Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Hurricane Dorian cleanup: StFX students take part in Service Learning at Keppoch Mountain

September 25th, 2019
StFX students and Coady participants at the top of the Keppoch during their Service Learning experience

Picking up sticks in the Nova Scotia woods on a sunny Saturday is not what first-year students in the Social Justice Colloquium (SJC) and the Bachelor of Arts and Science in Health (BASc in Health) program thought they would be doing on their third weekend at StFX. But there they were—about 60 of them, working with their instructors and several Coady Global Change Leaders to check and clear steep trails littered with leaves and branches blown down by Hurricane Dorian.

The students were participating in a cross-course Service Learning activity designed by their instructors, Dr. Clare Fawcett (Anthropology-SJC) and Dr. Christina Holmes (BASc in Health). They were supported by Arlynne McGrath (Service Learning Program community coordinator), Paul Basilie (Keppoch general manager), Eric Smith (Positive Action for the Keppoch Society (PAK) Board of Directors member and Coady International Institute), as well as Dr. Chris Frazer (History-SJC), and Dr. Nancy Forestell and Dr. Rachel Hurst, both from the Women’s and Gender Studies program and SJC.

The site of the Service Learning experience, the Keppoch, is a multi-season, multi-sport recreational facility in Antigonish County about a 15-minute drive, or 40-minute cycle from the StFX campus. Developed, maintained and managed by PAK, it is an extensive network of mountain-bike, hiking, Nordic-ski and snow-shoe trails on the site of a former ski hill, and also includes the Keppoch Lodge. 

StFX students and Coady participants clear a branch on a Keppoch trail after Hurricane Dorian

Dr. Fawcett and Dr. Holmes say Service Learning at StFX actively connects students’ academic studies and their experiences working with community groups.   

At the Keppoch, students spent an hour learning from their instructors and people connected with the organization about PAK’s aim to build a healthier community in the Antigonish area through physical exercise and access to the out-of-doors.  

Students, Dr. Fawcett says, were reminded that a broad definition of health includes physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being.  

“Social Justice Colloquium students enhanced this insight by asking whether the Keppoch is available to everyone in Antigonish no matter their gender, age, social class, ability, or ethnicity. Finding lack of transportation made the facility inaccessible to many. Students discussed how this barrier could be overcome.”

Dr. Holmes says Service Learning at the Keppoch gave students a chance to get off campus during the hectic first weeks of class. 

“They visited a picturesque corner of Antigonish County, talked to their professors in an informal context and got to know other students, Coady participants and PAK representatives. After a day of trail clearing, a climb to the top of the hill, lunch, and a group discussion, the StFX students were ready to head back to campus tired but satisfied.”

This year, PAK is giving first year StFX students a free membership to Keppoch obtainable through StFX Recreation. Other students can purchase an individual annual pass for a reduced rate.

 

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