Make a difference beyond the classroom with community experiential learning

At York, we are all about experiential learning, or EE — putting theory into practice through a wide range of real-life projects in the workplace, community and classroom. While all of these sites offer a wealth of advantages and opportunities for skills-based learning and advancement, an EE experience in local or global communities gives students the chance to create a lasting, positive impact in the world around them while they work towards their degree. Check out some of the most exciting ways to get involved in the community with your education.

Spend a semester abroad. Did you know that York University is the only Canadian university with a campus in Costa Rica? Located in the Las Nubes rainforest, our EcoCampus’ mission is to contribute to community well-being in ways that are compatible and conducive to environmental conservation. This immersive opportunity of a lifetime aims to develop the sustainability of healthy and gratifying rural lifeways that are respectful of and in harmony with the natural environment. Its exciting courses combine faculty and student research, environmental education and community engagement initiatives for a truly interactive experience with the local community.

The high school students clasp hands with York U students to traverse the North American and Eurasia tectonic plates

The high school students clasp hands with York U students to traverse the North American and Eurasia tectonic plates

Learn geography on international trips. York students can look forward to new hands-on EE opportunities being added all the time. For example, last spring a fourth-year field course for geography students joined forces with a Toronto high school and an Icelandic geologist and volcano specialist to go on an expedition to Iceland. Students learned about geography, local culture and politics, and green technology through nighttime lectures, lectures in churches, lava tubes, tours and hikes on glaciers, volcanoes and moraine peaks. York U students even carried out “mini” field projects ranging from climatological, biogeographical type studies to ones about water quality of rivers and wetland ponds.

Connect with immigration and Indigenous issues. Inspiration for new EE opportunities can come from everywhere. This year, Canada 150 celebrations encouraged York’s School of Social Work to critically explore two topics normally studied in isolation — immigration and Indigenous history — in one course. With the goal of understanding of Canada’s immigrant-Indigenous relations and foster understanding of shared yet distinct histories, students learned from eight guest speakers who shared their experiences, advocacy and research. A bus tour of Toronto narrated by Jon Johnson, a faculty member from York’s Health and Society program on behalf of the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto, complemented learning and encouraged a deeper understanding of local communities.

Explore the forest for biology. One of the best parts of York’s Glendon campus is its lush location, nestled in the secluded Don River, which is part of Toronto’s extensive ravine system. Taking advantage of this green space, York’s Department of Biology organized an exciting course that allow students to do hands-on field biology learning and research. Focusing on understanding ecology in an urban context, the course combines short in-laboratory instructional sessions with daily field excursions to natural areas in the GTA. Other EE biology courses have taken students everywhere from Algonquin Park to Belize.