Tuesday, May 1, 2012
A colleague and I taught an honors seminar this past semester called "Developing Your Sense of Place." My colleague is from the creative writing group in our English Dept. Most of the students were more on that arts and literature side of things, but three or so were science students. It was a great class and a great combination of interests. The students were highly motivated and quite engaged in the subject (they were, afterall, honors students). We instructors tried not to talk too much and instead tried to listen to the students. We instructors had fun and we think the students did, too. Projects throughout the year included interviewing placemakers here in our town, each student writing about their own special place, a review of a place-oriented book, ongoing discussions about importance of sense of place and placemaking, foods of places, and of course the use of place in art and literature, as well as several reflective essays. The wrap up project was a symposium in which members of the university community and town came to see the students' works, displayed as posters and video with the students discussing the topics one-on-one with the visitors, as in a conference poster session. We did not want powerpoint talks. The students were quite creative in their presentations, but none took up our suggestion of an interpretive dance. Probably just as well (although one non-traditional student did dance briefly with her husband to 'Moonlight Serenade.') The symposium was fabulous. And we had a pretty good turnout. Great work, students. We will be posting their work on the university website. I'll share the link when it's put together. The students were skeptical at the beginning of the term about this symposium business but they did a great job and now know that putting on a symposium can be an enjoyable experience. Who knows. Maybe in the not-too-distant future one will be putting on some kind of public outreach event in support of placemaking in their towns. Maybe it'll be a symposium or even a colloquium. In any case, I am encouraged that the students came in with a good sense of place and, according to their wrap up reflections, left with an even stronger sense of place.