innovative pedagogical practice and design.

To learn more about our Management and Organizational Studies program, please click here.

To learn more about our Philosophy program, please click here.