Have you ever seen a group of preschool kids holding hands and waddling two-by-two lead by a teacher on the sidewalks? That is what I think my friends and I looked like on our UNI101 field trips around the city (minus the holding hands).
First Year Foundations, more commonly known as the One Programs are offered by the seven colleges and the Munk School. I took a UC One course that explored Citizenship in the Canadian City to familiarize myself with Toronto.
Small Class Size
One of the many perks of the Ones Programs are the small class sizes. My class had about 20 people. This allowed for a more personal connection between students and our lecturer. In addition, we had a chance to interact with Toronto’s community through field trips and plenary speakers which included politicians, architects, activists, drag queens, writers, actors, and street nurses.
A More Personal Course
For our first field trip, instead of heading to bookstore to purchase our textbook, our lecturer, Shawn Micallef brought us directly to the publisher! The smell of ink and the sound of books being pressed in Coach House Books were unparalleled to any book-buying experience I’ve had. Throughout the year, we had workshops on researching, mind-mapping, finding summer jobs, presenting and postering – workshops that I would’ve had to attend on my own time if I wasn’t in a One Program.
What the Courseload was like?
Before each class, we were assigned readings and after each field trip, we would write a 500 word reflection. Towards the end of the year, we had to write a research essay in which we could pick our own topic – uncommon in first-year courses. We also had a poster presentation to practice sharing our ideas with our community.
Getting to Know Toronto
My favourite class was the Nature Walk through Rosedale Ravine with arborist (tree-surgeon) and U of T alum, Todd Irvine. When I enrolled at U of T, I thought that I would be giving up the tropical rain-forests I grew up in. To my delight, this field-trip showed me that Toronto has a green lung. When architect Ya’el Santopinto came to our class, we discussed how urban planners are working with nature and heritage buildings to ensure that a balance is met with the new high-rises sprouting.
As new buildings add to the city landscape, new art forms decorate them. Artist Pascal Paquette gave us a personal tour of Graffiti Alley and explained the fine line between art and vandalism. There are even proper etiquette and laws laid by the city that artists must follow in the graffiti community. We also took a trip to City Hall, where we met Councillor Joe Cressy and talked about upcoming projects the city has in mind for accommodating population growth and public transit systems.
Our last walking-class was our “Psychogeographic Walk” in which the goal was to get lost. We created an algorithm – two lefts then right – and stuck to it religiously. We had spent the whole year discovering the city and once you’ve circled UC two-to-three times, you notice things you often overlook! I think that the One Programs have this as an ultimate goal – for us to take a step back from the crowded classrooms to notice and interact with what we usually don’t.
Have you taken a first-year foundation or seminar? Tell me about your experience!