Embedding Innovative Spaces and Practices Into Durham College’s Horticulture Programs

Shane Jones, a DC faculty teaching in the School of Hospitality & Horticultural Science, embeds innovative teaching approaches into his programs to support his students and their career goals. Jones utilizes advanced technology, unique learning spaces, and helps to facilitate opportunities for his colleagues and students.

“We have a couple of new resources that have come online in the last little while including the interior hydroponic grow space, which is going to allow us to grow and show students how to manage an interior environment rather than just a greenhouse,” Jones says. According to Jones, many people are growing indoors without light and reusing existing spaces so this approach will prepare the students for the future. In addition to the hydroponic grow space, the addition of a new aquaponics will enable the program to produce consumable fish in conjunction with the produce.

The ability to deliver the program is enhanced through the connections with the Centre for Food and the other programs connected to it. “Our biggest plus is the way that we're able to deliver curriculum,” says Jones. “Our integration with the entire Centre for Food and the other programs that operate out of Hospitality and Horticultural Science, like culinary and hospitality. So, our students get a more of a holistic, complete circle view of the industry that they're going to be stepping into.”

By providing a more innovative and interactive experience for faculty and students, Durham College’s horticulture programs are able to stand out against other college programs in the system. This way, faculty and their students have the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning opportunities to grow together academically and professionally.

“We're doing something different than the other colleges. This helps in the promotion of our programs,” says Jones. “We're filling a niche that is drawing students here and supporting an industry that sees a need for it, but it's not a model that’s being produced in this way by any other college.”

Through the innovative methods of Durham College’s horticulture program, both faculty and students have been able to find success. In 2016, two of Jones’ students received bronze medals in the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC). This was after securing gold in the Horticulture and Landscape category at the Ontario Technological Skills Competition.

Jones says his students have secured gold twice in the skills competitions and moved onto nationals in previous years. However, Jones’ pride in the program goes beyond success in competitions.

“What we're building here and the amount of products that we've been able to create in such a short time, rebuilding soil, has been amazing,” He says. “That's a big drive for me in creating this one-of-a-kind program. The integration that we have going with the other programs really makes us feel part of something bigger and something very important.”

By finding innovative ways to get his students involved, whether by utilizing unique spaces, technology, or hands-on learning, Jones, his faculty colleagues and his students can achieve personal success by participating in a new wave of education.