From Animal Behavior to Poetry in Hip-Hop: Unique 2017 Fall Courses

Students study and take notes

With the semester now well underway, we set out to learn more about some of the more unique courses being offered. In addition to the core curriculum and required courses within a major, many electives offer students an opportunity to explore topics of personal interest. From hip hop to astronomy, there's something for everyone to be found in the classroom this fall.

Students study and take notesAnimal Behavior: [BI 225] [Biology Department]

This course attracts the attention of animal-lovers with a semester-long research project at the Stoneham Zoo in Massachusetts. During the laboratory portion of the course, students visit the Zoo six-to-seven times throughout the semester to collect data on zoo animals. Previous students in this course have reviewed a plethora of topics ranging from dominance hierarchy in a group of Nigerian dwarf goats to gender differences in the levels of aggression displayed by Caribbean flamingos.

Not only is this a lab science course, but it is writing intensive as well. In an effort to improve the scientific writing of her students, Professor Lori LaPlante holds Project Conferences with her students which consist of a one-on-one meeting several times throughout the course of the semester to discuss progress and written drafts in conjunction with peer reviewed literature. Students are still given feedback on their research papers and scientific writing progress even at the conclusion of the semester when it is typically less popular to resubmit improved drafts and retain responses.

Being that Animal Behavior is one of her favorite courses to teach, Professor LaPlante elaborates, "I’ve also heard students say their zoo studies really allowed them to get a hands-on research experience – an experience that included all the challenges, frustrations, and eventual satisfaction that is so typical of field research"

Poetics of Hip Hop: [EN 153] [English Department]

This course puts a whole new spin on integrating popular culture into the field of academic inquiry. Geared towards non-English majors, this writing-intensive course is driven by reading, listening, writing, in-class discussions and the use of web-based tools inside the classroom. Outside the classroom, students are assigned Spotify playlists and introduced to sources such as Genuis.com, “Rap Stats,” WhoSampled.com, and more. This course may be labeled as especially unique due to the fact that it "excites students to be able to bring some of their own knowledge, experience, and expertise to the classroom with them" Professor Michael New discusses. As the semester progresses, students will have the opportunity develop a writing piece focusing on a particular album within its historical context, referring to lyrics, beats, liner notes images, contemporary reviews, and more. As the advisor for Saint Anselm’s literary magazine The Quatrain, Professor New encourages students to submit their poetry writings from the course or even perform with Lucubrations. After completing Poetics of Hip Hop, Professor New gives an explanation on what he hopes his students will come out of the class having accomplished:

“I would like students to understand hip-hop in its cultural contexts–as a youth movement developed from the need for an expressive form that spoke to their experiences and environment. I hope students see, too, how hip-hop represents an extension of African American literary and oral traditions. And finally, in addition to the oral emphasis of the music, I hope students find out how much great contemporary (page-based) poetry is being published right now. I hope that they begin to hear their favorite artists in new ways, to learn about precursors and current practitioners that resonate with them, and that they find the music, the history, and culture meaningful and relevant to their lived experience.”

Astronomy: [PS 101] [Physics Department]

Have you ever looked up at the sky on a starry night and pondered how those beautiful stars and planets function in the universe? Astronomy is a great place to start to begin answering some of those fascinating questions. Students analyze a broad range of topics ranging from how planets move around the solar system to the structure of our galaxy.

The lab component of Astronomy gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with telescopes outside the classroom at Saint Anselm’s observatory. This semester, there is the new addition of the honors project in which a number of select students complete a semester long honors project linking an aspect astronomy to another discipline. For example one student is relating astronomy to gender studies while another is political science.

Recently, Saint Anselm held an event at the observatory in conjunction with the New Hampshire Astronomical Society in which students and faculty participated in sky tours with those from the society. The event was especially engaging and are hoping to have more astronomical public events in the near future to involve Saint Anselm and the surrounding community alike. In discussing the course, Professor Nicole Gugliucci of the Physics department comments, “I want students to gain a newfound perspective or way of thinking about science and how science is done. The methods of how we’ve learned things about the sky, what kinds of telescopes and measurements are used, how we know what we know in astronomy”

ED 250: Integrating Art and Creativity into the Classroom [Education Department]

As the course syllabus describes, this elementary education course provides students with support as they develop the technical vocabulary and skills needed to read and critique various pieces of art within four artistic domains: visual arts, poetry, music, and drama. Professor Kelly E. Demers, Ph.D. describes how Saint Anselm preservice teachers are given the opportunity to engage in the practice of creating personal pieces of art at the same time they develop the interpretative skills needed to critique various artistic products by learning how to “read” a piece of visual art as a “text”.  

A unique attribution is the culminating project at the conclusion of the semester as students are assigned to choose a topic of significant interest to them and express the topic through a form of artistic expression. In past years, students have represented several engaging projects including choreographed dance pieces and hand-painting a landscape specifically relating to Monet and the concept of impressionism.  

Being a course heavily focused on enriching the hands-on explorations of various artistic modalities, students discuss and create projects in relation to assigned readings. Professor Demers believes that the instructor's role in this course is to “facilitate thinking and artistic exploration” resulting in very few class sessions dedicated to lecture.

From creating in-class dramas to performing “spoken-word” pieces, students are provided  the necessary theoretical, artistic, and practical knowledge to successfully integrate the arts across the elementary school curriculum. Professor Demers states, “The hope is that once students learn to see themselves as creative individuals who are capable of artistic expression, they will be better able to support help the artistic and creative needs of their future K-6 pupil”