Promoting culturally conscious students: A course model in maple syrup management and culture

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


The teaching strategy of blended learning (incorporating both online and experiential education) was used to design a university course covering multiple aspects of maple syrup and sugar history, ecology, management, production, and consumption to attract students. A key aspect of the course is to introduce students with little-to-no previous experience of traditional practices, indigenous knowledge, or ways of knowing that are different from Western academia, with the intent of building more cultural literacy and acknowledgments of diverse perspectives. The goal in developing course content was to explore the integrated fields that contribute knowledge related to maple syruping and sugaring activities, making it “something for everyone” to increase applicability for students of all levels and experiences, as well as increasing student enrollment and engagement. Student feedback and assessment from the course indicate increased understanding within core areas covered, as well as a strong partiality for content on cultural significance. Survey results of class outcomes demonstrate a successful approach, in addition to increasing enrollment of students from across campus. The course model may work well for other natural science topics, especially those that may attract students eager to learn and experience local foods or artisanal materials from natural systems. An overview of course content is provided along with examples of how the course could be adapted for other topics or regions of interest to further similar unit goals for developing more culturally literate students.

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Natural Sciences Education