The power and potential of experiential education (EE) to facilitate meaningful change is front and centre for students enrolled in Professor Lyndsay Hayhurst’s course, HH KINE 4310, International Development and Sport, offered by the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University.
The course, which focuses on the use of sport as a catalyst to address issues like enhancing community development and youth engagement, incorporates community service learning (CSL), a type of EE that sees students apply course theories and concepts to support projects identified by the community partner organization.
In order to include CSL in her course, Hayhurst worked tirelessly to establish an impressive group of community partner organizations focused on issues at the local, national and global levels. The course’s CSL partners are: Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) LaunchPad, Toronto Inner City Rugby Foundation (TIRF), Jays Care Foundation, Not-for-profit United Team of Mentors Educators and Grassroots Coaches (NUTMEG), Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities and Right to Play. Students enrolled in the course worked in groups to support projects identified by the CSL partners. Some of the projects had students reviewing best practices, evaluating benefits and challenges of establishing new programs and facilitating trauma-informed sport for development (SFD) workshops with youth in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
As part of their coursework, students prepared a final report on their project work and produced a video summarizing their key findings and recommendations for the organizations. While integrating experiential education into a course takes effort, Hayhurst is quick to point out that it leads to great benefits. “Although it’s initially a fair amount of work, I will always try and integrate EE components into my courses − especially community service learning opportunities. It actually enhances my teaching, and in many ways makes the learning experience more impactful and exciting for students,” she says.
The CSL partners receive benefits from the students’ contributions. “[The students] were professional and creative, and their hard work and thorough research proved to be really helpful to our team in our design process for future programs,” says Jules Porter, director of programs at Jays Care Foundation.
By engaging students in their work and with some of the challenges the CSL partners face, there’s also a pay-it-forward effect as the partners have an opportunity to inform the curriculum, ensuring it is current and timely.
Hayhurst, who was recently awarded a Sociology of Sport Early Career Researcher Award and has previously worked in the SFD field, says she could “relate to the importance of better bridging the applied nature of SFD with theory.”
York Kinesiology and Health Science student Emerald Bandoles agrees: “Our CSL projects enabled me to take my learning into the real world, where our projects had the potential to impact real communities and the individuals who live in them.”
Students in the course said this hands-on engagement helped them gain new insight into the potential of sport for development, with many saying it will inform their future community engagement and careers.
“[The experience] played an influential role into my future aspirations of pursuing research in the [sport for development and peace] stream,” says Bandoles.
So, what advice does Bandoles offer to other students? “I encourage students to take this course – it is an invaluable experience and opportunity!”
Submitted by Anda Petro, experiential education coordinator, Faculty of Health