Hands-on learning is the future, whether hunting or not

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Sometimes, you need to get your hands dirty.

The idea of students picking up guns to hunt wildlife for academic credit may not be popular, but the premise behind it is valid — the principal of hands-on learning.

As part of an Environmental Field Investigations course at the University of Manitoba, students are leaving the classroom behind and entering the firing range. After target practice with clay targets, they hunt geese and deer to understand firsthand the significance of hunting practices in preserving wildlife populations.

There are some experiences and real-life situations to which a classroom setting just can’t do justice. If this course is focused primarily on the experience of hunting practices in environmental conservation, it makes sense to have students actually experience them, especially in an effort to connect to Indigenous populations in Manitoba.

When it comes to this specific course, entering the shooting range may not be for everyone. Especially for students questioning the ethics of the meat industry, hunting wildlife could be a hurdle — but it could also be the most educational.

Eating meat that you’ve caught, after undergoing the ordeal of hunting, generates an understanding and closeness with our food that has been erased by the meat industry.

It allows for an exploration of the relationship between hunter and hunted, and a non-theoretical understanding of sustainable practices.

This practice can’t be holistically taught only in theory — the lesson is the experience itself. 

Nonetheless, handling guns and hunting wildlife isn’t something that all students can be expected to be comfortable with.

Students may be receiving more than just an education on population control and wildlife, they’re also handling weapons that cause significant harm in our society. But, while it may seem as though normalizing gun use in an academic setting is the wrong move, this may be what our culture needs — to learn about the sheer power of guns in a controlled, regulated environment.

The hands-on approach is one that more post-secondary courses and institutions should warm up to, especially when teaching about practices rather than theories. The principle of learning by doing is sound regardless of the context of hunting.

Although some may not be keen on killing wildlife, hands-on learning brings holistic learning back to life.

Journal Editorial Board 

Students put down books, pick up guns and credits

Students at the University of Manitoba are putting down the textbooks and picking up guns as part of a mentored hunting course this fall. The Environmental Field Investigations course gives students hands on experience hunting and harvesting geese and deer in southern Manitoba - as well as university credits.

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