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Turning dreams into reality

Three winners have been announced for the Principal’s Dream Courses.

[Principal's Dream Courses]
Laura Murray (English Language and Literature) speaks about her experiences with ENGL 467: Words in Place: Settler and Indigenous Stories of Kingston/Cataraqui, one of the Principal's Dream Courses for 2016-17. (University Communications)

In its second year, the initiative offers Queen’s faculty members the resources to create and teach the courses they’ve always dreamt of. 

Each course will be taught for at least two years with up to $13,000 in funding for teaching materials, field trips and guest speakers. The winners will also receive course development assistance from the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

“The first three Principal’s Dream Courses showed the value of this initiative and I am very much looking forward to what can be accomplished by this current selection of winning proposals,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf. “I am confident each of these courses will provide their students with an exceptional and memorable learning experience.”

Applicants were encouraged to focus their proposed courses on the topics of sustainability, Indigenous identities or Queen’s 175th anniversary using active and inquiry-based learning methods.

The winning courses are:

GPHY 3XX: Indigenous Perspectives on the Environment and Health
Heather Castleden (
Geography and Planning, Public Health Sciences)
This course will explore issues concerning Indigenous peoples’ interconnected relationships with the environment and health. In addition to those relationships, the course will explore relationships between Indigenous and Settler peoples as existing within broad socio-political contexts. Central to the development of an understanding of Indigenous knowledge of environment and health, Indigenous voices must be at the forefront of this learning process. The course is largely a traveling Field School (80 per cent) with some portion being spent in class (20 per cent). The course will review key Canadian legal cases affecting land use, resource access, management, planning, and environmental protection; and explore Indigenous worldviews on health and the interplay human health has with environmental stability. A key focus will be the interconnectedness of environment and health – how the health of the land, water, and air is intimately tied to Indigenous health and well-being.

ENGL 218/003 Introduction to Indigenous Literature in Canada
Heather Macfarlane (
English Language and Literature)
This course will demonstrate the capacity of literature to confront expectations about Indigenous cultures and experience. Using an inquiry-based approach, the course will examine Indigenous novels, traditional stories, poetry, short stories and plays from various time periods, written by Métis, Inuit and First Nations authors. Class visits by renowned Indigenous authors and thinkers will open avenues for meaningful engagement, and demonstrate the importance of literature and aesthetics to educate and mobilize. With a goal of developing a broader understanding of the powerful anti-colonial sentiment at the core of Indigenous cultural production, the course will also consider the texts in the light of Indigenous-authored criticism. Participants will examine textual and theoretical approaches to topics such as colonialism and resistance, storytelling and orality, traditional and contemporary stories, land and language, residential schools and “reconciliation,” sexuality and gender, spirituality, community and nationhood. The course will also consider the role that Indigenous literatures play in shaping both Indigenous and non-Indigenous perceptions of identity.

ASO ASTR 101 Astronomy I: The Solar System
David Hanes (
Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy) and Keren Akiva (Instructional Designer, Arts and Science Online)
This course is a non‐mathematical introduction to the science of astronomy for non‐specialist students. Topics to be covered include the fundamentals of astronomy; the historical development of our understanding of the earth, moon, and solar system, with particular attention to the interpretations associated with various Indigenous cultures; an introduction to the tools and techniques of modern observational astronomy; the nature of the sun; the origin of our solar system; the sustainability and fragility of life on earth; space exploration of Mars, Jupiter, and other planets; the discovery and nature of planets around other stars; and the search for extraterrestrial life. This course is currently offered through Arts and Science Online in the summer term as a 12-week course and funding will allow the removal of an enrolment cap presently set at 95 students. The intention is to deepen the theme of sustainability in ASTR101 and to expand it to include themes of disparate historical interpretations as evidenced in varied cultures, paying particular (but not sole) attention to those of the North American First Nations. This includes creation stories as central and essential parts of the discussion.

Each of the winning courses will first be available in the 2017/18 academic year.

The Principal’s Dream Courses will be offered again in 2018 with increased funding of up to $15,000 per course being awarded.

Learn more about the Principal’s Dream Courses on the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s website.