Curricular Activities — 2014-2015 Course Planning Grants

Class Title: Intensive Introductive Spanish

Faculty: Arianna Alfaro Porras (Pitzer)

Who would think that you could write a book in a language you were just beginning to learn?  Arianna Alfaro Porras asks students in her Intensive Introductory Spanish course to do just that.  Her children’s book project has five phases: researching fairy tales from Latin America and Spain, rewriting the tale in their own (Spanish) words using correct grammar, creating a book as a material object, reading the tale to bilingual elementary students, and presenting the books and experiences working with bilingual kids in a public exhibition. This project achieves course goals of proficiency in interpersonal communication, interpretative abilities, and presentational abilities in an experiential and community-oriented way.

Class Title: Dance Composition I/II

Faculty: Ronnie Brosterman (Scripps)

Ronnie Brosterman challenges her choreography class to look at a topic – in this case, water – from a variety of non-dance perspectives and asks, what fresh understandings can we discover from the various ways in which the action of water is captured in fields as diverse as literature, biology, hydrology, mathematics, etc.?  How can these understandings lead to more vital, socially-aware choreography? By exploring a topic from perspectives outside of Dance, Brosterman pushes students to work with material outside their comfort zone; in doing so, she hopes that students will arrive at physical and/or visual representations that are more nuanced and engaging.

Class Title: World Heritage Preservation

Faculty: Eric Doehne (Scripps)

Eric Doehne and Jade Star Lackey bring together their respective courses on World Heritage Preservation and Geohazards with a series of workshops on: seismic hazards (lessons learned from the destruction of cultural heritage in the Kathmandu Valley earthquakes), volcanoes and civilization (history, resources, and legacy at Pompeii, Joya de Cerén, and Laetoli), and hazards from mineral extraction and processing (lead poisoning in Rome, mercury and the California gold rush).  These workshops introduce students to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) perspectives, teach them to evaluate environmental hazards in a broad historical context, and encourage them to use design thinking to consider modern solutions to ancient problems.

Class Title: Fandango as a De-Colonial Tool

Faculty: Martha Gonzalez (Scripps)

Fandango as a De-Colonial Tool is an interdisciplinary course that aims to examine how a participatory music and dance practice native to the state of Veracruz known as “fandango” has been taken up by communities all over Mexico and the USA.  Fandango is utilized as a transnational community organizing tool in Mexican, Latino, and Chicano communities in the USA.  By learning the history, discourse, and most importantly by embodied practice of the fandango tradition, students acquire new insights into the role social institutions play in one’s individual and communal creative expression.

Class Title: Fellowship in Humanities

Faculty: Hao Huang (Scripps)

Humanities Fellows participate in small workshops led by social activists from both inside and outside the Claremont Colleges consortium.  With the help of teams of students from many different majors, the Humanities Fellows learn by collaborating on several seminar projects, such as producing a blog on institutionalized and structural violence in the USA.  Fellows are also learning to explore violence in the USA beyond the headlines and to investigate how and why the nation-state of America promotes systems of violence against its own people.  Their final course projects involve both final papers and creative projects that are sustainable post-seminar.

Class Title: MCSI: Archive

Faculty: Alexandra Juhasz (Pitzer)

The Munroe Center for Social Inquiry seminar brings nine scholar/artist/activists to Pitzer College for a public lecture and intimate gathering with seminar fellows. The group of visitors is intentionally, even aggressively, inter-disciplinary and multi-methodological, as are the selected student fellows. Thus, all realize the expansive and sometimes perplexingly incongruent vantages afforded by looking at, thinking about, using and making the same thing – in this case “the archive” – from different perspectives. The fellows, from the five undergraduate campuses and Claremont Graduate University, are also encouraged to produce a “creative” or “experiential” final project.

Class Title: Introductory Biology

Faculty: Suzanne Kern (Claremont McKenna/Keck Science)

Suzanne Kern is revamping the Introduction to Biology course offered at Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps colleges.  In a shift away from the traditional lecture format, Kern is instituting an inquiry-based approach that will allow students to interact more with the course content through in-class activities and to become more (self-)aware of the learning process. This includes incorporating experiential components in the classroom and facilitating guided inquiry using case studies, video content, the occasional flipped classroom, and materials that highlight the processes of learning and that empower students as learners in all academic settings.

