Calvin College

CALVIN - Minds in the Making

Strengthening Liberal Arts Education by Embracing Place and Particularity

Case Study

Using walking and biking tours to connect students to place

Process or innovation

In response to the challenge of connecting students to the city of Grand Rapids as well as getting them to think critically about the issue of sprawl, Calvin has initiated biking and walking tours of the community.  These tours have introduced students to specific neighborhoods as well as Grand Rapids as a whole.  Descriptions of these tours: 

Characteristics and Key Features of both the walking and biking tours: 


Improved Quality of Life – Intersections among collaborators and activities

Adapted from:  Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2000

Student response to both the walking and biking tours has been good.  Papers received from students in connection to the bike tour have been of good quality and indicate that students have been engaged in the process.  For example, one student sent the following email (unsolicited) in response to the bike tour.

Two things; First of all I just wanted to thank you for taking our class on the bike tour today. While I can't speak for everyone, personally I really enjoyed everything that we saw today. I had no idea that there was so much going on around Grand Rapids. Secondly I was really interested in all the community development going on around the city…so congrats on having a fairly substantial impact on at least one student.  Thanks again for a great day. (Student in Recreation 201 Class)

Students who have been involved in the STREETFEST tours have noted that they have been a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information but that overall they felt it gave them an excellent overview of the city. 

Future possibilities of incorporating bike and walking tours into classes include: 

More importantly, the College is beginning to develop a mindset, which encourages professors to think about how to connect students to the city.  As more tours are developed by students it is hoped that one day these tour possibilities could be organized and offered as options to outside groups to take a city tour in which students could share knowledge gained through developing tours themselves that examine specific themed issues (e.g. historical, sociological, architectural, etc.)


Next: Student Involvement