CD#15 – The BISC – an inspirational setting

Steven Bednarski

The BISC, its location, and its history, have garnered international praise through an award recently made to Steven Bednarski for innovation in teaching, the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’s 2017 D2L Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award. The STLHE recognized Steven for his “collaborative, cross-disciplinary, hands-on” approach to teaching, as evidenced at Queen’s University’s UK campus of Herstmonceux Castle and at Waterloo, Ontario.

Many of you will know Steven as a former Scholar in Residence and faculty member, regular on-site researcher, and long-time partner of the BISC. In 2011, Steven began a formal partnership between the BISC and Queen’s University and his home institutions, the University of Waterloo and St. Jerome’s University. The purpose of this relationship is to research the relationship between East Sussex’s changing environment and climate, and the ways in which inhabitants of the Castle estate and surrounding medieval village lived and adapted to their landscape. In 2013, this research received generous funding through a Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), which included funding from Queen’s University.  The most visible part of this work happens each summer, when students from the partner institutions come to Herstmonceux to further work on the various archaeological sites across the grounds. A regular member of the archaeological team has been the recipient of Undergraduate Summer Student Research Fellowship (USSRF) funding made available by Queen’s in recognition of the importance of the partnership.

Hands-on experience

Steven’s approach to teaching is inspired by a core principle of the BISC programming: learning by doing. Students who participate in the program and who study, live, and work at Herstmonceux have the opportunity to engage with the past by actively seeking evidence of it, both in the ground and in the archives. Finds from the digs have been cleaned, analysed, catalogued and are now archived on site. Primary sources from the archives have been catalogued and digitised. The cross-disciplinary nature of the project has enabled students to acquire knowledge, training and transferable skills in archaeology, history and archives.

A number of students, having left the BISC, return to Waterloo to continue working on the project in new ways, for example, through the creation of a digital repository of information that ultimately could support research in similar areas of climate change. Just last year Steven established the D.R.A.G.E.N. (Digital Research Arts for Graphical and Environmental Networks) Lab to continue exploring the role of technology in helping us understand and visualise the past. By blending programming, Steven’s students acquire hands-on training, experiential learning, and internationalization at the BISC which they then bring back to Canada and put to work, for credit, in transferrable settings. In this way, the BISC and Queen’s helps provide high-quality research training to students who are at the forefront of emerging technologies and research approaches.

Engaging with the past

You can learn more about the project, including viewing an interactive map showing how the sea reached the Castle’s South Gate, by visiting the Herstmonceux Project Website.

 

As Steven says, “BISC programming is transformative for my students and junior research partners. It enables them to return to Canada with new skills and a real appreciation for collaboration, hands-on learning, and the creation of original research. The Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’s D2L Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award is affirmation that the partnership between Waterloo and the BISC is truly unique and beneficial. I was honoured to accept the award on behalf of the Partners and delighted to know that what we are doing together is gaining recognition by our peers, nationally and internationally.”

»Inspirational since January 2017«