When students returned to their Introduction to Community Studies (COMS 1100) class in the Bachelor of Arts in Community Studies (BACS) program and were told that their class would start a week late they probably never dreamed it was because their new professor was on an expedition in Antarctica, but that was in fact the case. Dr. Patrick (Pat) Maher, Associate Professor of Community Studies, recently spent 2 weeks in Antarctica with Students on Ice, an educational organization mandated to provide students, educators and scientists from around the world with inspiring educational opportunities at the ends of the Earth and, in doing so, help them foster a new understanding and respect for the planet.
The Nova Scotia native joined the expedition for a second time in 2013 to offer his expertise to more than 70 students from around the world. One of 20 educators on the trip, Pat says, “these sort of experiential learning opportunities work wonders to connect students with an awe-inspiring place, link them to world-class research, which hopefully engages them to be better global citizens at home”
Pat worked on the first Antarctic University Expedition in 2009, and when the opportunity to travel and teach students about the impacts of tourism in Antarctica arose in 2013, he jumped at the chance to go again. Pat explains that showing students the Polar Regions opens their minds in a critical part of their life. “Showing young people they can do anything they set their mind to is amazing,” he says. Adding that the most fascinating part of the trip was watching the students grow, “to see the value the students place on that experience makes it all worth it.”
Previously a professor at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) Pat is thrilled to be back on the East Coast and a part of the BACS faculty. He hopes to continue the tradition of problem based and experiential learning. In addition to lecturing, he intends to interact with and engage the students in conversations. Taking on the role as a facilitator or advisor Pat explains that he hopes students will take initiative and embrace self-directed learning to take them where they want to go.
Pat hopes to infuse research into the learning process in the classroom with his many years of experience in the field. His ultimate goal is for the students to think about how outdoor education can connect people to Polar, or other destinations, where sustainable tourism is occurring. He explains, “If I can do research that will inspire students and then allow the students to be self-directed in their learning they will be much more interested in their own education. This dual approach can lead students to somewhere where they can take my lead as inspiration, channel their own emotion and make good things happen.”