I feel blessed that I am able to follow two of my passions in my life–teaching and writing. I spend a great deal of time in this blog speaking about my writing, but now I want to talk about one of the classes I teach at college.
I love all of my classes, but something extraordinary happened this semester in one of my classes at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. This was part of a cluster–two courses taught by two different professors about a central issue or question. This cluster’s name is America on The Cusp of Crisis: The Literature and History of A Nation in Turmoil, and it is about the history and writing of the Civil War of the United States of America.
I was also fortunate to be able to work with Dr. William Feeney, who taught the history course. Dr. Feeney is one of the most talented teachers I have ever had the honor of knowing, and I have known many in my now 25 or so years of teaching English at college. Dr. Feeney is a scholar on the Civil War and is deeply invested in teaching and finding new and challenging ways for his students to learn. Any student who has him as a professor is fortunate.
The students were given a project, working in small groups, to conceptualize, design, and print a model of a Civil War monument. This was not working on an existing monument, but creating a new one about an aspect of the Civil War they found important and interesting. The students would use the college’s 3-D printer to make the model. They also had to write a dedication speech and a reflective essay on their projects. The students were aided in the design and printing by Instructional Technologist Jordan Noyes.
The 4 groups created monuments to Civil War horses, Clara Barton, The Sanitary Commission, and the Battle of Shiloh. All of the models of the monuments demonstrated an abundance of work, planning, and execution. I was astounded by their efforts.
The students presented the models, including a ribbon cutting and a reading of their dedication speech. They then spoke about the process of their work. Their presentation was covered by the student newspaper The Muhlenberg Weekly. This was an exercise that included analysis, knowledge, creativity, design, and production, and I believe this work brought out the best in these students.
The models are now on display on the main floor of the Trexler Library of Muhlenberg College.
I am honored to have worked on this cluster with Dr. Feeney and with Jordan Noyes. I am deeply proud of the work of my students.