There’s the Mexico we know from portrayals in the media and then there’s the Mexico that Dr. Don McCaskill loves and presents as a unique learning experience for his Indigenous Studies students.
“The negative stories get out there and that’s the image many people have of Mexico but it’s an amazing culture they don’t understand,” says Professor McCaskill, who has just returned from escorting 23 students to the country – a biennial trek offered through the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico field course (INDG-3113Y).
Hands-On Learning & Indigenous Knowledge
The experiential learning opportunity brings students to Mexico City and Oaxaca City to study the contemporary situation of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico. Students also travel to Indigenous communities and learn about Indigenous knowledge, culture, politics, the arts and environmental issues in the region. In addition, students hear lectures by Dr. Gustavo Esteva of the Universidad de la Terra, an alternative university he oversees that, according to Prof. McCaskill, is “very grounded in Indigenous knowledge.”
“Students learn about alternative forms of living in terms of sustainability and the environment,” says Prof. McCaskill. “We take them to places where they are using traditional medicine and growing traditional Indigenous crops. There are a lot of alternative environmental and sustainability issues that we discuss, and they go out into the field and they actually see these projects working.”
Educating the Head and the Heart
Most rewarding for Prof. McCaskill is the level of personal growth experienced by each student.
“The students really made a lot of connections this year. It was an amazing experience for them. In some cases, I think it was life changing. I’ve been reading their reflection papers and it has been so heartwarming to see not only the level of learning they achieved but also the personal growth they experienced.”