Experiential Learning

Kayford Mountain: a MTR site that was last active 35 years ago.

One thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that learning occurs everywhere, not just in a classroom. In fact, the most important type of learning happens outside of a classroom. Memorizing and regurgitating knowledge is one thing, applying is another. I personally believe that if you’re not learning, you’re not living.

The first place I attended was Kayford Mountain in WVA. There I learned a whole bunch about coal mining and the harmful effects it has on the community. The people on the mountain were very kind and welcoming however, they did villainize coal companies.

Kayford mountain is a mountain that is protected from the destructive force of mining. Larry Lee Gibson spent his life trying to detour the coal company and he did face consequences for doing so. In the picture to the left you can see a bullet hole that was shot at Larry’s trailer. Paul, our tour guide, also told us that “somebody” also killed one of his dogs and attempted to hang another. Despite these obstacles, Larry persisted and got his land protected by the government. So, although the a coal company may own the coal underneath, they cannot disturb the land above it.

I went with a group of my peers from a class at Virginia Tech. We met early one morning and endured the two-hour drive to West Virginia. Navigating was slightly challenging. We spent a good chunk of time on a dirt road not exactly sure we were going the right direction. Regardless of our navigation issues we did end up at the parking lot where we met our tour guide: Paul Corbett.

Paul was a very nice guy. He seemed very educated and he was also very well spoken. He took his time explaining all the impacts of mountain top removal and explained why the people of the region were still for mining. The concept that the people of the region were sold on the idea of MTR despite the drawbacks was very interesting to me. It reminded me a lot of “internal colonialism.” The coal companies treated the area with little respect, taking what they wanted and taking the wealth associated with it.

I certainly took more away from Kayford than I would have if I had a lesson on MTR in a classroom setting. It was very interesting seeing the impact of MTR in person rather than a picture. The picture I have posted above does little to show the destruction MTR has caused the area.

The second event I attended was the International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. This trip was ridiculously fun, especially as a Dairy Science major. Here I learned how to judge dairy cattle.

Supreme Dairy Champion of North American Livestock Expo 2016

Similar to Kayford, I went with a group of my peers piled in a 12 passenger van, only this ride was longer. We practiced judging on the way down with cut outs of cows. A professor, Dr. Knowlton, taught us what to look for and important aspects of being a dairy judge.

At the Expo we spent the first day observing. As a person with little background in agriculture, this was very interesting to me. I had no idea that the judges only account for the physical appearance of a cow. Their place has nothing to do with their behavior or their leader, only their physical attributes. The second day was the judging competition which I found very fun! Although we were not in the competition we judges the cows and came up with reasons as if we were.

All in all, Louisville was a great learning experience for me. I loved learning how to do something I had no idea existed previously. I also met a few people who I may run into in my professional life.

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