This week's readings could not have come at a better time for me, since I had gone looking this week for the theory and critical pedagogy to go along with what we've been reading--and this weeks' readings were full of it, full of names and citations to go track down. Reading about the KCAC project (Keeping and Creating American Communities) was great, from LeeAnn Land's article about her class's project, Sarah Robbins' introduction, and then I spent a great deal of time on the KCAC website and most of the page is now bookmarked on my computer or printed out for inclusion in my growing binder of teaching place-writing resources. Since I posted on "Rosewood Township" a few weeks ago, I'll concentrate on another aspect of the readings. (His last name is pronounce grew-koe, if you weren't sure.)
What stood out to me most was the idea of movement, of active engagement, even of physical movement outside the classroom. I've been trying to incorporate active learning into my classrooms, but only so far in getting my students to be able to talk to the writers they've been reading. I have not done much with physical movement outside the classroom, as a part of active inquiry. Definitely something I want to work on. The website for Nebraska tourism--focusing here on road trips--made me want to pull my Scamp out of its dusty sleeping place and take off for parts unknown. (Won't happen anytime soon, unfortunately.) Someday I'd love to camp the Lewis and Clark route. And someday, as I discussed with a friend yesterday, I'd love to teach a class on the Great American Road Trip. Lewis and Clark will be along for that ride.
When Land writes that her class's "project developed out of my conviction that historians (public or academic) should advance public discussion about the state of their community, nation, or world," and soon after she discusses what information she felt she needed to cover in order to uncover other things, I was right back in Mark Sample's recently posted article on"Teaching for Uncoverage rather than Coverage." The KCAC principles of interdisciplinary work, research based in inquiry, public writing, and active citizenship are, now, familiar concepts we've been discussing so far this semester. The very idea of interdisciplinary work, getting students in our English classes outside the English classroom, is something it seems we're all working towards. We want our students to be able to think outside themselves, which seems to work best when they're physically working outside themselves.
This movement outside themselves helps to facilitate the ideas of global and local, something I started studying for the first time a year ago, reading Ursula Heise and Mitchell Thomashow. I can foresee revising my present syllabus to include a progression of major papers that takes the students from working inside their own local communities to researching how their community functions in the larger global community. It seems like the first step is to teach students the value of their own community, then teach them how they're connected to other communities, that what is now didn't appear out of thin air. It was created, deliberately, for a purpose. And this benefitted some people and destroyed others.
I'm also interested in this idea of diverse local texts (all possible definitions of "text") that "help[ed] construct the frameworks, fashion the metaphors, create the very language by which people comprehend their experiences and think about their world" (Lauter, qtd. in Robbins). This is an area I'd like to explore further, because it's an area I have not done much with and it has a lot of promise. The recent readings we've done about photography projects and such have provided a good beginning for me, as I think about how communities are preserved through various texts and what those texts say about those places. Robbins writes of "uncover[ing] and critique[ing] forces that have shaped their own local cultures, as subcultures in national and international contexts" and one thing I have not done--at all--is do any kind of critique of those forces. We've barely talked about them in my class. We'll probably get to it in some fashion in the second and third writing project, but I see it as a failing of the course right now as it stands. Mostly because I don't have the experience or vocabulary to have these conversations with my students.
I'm definitely intrigued by many of the writing assignments the KCAC posted: "Reading and Writing Poems About Place" (I tend to use prose, because I'm a prose writer); "Something Important Happened Here!" and I thought that using this assignment in conjunction with a class blog might be interesting, if we're exploring digital space as well as other types of place, also something that might go well with Robert's "Vanishing" prompt; "House and Home,"because Sandra Cisneros is awesome; and I absolutely LOVE the idea of student generated writing prompts. So much so that I'm incorporating this into my classes (where appropriate) from here on out.