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Arts & Science Program

ARTSSCI 4MN1 / Local Explorations

An experiential learning course, which offers students the opportunity to explore issues of local significance and global relevance. Students may pursue independent study options or, when available, participate in assorted modules.

These are 1-unit modules that can be taken by any student at any stage beyond Level I. The content and schedules vary annually. Details may be found below or by contacting the Arts & Science Program Administrator Madeline Van Impe ( or ext. 23153). These courses are evaluated on a Pass/Fail basis. Some modules may require a fee to cover costs of travel and accommodation.

ARTSSCI 4MN1 may be repeated, if on a different topic. Enrolment is limited.

Please Note:

  • Payment of McMaster course credit fees (i.e. tuition and supplementary fees) for ARTSSCI 4MN1 is in addition to the module fees if applicable.
  • Even if all funds for the trip are paid, you are ineligible to participate in the module if you have not registered in the course.
  • Submission of the necessary Release Form(s) must be submitted prior to the start of the course.

Fall 2019 Modules

This one-unit module will explore the concept of urban placemaking, a collaborative process of animating public and private spaces to strengthen the social and cultural fabric of cities. We will look at community-driven placemaking aimed at solving local issues such as food insecurity, economic instability, and social isolation, as well as developer-led placemaking initiatives with (often controversial) goals of revitalizing entire neighbourhoods.

This is an experiential, place-based course. We will discuss urban placemaking initiatives around the world, including the “Rebuild Foundation” in Chicago, “Project Row Houses” in Houston, and Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin. We will conduct site visits of several Toronto-based projects, including “Daniels Spectrum,” a community cultural hub that was built as part of the Regent Park Revitalization Plan. Using these spaces as case studies, students will participate in facilitated discussions about the challenges associated with ensuring that they are vibrant, community-driven, and financially sustainable.

Please note that there is an additional fee of $15 for this module and students will be responsible for covering their own travel costs associated with participating in the module (e.g. GO Transit).

Module Schedule:
Saturday 5 October 2019 10am-5pm (Toronto, various locations)
Sunday 6 October 2019 10am-3:30pm (One James North-112, Hamilton)
Monday 21 October 2019 6:30-8:30pm (LRW-3038, McMaster University)

Jackie Brown, Arts & Science alum (2014)
Ros Pfaff, Arts & Science alum (2013)

Urban Placemaking Course Outline
Urban Placemaking Application Form

Electronic devices are a vital part of our modern lives, as they enable (or at least mediate) most of our personal and academic activities. Despite this key role, many of us have little understanding of how such devices actually work and would benefit greatly from an improved electronic fluency. In response, this course will use a collaborative, hands-on approach to introduce students to the fundamentals of electronics.

The development and widespread availability of inexpensive, user-friendly and well-documented electronics — such as the Arduino — has made learning and developing these skills accessible (and dare we say, even fun) for students of every age.  Such resources now make it possible for even the most inexperienced student to create with electronics, while simultaneously reaping the educational benefits associated with the application of logic and rules to make cool stuff.

In this two-day (9-hour) “boot camp” experience, students will learn the basics of electronics by building simple circuits that integrate Arduino microcontrollers with various sensors and actuators. By developing software code to control the devices, participants will also gain experience with programming. Students will consolidate their learning by building a unique device capable of sensing changes in its environments and responding accordingly, as well as completing a blog post to describe their creation and reflect on their experience.

See last year’s creations at:

Module Schedule:
Friday 1 November 2019 5:30-7:30pm
Saturday 2 November 2019 9am-4pm

Jason Brodeur

Electronics for the Rest of Us Application Form

Winter 2020 Modules

Winter is the misunderstood season. We will explore, with an Algonquin Park cabin stay, winter as a fundamental expression of Canadian identity through the lenses of history, geography, and literature. While travelling by snowshoes and skis, and of course sitting around the fire, we will examine key stories and characters in our Canadian understanding of winter, including Franklin, wendigos, Sam Magee, and Grey Owl. This exploration will also include the “idea of North” and the Norwegian friluftsliv approach to winter outdoor life. The central goal is to embrace the winter season as a “place” in our personal psyche and Canadian consciousness.

To do this we must be active in a thriving winter place where we are engaged in winter chores of chopping wood for our fires, drawing water from our ice hole, and clearing roofs of burdensome snow. We will learn the key winter activities of snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, building a snow shelter (Quinzee) and setting up a wall tent wood stove camp.

Please note that there is an additional trip fee (TBD, was $200 in 2019) to cover accommodations, transportation, and equipment rentals. A $100 deposit is due upon application submission.

Module Schedule:
Sat. 15 – Tues. 18 February 2020 (Algonquin Park)

Dr. Bob Henderson, retired Arts & Science instructor
Jeff Cameron

Winter as Place Application Form

This is a four-day fieldtrip to Cave City, Kentucky to explore karstic geomorphology, perform underground biological inventories, discuss the rich local caving history, and consider the environmental issues caused by mismanagement of these natural features. Students will have the opportunity to explore several cave systems within the region including the world’s largest known cave system and a ‘Wild Cave’ tour that will allow students to experience caving with only a guide and a headlamp. Student evaluation will be based upon a pre-trip assignment to be presented to the class during the trip, course participation, a postcourse reflection, and participation in the post-trip meeting.

Please note that there is an additional trip fee (TBD, was $400 in 2019) to cover accommodations, transportation, and park entrance fees.  A $150 deposit is due upon application submission.  All participants must have a valid passport for travel to the U.S.A.  Proof of valid passport must also be submitted with the application.

Module Schedule:
Thurs. 20 – Sun. 23 February 2020 (Cave City, Kentucky)

Dr. John McLachlan

Kentucky Caving Application Form