In the fall semester of 2013, I led a seminar on sustainable agriculture at the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry (VBC). The main product to emerge from the class was a 25-minute film entitled Down to Earth: Small Farm Issues in a Big Farm World. The students in the seminar also developed a website containing recipes for foods that are locally available and more than 60 articles meant to serve as supplementary materials to the film. In addition, they built a four-week curriculum on sustainable agriculture and implemented it in an after-school program for elementary students at the Roy C. Buley Center in Muncie. I see the seminar as a great success! The students and I were able to develop informed opinions about the future of farming and food production. The course also allowed us the opportunity to enter into the current social and political movement toward sustainable agriculture by sharing important information about local foods with community members—and the world—through the film, website, and educational program.
Immersive learning. As Ball State students, or even local residents, it is difficult to have not encountered this phrase floating around in our daily lives: it’s everywhere from billboards to the university website. Unfortunately, I believe that a true understanding of the philosophy behind this phrase eludes many of us. Students and parents are told that Ball State is unique because of its commitment to immersive learning. We are told that we will be hard pressed to find other comparable universities that have this dedication to immersive learning. Where this might be an effective marketing strategy, the simple, and even unfortunate, truth remains that until the immersive learning approach is experienced first hand, its true benefits cannot be measured. And make no mistake that when I say “benefits,” I truly believe that immersive learning positions students (and even instructors on some level) to examine their strengths and utilize them in a manner that allows for the greatest amount of potential. Continue reading