At a Glance


  • Social sciences

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP


  • Advanced Topics: Sociology of Food & Environment 387-401-DW

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Individual
  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Collecting & seeking information
  • Discussing
  • Analyzing
  • Reviewing & assessing peers
  • Creating & designing
  • Revising & improving
  • Reading
  • Presenting

Technical Details

Useful Technologies

  • Online Collaborative Canvas; Google Forms

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Part of a semester (4-6 weeks)

Instructional Purpose

  • Application & knowledge building
  • Exploration & inquiry


In this activity, students prepare before class with readings and course material that provide the context. For the applied component, a lot of the group work is allowed to be done during scheduled class time. Any remaining work is to be completed outside of class. The length of the activity, which includes two group projects, extends over 5 classes.

Students start off with a short assignment in the first class to introduce them to the city and its neighborhoods. For their first project they select a neighborhood that interests them and develop a deep understanding of that particular area. Students are also reading about food systems and getting to know its components. So, they map out the food system in their chosen neighborhood by looking at the geographical distribution of resources and the food system’s research and literature. To better understand the context of that neighborhood, students add data, (i.e. median income and social demographics) and information from a variety of sources to the neighborhood map.

In the second project, students come up with a plan to improve the food system locally to meet the needs of the residents of that neighborhood. They decide who would need to be at the table to make decisions for governance, determine what the major organizations are in that neighborhood, and develop a plan to improve the food system and policy.

This activity has multiple aims and purposes. First, it gives students a chance to explore the community in which they live and understand their urban environment better. Second, they are able to use statistics and other information to make sense of the urban environment. Third, they apply frameworks associated with policy and planning (i.e. a municipal food plan) to the urban environment (i.e. the neighborhood), by considering what a plan would look like in the assigned area.

The value of this activity is that students focus not only on understanding the material but to applying it to a real life situation. Another value for students is that they can make sense of the urban environment and how it fits into theory as it’s applied to real life situations.

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Summarize the urban environment of a Montreal community
  • Use statistics and data to describe the social demographics of the community
  • Apply policy and planning frameworks to the community

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

  • Students become attached as they get to know their urban environment better while developing a sense of the socio-economics, demographics and the reality of the place where they live and/or study.
  • With this focus, students receive direction and clear boundaries to help them develop a deep understanding of a particular topic.
  • Students practice synthesizing and integrating knowledge from multiple sources.
  • Being able to review and exchange ideas with other students proves the utility of having comparative cases. Students engage with one another through continuous opportunities to give and receive constructive feedback and revise.
  • Students have difficulty finding information, parsing and determining good sources to reference.
  • There are common issues with group dynamics such as the distribution of the workload within groups.
  • Maintaining accountability and ensure that all students are contributing good information is also a challenge.
  • During the revision component, students may be unwilling to accept feedback and criticisms and may disagree with one another.
  • In group projects, ensure there are components that are easily divisible so it is easier to hold individuals accountable to specific parts of the project. This encourages a distribution of responsibility and doesn’t reinforce assumptions like ‘Everyone needs to present’ to have fair distribution. Divisible components means that the group does not have to make up for the work that an individual did not complete. For this aspect, confidential peer review is essential.
  • Provide opportunities in class with specific directives, emphasizing that what is not completed in class needs to be done at home, which incentivizes students to actually work well together in class.
  • On days where the group project is due, reserve 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class to allow students to review their presentations. This is meaningful because it gives them a chance to adjust and negotiate with each other about their plan.
  • Using one shared canvas for all the groups gives other students a chance to compare and get ideas from other groups.
  • Using a shared canvas makes it easy for the instructor to quickly check references that are linked, and tag students directly to correct them immediately.


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