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Outside the Lecture Hall: MC Courses that Transcend the Conventional Classroom

Colleges and universities across the country are progressively foregoing traditional teaching methods in favor of more offbeat techniques. This out of the box approach will help provide different ways of looking at the established curriculums of higher education.

Where before students took Biology 101 or College Writing, today the most innovative courses range anywhere from Game of Thrones (UVA) to Wasting Time on the Internet (UPenn). These classes and the professors that instruct them are intended to breed a new creativity in usual but timeworn subjects.

Creating a class that students will undoubtedly look forward to attending is always a challenge, but below are a few of the courses at MC that aim to do so this fall.

Current Trends of the NYC Art Scene

Being taught by Marisa Lerer, this class will visit 12 art exhibitions and projects throughout the city including Christie’s Auction House, El Museo del Barrio, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the International Print Art Fair. The course meets once a week in a four hour block to allow students to commute to various parts of the city without interfering with their other classes.

Rather than having to excruciatingly memorize the artists and locations of dated works of art, students will analyze “how the art world reflects on our contemporary moment,” Lerer said. Students will also have the opportunity to talk with a curator, artist and auction house specialist to experience the many different dialogues that occur in the modern art world.

Undergraduates who enroll in this course will have the opportunity to develop their own thoughts on the artwork as they see it and react to it. Lerer has no reservations about relinquishing control to her students minds, “I always encourage students to experience art first-hand and I am thrilled that my students have the opportunity to personally engage with artwork.”

This class is open to all students and fulfills upper-level art history and urban studies credits.

Yoga

Everyone needs to get away from the stresses of daily life, and college students are certainly no exception. In todays non-stop lifestyle it can be difficult to concentrate one thought at a time, but integrating the practice of yoga and meditation can help students to give total focus to one idea.

Professor Fran Clemente teaches this two-hour course, which contains a 45 minute lecture on yoga values, framework and skills that is immediately followed by a 75 minute practice period. Similar to education, yoga is a practice intended to fortify, open and balance the mind. Various studies have concluded that yoga can make you a better student, and according to the Journal of Physical Activity and Health just 20 minutes of yoga can help your brain function better.

Clemente, however, is not only trying to shape good students, but also good people. “I hope that students who take this class develop a set of skills they can access when life becomes overwhelming. I also hope that they are able to see goodness in people,” Clemente said.

This class is open to all undergraduates and for two credits among various departments. 

Lasers, Light, and Optical Devices

If you ever wondered why the sky is blue or the beauty behind rainbows, then this course is for you. Bruce Liby, an associate professor and chair of the physics department, explores important scientific understandings that explain what people observe in everyday life.

True to its title, this course uses technologies, such as lasers, LEDs and HDTVs, to discuss the human eye and color. The course meets once per week in a lab block and integrates both lecture and laboratory formats. Liby has instructed this course before, but does not instruct the same way every year, “by keeping it new for me, I keep it interesting for the students,” he said.

The biggest challenge for students is getting past their reservations about science. “Once students realize that they can understand some difficult topics and that they are not condemned to fail, they are able to see how interesting and relevant the material is,” Liby said. Students are often encouraged to discuss any topic in science, even outside of optics, which Liby calls “free science.” This period has led to exciting conversations about UFOs, weapons of mass destruction and even ghosts.

This class fulfills the science requirement for students in liberal arts, business, and education.

Hiking

Unlike most college professors, John Carey does not create a firm schedule until meeting all of his students and discussing their schedules and interests. But the unusualness does not stop there, “this course is a bit unconventional… academic in the sense that there is a certain amount of local history involved; physical for those who might enjoy the exercise aspect and challenging for those who have never biked the length of Manhattan Island,” Carey said.

Many teachers and students do not have the opportunity to teach or learn outside a classroom setting, and Carey and his students make sure to take advantage of the occasion. Hiking in beautiful, outdoor environments with a majority of hands-on experience has proven to be relaxing and pleasurable for students, “they are learning with a smile,” Carey said.

The experience also allows for unique bonds to be formed that would not normally be found in a traditional classroom setting. Carey recalls one moment where a student suffered an ankle injury during a hike and the class took turns piggy-backing the student the last three miles to the car, “it is something I’m sure they all remember.”

This class is made available to all students who enjoy the outdoors, and fulfills a one credit elective requirement.

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