"I am a Minnesotan by birth and a traveler in wild places by vocation and compulsion." -Paul Gruchow

Monday, June 17, 2013

Eng. 254: Community, Field Reports, and a Sense of Place

Today, my students are turning in their Field Reports that they did over the place they chose for their first Writing Project (the rough draft of which is due tomorrow).  They did place observations, first-hand field research, interviews and such, and I'm very excited to see what they turn in tomorrow.  My class--which has ten registered, nine who came to class today--is very smart, willing to talk, and that's such a nice change of pace from my first-year students who I have to teach to trust themselves, that what they have to say is valuable.  It says a lot for these students (most of whom are upper classmen), but it also says a lot about the community we've been able to create in our class in just the last week.  On Friday, it was that spectacular moment when the class feels comfortable enough to call each other by name.

As I handed back the Field Reports they wrote on our Morrill Hall excursion last week, we talked about the danger of using "there is/are" sentence constructions when describing things, simply because verbs are important--and they should always make their verbs do double duty.  Spark is a much better verb than is.  They nodded at me.  Excellent.

We did a bit of a write-around, with my students writing on their Field Reports for today, helping their group member push their details and descriptions harder, looking for where to expand and push analysis (brain work) and reflection (personal/emotional) work.

And then we hopped into a guided free write to get them moving on their rough draft, due tomorrow:

  1. What is unique or compelling about this place?  What drew you to it in the first place?  Is it visually compelling?  Is it emotionally compelling?  What about it creates the curiosity that you are feeling?
  2. How would you describe the sense of place?  What is it, on an existential level?  What purpose does it serve?  What major questions does it pose for you?
  3. What contributes to that sense of place?  What is the physical structure?  Spatial?  Auditory?  What goes into making that place what it is?
  4. What function does this place serve?  Is it practical?  Entertainment? Existential?
  5. What are the other senses inform how you perceive this place?  Unpack what "noisy" and "quiet" sound like.  What individual sounds can you identify?  What is the acceptable noise level of this place?  Why do we have that perception?  Why must museums be quiet?
  6. What is your purpose in this paper?  What are the curiosities and questions and such that are propelling your investigation of this place?  What do you want your readers to understand when they finish your paper?
  7. Are you uncovering some universal truths, given your exploration of this place?
  8. How does your primary research add to the texture of your exploration?
  9. Who has access to this place?  Who is denied?  What is the reasoning between who is allowed access and who is not?  What are the reasonings behind who is allowed and who is denied?  Is it safety, privacy, exclusivity, etc?  How does that influence your perceptions and experience of the place?  How does it affect the place itself? Does it make the place more compelling, less compelling, or something else?

I'm really looking forward to seeing these rough drafts.  My students are exploring places like Memorial Stadium, the Lincoln Blood Bank, Goodwill, Village Inn, and others.  Should be a spectacular mix of ideas and places!

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