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By Anna Sarkissian
Professional dancer and choreographer Sarah Steben knew exactly what kind of event she wanted to organize when her professor assigned the class to plan, implement and evaluate a recreation program worth 65% of their final grade.
In fact, her classmate Megan Foster had the same idea – a low-cost workshop for all levels taught by experienced dancers.
Together with four others students, they recruited So You Think You Can Dance finalist Jayme Rae Dailey and her twin sister Jenny to run two workshops at Studio A, a West Island dance studio where they all worked.
“We’ve been reading about constraints. People have barriers including cost, access to facilities, they don’t feel like they’re good enough, and so on,” says Steben, a second year leisure sciences major.
Though they hoped to attract 20 people to each session on March 13, they ended up with double. The benefit raised $1 340 for cystic fibrosis.
Lecturer Steven Henle has been teaching the 300-level applied human sciences course, called Community Recreation Program Planning, for three years. The course’s foundational principle is problem-based service learning.
“At the beginning of the semester, we brainstorm about problems that can be solved through community recreation,” Henle says.
The students develop a needs assessment to make sure the program they are creating has a realistic benefit for the participants.
In some cases, groups approach the executive director of an organization to ask, “Do you have a program you’ve always wanted to implement?”
“The definite highlight for me was the implementation,” says star rugby player Jackie Tittley. She is a volunteer coach for the juvenile girls’ rugby team at St. Thomas High School, her alma mater, and was recently named Concordia University Athlete of the Year along with linebacker Cory Greenwood.
Her group was composed of several St. Thomas rugby alumni who recognized the contribution the team made to their high school experience.
They ran a rugby 101 session for students in grades 7 to 9 which included ball handling, passing, defence, game theory, rules and terminology.
Tittley says that the assignment helped her get a taste of what running a public program would be like. She learned to make changes when things didn’t go according to plan, which as she puts it, “highlights the importance of having a back up plan and being able to think on your feet.”
In addition to the event, students are also evaluated on their responses to two case studies presented by guest speakers from the field as well as professional merit, in which part of the mark comes from peer- and self-assessments.
“My first semester all my classes were pretty standard: lecture, teacher puts the notes up on Moodle, study for the exams. This class was definitely one I will remember and one that will help me later on,” says Steben, who has high praise for Henle.
“The course could easily be dull if the professor was not engaging. He really makes you think. He made the course exciting and I feel that this is what the university experience should be.”