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Physical education students return from Study Away course in Puerto Rico

WKU students recently returned from an 11-day trip to Puerto Rico to study “Outdoor Education Activities,” a 300- level course for physical education majors offered in partnership with WKU Study Away.

WKU physical education students biked along the Puerto Rican coast while studying “Outdoor Education Activities.” The course was organized through WKU Study Away and introduced students to diverse outdoor education programs.

Dr. Keri Esslinger led the course, which took students hiking, biking, climbing, caving and kayaking through the mountains and countryside of Puerto Rico. Esslinger said that the required course is designed to teach students how to teach outdoor education to others and is typically offered on campus; but the idea for the new Study Away course came directly from her students.

According to Esslinger, students wanted to take a Study Away course but couldn’t find one that fit the curriculum for PE majors. “So they created their own,” said Esslinger.

They researched locations that were ideal for an outdoor education course and decided they wanted to visit Puerto Rico — and that they wanted her to teach it. “My students reminded me that I told them to branch out, travel and seek out a variety of experiences, and this group really took it to heart,” she said.

Students participated in a service project, helping local farmers in the Hayuya area of Puerto Rico. Above, Corey Emberton and David Dauer pick coffee beans at a family-owned farm.

Corey Emberton, a senior PE major from Tompkinsville, was one of the six students in the course. He described it as an experience he will never forget. The course is designed to teach students how to teach outdoor physical education to others, but Emberton said that they learned much more. “This course allowed us to expand our idea of outdoor activities way beyond anything we imagined,” he said.

Students kayaked at night along a rare bioluminescent bay filled with half-plant, half-animal algae that turn fluorescent blue when touched. They hiked the El Yunque Mountain and its rainforest and ziplined 600 feet above the mountains near the city of Orocovis. “We even did a service project where we picked coffee along a 62-acre mountainside farm,” said Emberton, “and we met some amazing people.”

“This type of course is what you make of it,” Emberton added. “I would encourage all students take advantage of this type of opportunity. They will experience something different than they have ever imagined.”

Esslinger said that she would like to offer the course through Study Away again, adding that a course during Winter Term is another option if there’s enough interest.

For more information about this course, contact Keri Esslinger, assistant professor, Department of Kinesiology, Recreation & Sport, at 270-745-6038 or keri.esslinger@wku.edu. For information about WKU Study Away, contact Jerry Barnaby, program director of Study Away, at 270-745-2231 or jerry.barnaby@wku.edu.

Contact: Susan Esters, (270) 745-8922.

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