Pandemic Restrictions are a Catalyst for Practical Learning in Home Communities

Despite the unique challenges students have faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and students at the College have implemented innovative approaches to experiential education.

Typically, during the spring semester all UAC-CP students participate in practicas, or applied learning experiences similar to internships. The practicas range from working at on-campus production facilities (e.g. coffee plant, organic vegetable garden, chicken farm, etc.) to teaching at elementary schools within the Municipality of Coroico.

This year, because students spent the semester studying from their homes, they couldn’t rely on campus resources or local partners to facilitate their applied learning. Instead, UAC-CP faculty decided that students would design practicas for their home communities.

Cristian Sanchez Pinedo, an Agronomy student, did his practica in his home community of Cedro Mayo, which is located along the World’s Most Dangerous Road that connects Bolivia’s capital city to Carmen Pampa. Cristian applied his knowledge of farming, organic fertilizer, and soil science to grow tomatoes for an experimental community garden that compared the use of guinea pig and chicken manure.

Cristian says he appreciated the opportunity to share information about crop production with farmers in Cedro Mayo. “I could tell that people were really curious,” he said, reflecting on his experience of clearing the land traditionally used for growing coca to show farmers how to grow organic vegetables.

Although the farmers were most familiar with using chemical pesticides, Cristian used information from his olericulture class to show how mild soaps and garlic can be used to control pests.

The results paid off with ripe red tomatoes that were harvested within a few weeks of planting. “To see the look of astonishment on their faces was great,” he said. “Community members told me that from what they’ve seen, they can tell that the College is doing a good job of educating people.”

As part of the final class assessment, community members reviewed all students’contributions. From easing the burden of higher produce prices caused by the pandemic, to preserving native crop varieties and growing practices, feedback for the UAC-CP indicated that the practicas were a win-win for both students and their home communities.

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