Recreation boot camp: HKR students wrap up a very unique semester
By Michelle Osmond | July 25, 2013
For recreation students, something happens in their third year that many of them never forget. They take three courses, in six weeks, together and with the same professor: Dr. TA Loeffler. Anyone who knows (or has heard of Dr. Loeffler) knows there’s nothing ordinary about her classes. But this intense three-course summer session is often called ‘Recreation Boot Camp’ and by the end of it, students have been known to forget which course they’re in as the activities and concepts blend together.
The courses, Introduction to outdoor recreation and education, Outdoor recreation management and tourism/commercial recreation, are all requirements for graduating with a bachelor of recreation. Kate Walsh is currently taking all three. She had heard of ‘Recreation Boot Camp’ but didn’t think much of it until she started the courses. “Many of the activities are certainly challenging. Even though we are having a great time with every experience, learning this way isn’t easy and you have to have a desire and certain personality type to survive.”
In terms of distinguishing one course from the other, Kate says it actually helps. “It’s awesome because we sometimes learn stuff in one course that applies to another. It helps my understanding and helps us realize the importance of the concepts we learn.”
So far this summer, they have been canoeing, camping, hiking (on Signal Hill and other parts of the East Coast Trail), sea kayaking, indoor climbing and outdoor climbing in Flatrock.
“Dr. Loeffler even gets us learning outside through other activities around campus. Watching power point presentations or reading textbooks is tough to do when it is 25 degrees outside,” adds Kate. “But Dr. Loeffler breaks up our days with outdoor problem solving or other learning activities.”
Her favourite part: The exciting outings. “Sure, we have to take notes sometimes, apply our knowledge and follow instructions but we have a ball doing it. Roasting s’mores, sea kayaking and climbing mountains sounds like pretty awesome assignments to me.”
Kate says her least favourite part is having to manage her time more efficiently. Spending the entire day outside can be tiring, while still fitting in part time jobs, written assignments and practices.
As for Dr. Loeffler, she says she eats, sleeps and dreams teaching during these six weeks. “I’m either teaching, prepping for teaching or putting teaching gear away; almost everything else gets put on hold for boot camp. The intensity is something I value as an educator because it ups the ante on the students’ learning. I love that they forget which course is which and I look for ways in which concepts from one course can inform the others.”
“It’s almost like a study abroad experience in their home region,” Dr. Loeffler adds. “We cover lots of ground and spaces ranging from Cape Spear to Signal Hill to Flatrock and beyond. I often wish the experience could come a bit earlier in their programs so they could have longer to benefit from the connections they make with their classmates during this six week session.”
The 14 classmates have definitely become good friends. They’ve made plans to dinner together on the last day of classes. “Before this semester I hardly even knew the people I sit next to everyday,” said Kate. “In just a few short weeks we have built lasting friendships. I feel like I’ve known most of my classmates my whole life. We all bonded right from the start and Dr. Loeffler helped develop a positive environment that facilitated the growth of these relationships … and she knows each of us on a personal level that you don’t often get from any other university class or experience.”