Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans Saints; Serial Killers & Assassins; Jim Jones; Misogyny in Hip Hop Lyrics; Housing Discrimination in Baltimore; Renaissance & 19th Century America; Stanford Prison Experiment; North Korean Defectors; Sleep; Street Smarts v. Book Smarts; The Middle Class; Organized Crime-Bratva, Yakuza, Mafia; Gun Control; Alcatraz; Concussions in Football; Syrian Refugee Crisis; #BlackLivesMatter v. #AllLivesMatter; The Ryder Cup; Donald Trump & the Republican Party; ADHD; Ghost Guns; History of Mental Health Treatment; Importance of Sports in Baltimore; Boston Sports & Boston Strong; Sleep Paralysis; The Philippines (1898-1946).
Those are the topics that my students researched and presented to their peers in Seminar. I came to realize the obvious – students are learning a pretty diverse curriculum, even when they can choose their own topics. The fact that one person chose to do all sports related topics does not mean that their curriculum consisted only of sports. The passion and personal investment behind the research projects was visible in the products. Students became interested in topics because their peers were so passionate about them and learned about things they never would have chosen themselves.
Mid-way through the semester, I was frustrated – students missed their own deadlines, and we had some trouble getting our collective act together. I don’t know if some of them wanted me to step in and lay down the law, but I tried to avoid that approach. I needed for them to figure out how to make it work. As we moved forward with the last project, it was a little risky since we were going to have only two weeks after we returned from Winter Break and then the course would end. Given our block schedule, we would only meet six or seven times. The students set a schedule for presentations that allowed for enough time for everyone, but there was no room for delays since the course was ending.
They did it. Each student was ready to present a substantive interesting project to the class. It all came together in the end. I was so proud of them because by each taking personal responsibility, they reached success as a class. We ended the course on a high note. When I asked them in a course evaluation/reflection what they would tell someone who was interested in the class, the answer was “Take it.” There were some who still wrestled with the fact that I didn’t impose the structure and said that even though it is counter to the phiolosophy of the course, they would have liked a bit more structure. I appreciate their thoughts, but I respectfully decline. I didn’t grade the students’ final products because what I think is most important is learning their process, improving their process, and managing freedom that comes with accountability. In the end, their reflections and our conversations told me more than their learning than their presentations.
This is only the second year of the class. This year’s group made it their own. Some members of last year’s class who were back from college came to visit this year’s class one day during presentations. I can’t wait to see what next year’s group will do. I have one more semester with several of the Seminar students who are in my Introduction to Design Thinking course, but that is another post.