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Life-Changing Learning Can Happen Below Sea

student scubadiving, swimming with fish, learning under water

Not many courses offer as much as Shawn Simonson’s Hyperbaric Physiology course. In this interdisciplinary graduate course, students learn about the physiological changes that occur while diving, the physics of underwater environments, the oceanic flora and fauna adaptations to the pressure in the sea, and the unique ecosystem that exists in the sea, including how lifestyles above water may impact the oceanic environment.

One student said that “the learning that took place throughout the class may not have been 100 percent applicable to the purpose of students in the exercise/kinesiology degree but I think that made the class more important and more applicable to growing up and life in general. We can learn from a book all day long but experiences often teach us more important lessons not found in books.”

Simonson, associate professor in the School of Allied Health Sciences Department of Kinesiology, is partnering with Mary Branchflower, Dive Magic PADI course director, for this thorough course about the underwater world. In addition to studying human anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology, physics and biology, the students will earn their PADI Open Water Scuba certification so that they can experience what they’ve studied first hand in Roatan, Honduras at the end of the term.student scubadiving, facing camera, learning under water

The course is being offered in the fall of even years; this is the second fall that students have had the opportunity to take this unique course. There are still six slots available to students. The students who took the course in fall 2014 raved about their experiences and encourage other students to take this life-changing course.

One student expressed gratitude towards Simonson for organizing the course and the capstone trip, though other students expressed similar sentiments: Simonson “created a priceless, unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for his students. He has birthed many lifelong divers and adventurers from this trip. He has fostered learning about hyperbaric physiology but also about the earth, wildlife, and the effects of humans on nature. Through this experience, I hope I speak for everyone when I say he has awakened an appreciation and a sense of wonder for the world we inhabit.”

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