Student as Scholar: “We want to inspire creative thinkers”

Dr. Jason Pearson is clearly excited. “I think this has a shot of being a legacy project. We want to inspire creative thinkers. This may sound cliché, but if we can teach students to learn through exploration, we empower them to change the world.”

Dr. Pearson is a member of UPEI’s Student-as-Scholar (SaS) group. Inspired by the vision laid out in UPEI’s Strategic Research Plan, the SaS group is exploring exciting new ways to expand undergraduate student research opportunities across their entire education.

“We know this is already happening in pockets around the university,” says Dr. Pearson. “We’d like to make this type of learning a more formal hallmark of UPEI. We have an opportunity to engage students through research and exploration rather than by sitting them in a lecture theatre.”

The UPEI SaS group hosted a successful set of workshops earlier this spring and brought together faculty, staff, and students in a dialogue.

“It was really exciting,” says Dr. Pearson. “We had excellent facilitation for the workshops by Dr. Mick Healey and Dr. Sue Vajoczki. They helped us discover that much of what we’re looking for is already happening informally on campus. Together, we came up with 250 ideas that we could all implement into the learning environment. The innovation is already here.”

The next set of workshops begin the morning of June 25. Dr. Pearson calls this a review and primer for those who haven’t been involved in the discussion until now. That afternoon, the committee is hosting an event called Swap Shop: Dialogue on Engaging students.

From June 26 to 28, there will be a series of half-day workshops on designing inquiry-based courses.

Registration for any of the workshops can be done online. For more information, visit the SaS committee website, or contact Dr. Jason Pearson at

PEI National Park: a story told in photos

 “Because Prince Edward Island is relatively small, we’re lucky to have an excellent aerial photographic record of the entire Island,” says Dr. Josh MacFadyen, Research Associate of UPEI’s Institute for Island Studies. “We’re able to look at these photos and see how the land has changed because of both human use and natural occurrences. Nowhere are these changes more apparent than in PEI National Park.”

The air force made the first comprehensive tip-to-tip aerial photographic survey of the province in 1935.

“PEI National Park came into being just a year later in 1936,” says Dr. MacFadyen, “and the next set of aerial photos reveal a very different landscape from the string of farms and cottages that dotted the North Shore. What’s amazing is, at the time of the first survey, landowners in the area which would become the park had no idea their property would soon be expropriated for this project.”

The most dramatic changes, says Dr. MacFadyen, occurred on Robinsons Island.

Dr. Josh MacFadyen stands beside a series of aerial photos illustrating the changes to Robinsons Island over time: submitted photoDr. Josh MacFadyen stands beside a series of aerial photos illustrating the changes to Robinsons Island over time: submitted photo

“Here’s a five-kilometre-long island at what is essentially the centre of the park,” he says. “In the 1950s, the park administrators had this idea that a highway could be built across it, bridging the tourist strongholds of Cavendish in the west and Dalvay in the east. Unfortunately for the administration, nature had other ideas.”

The closure of Little Harbour to the east changed the tides of the area, and began a process of erosion that continues today. The highway was abandoned, but other attempts to bring visitors to Robinsons Island included a campsite in the 1970s, and all of these processes are visible by comparing the photos over time.

“Similar changes are visible in Greenwich, a much more recent addition to the park, although here the most dramatic changes occurred naturally as forests and large sand dunes reclaimed farm fields over time."

Dr. MacFadyen and Dr. Alan MacEachern have curated an exhibit of aerial photographs entitled “Aerial Photography, Landscape Change, and PEI National Park” for the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. The gala opening is Saturday, June 16 from 7-9 pm.

For more information, contact the gallery at 628-6111, or visit the exhibit website.