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Sport & Recreation Management: A Mission to Encourage Engagement with Nature

November 1, 2022

In collaboration with Rochester Ecology Partners (REP), students in the Sport & Recreation Management community-engaged learning (CEL) course have spent the semester developing brochures for future park events and event programs to increase community engagement with the natural environment.

Students in the sport management class.

In collaboration with Rochester Ecology Partners (REP), students in the Sport & Recreation Management community-engaged learning (CEL) course have spent the semester developing brochures for future park events and event programs to increase community engagement with the natural environment.

CEL courses offer an opportunity for students to take what they are learning in the classroom and apply those skills in a real-world setting, oftentimes providing a service to underresourced non-profit organizations or small businesses. Students work with clients to deliver presentations that solve a problem in their business. In the case of REP (Rochester Ecology Partners), Sport & Recreation Management students are planning and presenting programs to increase engagement between members of the Rochester community and their local parks.

The course, taught by Jeffrey Nutting, adjunct professor in the Sport Management Department, is primarily lecture-based with some group work and invites several guest speakers to come in and highlight career opportunities for students. “I came to Fisher as I believe in the positive value of parks and recreation and non-profit opportunities to our communities. It is not often a career path that is discussed and I hope that I can enlighten a few students on the impact this profession can have on others,” said Nutting.

Given Nutting’s goal of providing students with career opportunities in the parks and recreation profession, a partnership with REP was a perfect fit.

“CEL learning at Fisher has been very valuable for our organization, and this one, in particular, is important because it helps us extend an existing and successful program in new ways. I'll also add that the students provide many excellent ideas and help us understand how we can best serve them and help them find nature where they live, work, and play,” said Chris Widmaier, executive director at REP. Widmaier’s mission, just like Nutting’s, is to provide students with the opportunity to become more familiar with local parks.

As part of the course structure, students have two deliverables; a brochure and an event program that fosters increased engagement between families (and the Rochester community overall) with nature. The brochure falls in line with the 23 in 23 event hosted by REP which encourages individuals to visit 23 parks in 2023. Students will identify 23 parks and develop a brochure for visitors to carry with them throughout their travels. The event program is an extension of the 23 in 23 brochure as it asks students to develop a nature-based program to coincide with one of the 23 parks.

For example, student groups have considered fundraising events, themed walks, and scavenger hunts. Overall, program themes focus on mental health and the benefits of engaging with nature. Articles from class reflections are used as a reference and have been incorporated into the event proposal plans.

Students are highly motivated by this in-class experience and speak passionately about their projects.

“One thing I am looking to get out of this project is to develop a program that has the purpose of bringing people together in the community using our local parks and nature. This way I can find the true benefits parks have to offer back to the community,” said Evan Smith.

Not only are students becoming exposed to partners in the Rochester community but they are developing critical thinking skills that will transfer to other classes and their professional careers.

Nutting said he hopes his students have learned the baseline knowledge they need to review, evaluate, and develop programs that can be brought into any career. A goal with any class at Fisher, the CEL courses in particular emphasize how important it is to develop a holistic classroom experience that encourages students to think beyond finding a single answer to a problem. Instead, students find a solution and provide a “why” that connects to the course learnings, the project overall, and their personal experience in the class.