Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
Over the course of the last few months, I have written and spoken endlessly about the desperate need for critical and creative thinking in our schools. I haven’t given many details about how we can do that, so I am going to give you an example. Let me preface this by saying that this is not the only way to do this, but something I have done.
This semester, at Augusta University, I have been teaching a First Year Experience class for first year students. The theme for the year was Heroes and Humans. We were able to create any course we wanted to around this theme. My course was titled, “Students as Heroes: Becoming and Activist.” The idea of this course was for groups of students to find a cause of concern, research it, write about it, create a social media presence, and design a webpage. Some of the obvious areas of study were research, writing, marketing, rhetoric and persuasion, history (of the cause), technology, and communications.
For the class, the students came up with the following causes that they wanted the greater university to become more aware of:
Preservation of Public Space and Environmental Awareness
Animal Rights and Sea World
For this project, they were to create flyers, sign up students to get more information, and start campus conversations about their topics. As the final project, all students in the First Year Experience classes campus-wide have an Expo to share what they did in class. There are presentation boards, laptop computers, projectors, and presentations. My class, to promote communication, did little in terms of “presentation,” but went person to person to talk about what they had studied. They had people sign petitions so they could get more information. The person that studied HIV Awareness handed out condoms (remember, this is a college class and it was her idea—in fact it was a condom with a mint…condomints).
So, as the students studied areas of interest and things that ignited their passions, they were able to think critically about issues and what they truly meant. They had to make decisions about how to convince others, market their ideas, and persuade their peers about their causes. They creatively reached out to the public through their websites, some groups created buttons, others created social media campaigns.
The idea behind the First Year Experience class is to teach inquiry. To ask questions. To seek out answers. To research. To learn. In my class, we did all of those things. In addition, hopefully, the students became more aware of the world around them and started thinking deeply about their community and the greater good.
My name is Andrew Kemp. I am a candidate for the Columbia County, Georgia, School Board for District 3.
Attached are photos from the Expo where they shared their ideas.
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With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.