Living, learning — and playing Quidditch
Research has shown that when students feel part of their campus community — academically and socially — they tend to stay at that institution and do well. That’s why some colleges have developed “living learning communities” where students not only live together but take part in an academic experience. This can support learning and personal growth. Read about examples from St. Catherine University, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and Concordia College.
From the fall-winter 2013 issue of Saint Mary’s Magazine
First-year students who participated in a pilot program for living-learning communities at Saint Mary’s in 2012-13 explored global perspectives on leadership, sustainability, wellness and spirituality. The pilot set the stage for the four communities that are now offered. Faculty leaders Dr. Moni Berg-Binder (biology) and Dr. Joe Tadie ’91 (philosophy) shared reflections on the experience:
“We explored those themes [leadership, sustainability, wellness and spirituality] in a way that was compatible with residential life programming,” Berg-Binder said. “Our goal was to get them thinking about areas they are not necessarily getting in the classroom.”
Tadie said he was once given some sage advice that in order to engage the whole student, you have to pay attention to the living side of their college experience. So when the opportunity to expand learning outside of the classroom was extended to him, it was an easy decision.
The two built a curriculum around the work of Aldo Leopold, author of A Sand County Almanac.” The community watched a documentary on his life, took a nature walk, discussed Leopold’s classic essay “Good Oak,” and brought in other guest lecturers from the Saint Mary’s community to talk about sustainability, faith, stress management, the Lasallian heritage, nutrition and strength training.
Simultaneously the residence life staff took students to the farmers market and cooked a meal that was largely locally produced; picked apples at a local orchard; went canoeing; made Christmas cards for Saint Mary’s Gifts for Winona program; made Christmas tree decorations; and volunteered with “Make a Difference Day.”
Berg-Binder considers it a success that students could see the connections between the academic offerings and the residential life offerings. Tadie enjoyed the team-teaching approach, utilizing other faculty and staff and working across disciplines.
“Moni’s type A, I’m type Z; I’ve been here 15 years, she for 2; I’m philosophy, she’s biology,” Tadie joked. “We have different perspectives and that’s the fun. That was valuable for students to be able to see how you can relate a topic to yourself.”
Read full story, Living Learning Communities create unique freshman experience.
From the October 2014 issue of SCAN, the magazine of St. Catherine University
St. Kate’s has created seven living-learning communities, for students who want to live with others with similar interests, backgrounds or majors. It’s a “win-win situation for students — and the school,” says Ellen Richter-Norgel, dean of students and retention.
Residents on the fourth floor of Caecilian Hall are a diverse bunch, but they have one thing in common. “We all are committed Potterites,” says Katie Maniates ’14, who for the last two years served as RA for Gryffindor Tower, St. Kate’s Harry Potter-focused living-learning community.
The floor, brainchild of English professor Cecilia Konchar Farr and [director of residence life Heidi] Anderson-Isaacson, is an extension of Konchar Farr’s popular “Six Degrees of Harry Potter” course, where residents live and learn in Hogwarts-style splendor, with a cozy meeting hall — complete with a crackling (gas) fireplace — plus an opening “sorting” ritual, where students are grouped into Hogwarts “houses” that match their personalities, just as in J.K. Rowling’s beloved books.
“At our first class meeting, we sort the entire floor,” Maniates explains. Just like in the books, she adds, “We go around with the sorting hat….”
Students who live in theme housing are interacting with their peers more frequently — including socializing, sharing personal belongings and studying with them — than students who don’t partake in living-learning programs, reports a study published by the Journal of College and University Student Housing. So, it’s no surprise that the Gryffindor residents are a close-knit and high-performing bunch.
Read full story, Birds of a Feather.
From Concordia College, April 2014
Now in its third year, EcoHouse gives a small group of students the opportunity to work together to reduce their environmental impact and engage the campus and broader community on sustainability issues.
The Concordia College EcoHouse residents kept themselves busy this year with various projects. The students transformed a bicycle into a stationary bike that can charge electronic devices. They also redecorated the kitchen using potatoes as stamps to paint the cupboards — a cheap and natural alternative to manufactured brushes.
This summer , this group will focus efforts on the property’s outdoor space. Landscaping projects include plans to insert rain gardens and raised beds. They plan to plant rhubarb, fruit trees, flowers, veggies and prairie grass. During the next year, the residents will research energy-efficient doors that will provide better insulation and, ideally, lower heating costs.
“The EcoHouse is an excellent opportunity to engage in a sustainable lifestyle with others who share your passion,” Partee says. [Jesse Partee ’16 is a resident in 2014-15.]