Clearwater: A Global Experience in a Local Community

Discovering the Living Rural Communities and Environments Course

On the way to Clearwater, Manitoba, you peel away from the perimeter, knowing that the experience will reveal something new. Heading westward down the #2 Highway, you make the southern turn to go down, and up, and down the valley-filled 34 Highway. The world suddenly changes, and you get the feeling that it will change even more when you hit the 3A on the way to catch a glimpse of the Living Rural Communities and Environments Course in Clearwater, led by Dr. Stéphane McLachlan, Clayton H., Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources.

From the University, the trip takes two hours, but it takes you even further into the past … and to the future of family farming and rural Manitoba communities.

The intensive two week course allows students to explore the reinvention of rural towns, and to discover the relationships between farm operations, rural culture, and the environment. A uniquely UM education, the world becomes the classroom, and the Clearwater community becomes a living text book. It’s interactive and experiential learning that you can only get in Manitoba.

Deeply rooted in the homesteader traditions of the past century and a half, and with an eye on a sustainable environmental and economic future, the town of Clearwater and the Harvest Moon Society work collaboratively to ensure the health of their community.

The cross-cultural aspects of the course are seemingly the highest in student impact.

From Winkler to China, and Winnipeg to Kenya, students come from around the globe to form a special community of learners. Professor Stéphane “Stef” McLachlan says, “the cross-cultural aspects of the course are seemingly the highest in student impact”. International, rural, and urban students process their way through assumptions of difference towards developing an understanding that we’re all bonded by our shared human experiences. You sense this immediately when you see the students interact with each other, and with the town at large.

What the students receive in learning, they give back in labour. Part of the course includes community projects. You’ll see students mending fences of the chicken coop, painting the stands at the local baseball diamonds, and helping in the coordination of community events. Clearwater local, “Mack”, shared a story of how a group of students helped pick two rows of potatoes. “It’s amazing what you can get done with this much help”, he said with a smile and a spark of awe in his eyes.

As part of the many Travel/Study courses available in Summer Session, students encounter a truly global learning experience. Courses can pack as much as 6 credit hours in a span of two weeks, while offering a truly remarkable education. Some classes are held as far off as the Ukraine, and in this case, it only takes a two hour drive to discover a new world, and a course that leaves a lifelong impact.