In our semester together, the instructors of the Study in Africa program would like to change the way our students feel about their education. We hope they develop or renew a sense of wonder about living things, an understanding of and respect for other cultures, a feeling of continuity with the past, and an awareness that their educations and careers are limited only by their imagination and effort.
To encourage an integrated approach to education, our field school includes courses for students from both arts and sciences at all four undergraduate levels. We hope that biology students will participate in archaeology and anthropology courses, and that arts students will take a biology course. We maintain a low student/instructor ratio so that there is opportunity and time for questions and discussion outside of the immediate concerns of course work.
East Africa provides the ideal range of people and ecology to exemplify our theme of biodiversity, in both the cultural and biological sense. Since our travels take us through the Great Rift Valley, likely the birth place of our species, archaeology instructors can, as part of their course work, take students to the actual sites of major finds. Anthropologists can use examples from the local people we meet on our safari, while biologists are literally surrounded by the most abundant wildlife in the world. The educational opportunities presented by our travels are numerous and vivid.
The field school has three priorities: first, the safety and health of the participants; second, academic excellence; third, the African experience.
Planning for the safety of the participants starts with the hiring of appropriate personnel, and includes such considerations as the careful choosing of itineraries, the establishing of camp and program rules, the discussing and enforcing of appropriate and safe behaviour, and the hiring of camp guards and rangers. We address health concerns by hiring our own cooks and monitoring food quality, purifying all drinking water, and arranging for clean latrines and hot showers at every camp. We are accompanied by our own medical doctor, with a complete first-aid kit and medical supplies. We will also arrange for an air ambulance medical service for program participants in case of a medical emergency while in the field.
Our academic courses are structured to follow closely equivalent courses on Canadian campuses, each with a minimum of thirty-nine hours of instruction, complete with assignments, projects, midterms, and finals. This core course content is enriched with African content, but not directed by it. Our course work is completed before our return home. In past years our courses have consistently received transfer credit at other Canadian post-secondary institutions, subject to the rules all such transfers involve. Our partner universities will provide most of the professors and ensure that the highest of academic standards are maintained.
The African content of our program is enhanced with daily game drives, visits to local villages, a lecture series by prominent African experts, visits to museums, and possibly a non-credit Swahili course. As part of our commitment to leaving more than our footprints and tourist dollars behind, we also involve program participants in supporting African educational institutions. This activity may range from providing paper, chalk and soccer balls to some of the village schools we pass, to supporting some of the colleges and universities with used books and teaching materials.