Class Title: ‘Bollywood’ in its Social-Historical Context

Faculty: Nita Kumar (Claremont McKenna)

Nita Kumar introduces theatre and acting into her History classes as a regular component in order to bridge the civilizational and imagination gap that her students often experience.  After inviting an experienced actor and director and discussing her ideas with several others, she realized that she needed to: (a) take actual lessons from such a willing actor or director on how the genre of ‘Bollywood’ may be embodied by her students through theatre exercises; (b) work with an actor/director to integrate those ideas into her own teaching and to gain confidence; and (c) read up and plan how to use performance in a focused way. She hopes to be equipped to teach her course in a meaningful, productive way by including theatre exercises.

Class Title: Art, Science, and Technology

Faculty: Rachel Mayeri (Harvey Mudd)

Students in Rachel Mayeri’s course engage with environmental issues and art by creating hands-on art projects that are inspired by or created through scientific knowledge or techniques.  For example, one key project explores the idea of walking and incorporates GIS-based media; students consider the walk both from the point of view of “art for art’s sake” and as a way of exploring environmental issues such as the California drought.  Getting outside of the classroom to walk through the water-shaped landscape and track the invisible paths water takes in urban infrastructure gives students a more material understanding of the situation.  Their new understanding can be used to teach others and could inspire technical students to innovate new products and services important for long-term sustainability.

Class Title: Introduction to Spatial and Environmental Statistics

Faculty: Tanja Srebotnjak (Harvey Mudd)

Ever wondered how the CDC predicts the spread of infectious diseases, where to place air quality monitoring stations for maximum coverage, or what the trail of smart phone usage data is revealing about our personal lives?  Despite their very different nature, all of these questions make heavy use of spatial data.  In Tanja Srebotnjak’s course, students learn statistical methods and acquire basic GIS (Geographic Information Systems) skills for answering a wide range of questions.  Moreover, through close collaboration with Warren Roberts and the Honnold Library GIS service, students link theory with practice in hands-on software and mapping exercises. The experiences gained from this course inform a broader research project on educational methods and approaches for building GIS and spatial analytics literacy at liberal arts colleges.

Class Title: Survey of Spanish Literature

Faculty: Raquel Vega-Duran (Claremont McKenna)

During the Spanish Civil War, Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and Chim developed a new art of war photography, but for many decades their underdeveloped rolls were lost; in 2007, they were re-discovered and donated to the International Center of Photography in NYC.  Now students in Raquel Vega-Duran’s survey course are bringing the exhibit to the Athenaeum, helping to curate the exhibit by choosing and arranging the images and writing captions.  In this way, students are working together to re-tell the story of the Spanish Civil War in a new and innovative manner, through images and words.  With this hands-on experience, students learn more about how photography has shaped our understanding of war and history.

Class Title: Shakespeare

Faculty: Ben Wiedermann and Ambereen Dadabhoy  (Harvey Mudd)

Co-taught by Ben Weidermann, a Computer Science professor, and Ambereen Dadabhoy, a Literature professor, this Shakespeare course combines literary analysis and performing arts by introducing students to voice and movement techniques for the stage.  Using these techniques, students are able to connect performance aspects of the course explicitly to literature and bring to life the class’s discussion of Shakespeare, as well as explore questions such as: How does embodying the text independent of language create meaning?  And how do STEM methods of inquiry differ from and complement those in the Humanities?

Class Title: Sociology of Secularity

Faculty: Phil Zuckerman (Pitzer)

Phil Zuckerman’s relatively new course Sociology of Secularity looks at people who live their lives without religion.  In short: what do we know about people who lack religious faith and eschew religious involvement and identification?  “Secular” identity is still fairly unclear, and students will explore the topic in various novel ways, including experiencing a consciously secular gathering and conducting in-depth interviews with secular men and women, and will be encouraged to make a short film about some aspect of secular life.  In these ways, students confront contemporary secularity in its various manifestations, and such a confrontation gets them thinking about their own lives, be they religious or not.