Purposive Rambling

the journey is the reward.

Posts Tagged ‘service-learning

Classroom Activity: Spaceship Exercise

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This semester I am teaching a service-learning course called Community Problems and Outreach. We are focusing on three main topics – families in poverty, debates over marriage, and domestic abuse. My students are volunteering at communities that serve low-income families in the community. We spend part of our time in the classroom discussing academic material on these topics, and we spend part of our time discussing their volunteer experiences. Yesterday I devoted a good portion of class time to the service side of the course. To help the students become more aware of the assumptions, biases, and prejudices that they hold, which can affect their interactions with the people they are serving, we did a short group activity. Perhaps you’ve seen a version of it before. I adapted it from a version that I participated in at a recent domestic violence training for Family Service of Central Indiana.

Spaceship Exercise

The fate of the human race lies in your hands. NASA scientists have identified a meteor that is barreling toward the Earth. It will make impact in 60 minutes. There will be total devastation. We have time to prepare only one spaceship that can carry only 7 people off of the planet. They will be sent to colonize Zuno, a recently discovered Earth-like planet. You must choose these 7 people from the following list of 12 candidates. You have 15 minutes.

Age Gender Sexual Orientation Race/Ethnicity Language Occupation Other Information
1 24 Male Heterosexual African American English Medical student
2 32 Female Heterosexual Caucasian English and Spanish Prostitute
3 28 Intersex Bisexual Caucasian/Jewish English and Hebrew Rabbi
4 28 Male Heterosexual Caucasian English Farmer Has had a vasectomy
5 55 Female Heterosexual African American English Infectious disease medical researcher
6 6 Male Asian American English and Korean
7 19 Male Homosexual Native American English Professional athlete
8 26 Female Heterosexual Mexican American Spanish Homemaker 6 months pregnant
9 14 Female African American English Born with leg deformities and needs a wheelchair
10 60 Male Heterosexual Caucasian English Retired CEO of major pharmaceutical company
11 40 Male Heterosexual Caucasian English Mechanic Homeless
12 36 Female Homosexual Multiracial English and German Fourth grade teacher

So, who would you choose? Based on what criteria? What do your choices reflect about what you value in people? What do they reflect about your assumptions regarding the characteristics about these individuals?

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Teaching is full of surprises.

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3772470003_7690c3676fMost courses in our department are capped at 70 students. And in the past I’ve had somewhere between 65 and 70 each semester. But this time around I am teaching a service-learning course, and because it takes a bit more coordinating, the department capped it at 50 students. But, I actually only have 28 enrolled. And wow. It is so different! When I was putting together the syllabus and preparing lectures I wasn’t thinking about what it would be like to stand in front of the class. I figured I might get a few butterflies before the first class meeting, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. I’d done it before. But I hadn’t done it quite like this. Looking out at only 28 faces is much different from looking out at 68 faces. I love that I can actually see all of their faces – even the ones in the back of the classroom. And I love that I can see if they’re reading the newspaper or talking to their friends or texting. And the smaller class size will make learning their names much easier. However, I can also see that they’re all looking at me! I think because they know I can see them clearly, they know they have to pay attention. So when I look out at them I don’t see any tops of heads that are staring at their desk or off into space or at the cell phone in their lap. Now don’t get me wrong, I think this is great. I want them to pay attention. But it’s a bit intimidating. And unexpectedly intimidating. If anything, I thought a smaller class would be less so than a larger class.

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Written by Lisa

September 2, 2009 at 10:29 pm