Combine Theory & Practice with Service Learning Courses

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Service learning melds theory and practice through experiential opportunities that support the in-classroom curriculum.

2021-22 Courses

Objects and Memory
Faculty Member: Emily Bloom (English) 
Fall 2021
Why do we hold on to certain things and not others? Why do some objects have the power to evoke personal memories while others leave us cold? Roland Barthes described certain objects as having “punctum,” and Marie Kondo tells us that a select few “spark joy.” In this course, we will learn first-hand about the relationship between objects and memory from residents and staff at the Wartburg Nursing Home, developing a multimedia project called “A History of Wartburg in 100 Objects.” Students will work to pilot this project, partnering with Wartburg to discover how objects can help unlock memories. Working together, students in this course will create a bibliography of relevant texts on the topic of objects and memory, produce an oral history of an object with a partner at Wartburg, and contribute to the infrastructure of the larger project. While developing this project, we will read a selection of literary and theoretical works by Roland Barthes, Alice Walker, Virginia Woolf, and others, to understand the role of objects in preserving, accessing, and sharing memories. We will meet once a week to discuss course readings, connect with seniors and staff, and to develop the multimedia project. The location of our meetings will alternate between our classroom on campus and meetings at Wartburg in Mount Vernon.

Care Work
Faculty Member: Emily Bloom (English)
Spring 2022 
What kind of work is care work? Is it a form of labor? Love? Is care-taking a social or individual responsibility? And who pays for it? This course questions the role of care-taking in modern societies through a range of literary and sociological texts. We begin with the premise that care-taking is both fundamental to a functioning society and also grossly devalued. This devaluation is marked by the poor pay associated with care-taking professions, as well as the gendering and racializing of care-taking responsibilities. This course will draw on recent writing in Disability Studies, Gender Studies, Political Theory, and Ethnic Studies, as well as literary works such as Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, to consider the experience of the individuals performing care work as well as those who require their care. We will discuss terms, like self-care and prenatal care, which have become commonplace, but that we often encounter as marketing concepts that have been stripped of their origins. This course aims to situate the concept of caring into historical, political, and aesthetic contexts. Reading work by Audre Lorde, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Silvia Federici, and others, students are encouraged to imagine the future of care work in a changing society. As part of this course, you will partner with a senior at Wartburg to complete an oral history, podcast, and catalogue entry for a digital exhibition.

Theatre and Civic Engagement: Methods of Civic Engagement
Faculty members: Allen Lang (Theatre)
Fall 2021 & Spring 2022
Theatre and Civic Engagement courses share a collaborative and creative dialogue with our local community members. Theatre and Civic Engagement courses are for theatre students, designers, filmmakers, writers, dancers, and musicians interested in social justice who want to connect and grow with others in the community to make a noticeable difference. All levels are welcome. We ask that you bring your energy and passions and a willingness to explore.

In Theatre and Civic Engagement courses, students will develop a generative sharing curriculum that starts community conversations that lead to creative projects. This course is for students interested in developing fulfilling community relationships using the language of the theatre where we seek to locate connections and find common ground.

Students in the course will be working at a community placement such as Lunchbox, at a Yonkers Public School, with a senior-citizen group, at the Hudson River Museum, Center Lane LGBTQIA youth, the Mary J Blige Center, or with another community group. We aim to match a community placement with the interest, goals, and availability of each student.

Sign up for one of the Theatre and Civic Engagement courses or design one of your own. What you find may very well change your life. For more information email Allen Lang at alang@sarahlawrence.edu and visit the Theatre and Civic Engagement web page.

Media Lab: Youth Education and Community Engagement
Faculty member:
Yeong Ran Kim (Mellon Digital Media Fellow) 
This yearlong course is designed for students with a strong interest in community work and digital media production. We’ll explore new forms of research-creation and pedagogical-performative mode of engagement by considering the role of digital media in making new connections, building friendships, and forging communities. We’ll begin the year by examining the relation of aesthetics to politics and exploring the myriad ways in which theory and praxis can inform one another, with special attention to digital media pedagogy. Students will engage in a series of short exercises that will equip them with basic skills needed for digital media production. Students will then have the opportunity to put these skills into practice as we design a new kind of after-school program and host a digital media workshop for youth in consultation with the College’s community partners in Westchester (schedules and groups TBD). This course asks students to play the role of teaching artists, integrating their art form, perspectives, and skills into the community setting. Students will team up to teach and support youth participants to create short audio (Fall) and multimedia pieces (Spring), through which they show and tell stories about themselves and their communities. All workshops will take place on campus for four Saturdays in the first semester (in October and November) and possibly more in the second semester. This format will allow us to cultivate emerging moments of coming together that vitalize creative making, as well as find innovative ways to share what was learned from the teaching experience. This interdisciplinary and practice-based course invites students from all disciplines. No prior experience in teaching and/or media production is required. 

Exploring the Work of Community Based Agencies: Linking Theory and Practice
Mara Gross and Various Faculty
Spring 2022
This course offers students the chance to develop a deeper understanding of community based work.  Through a combination of writing, reading, reflection and direct work with a Not-For-Profit connected to SLC, students will explore and learn about community based work and the variety of social issues that influence the work at their Not-For-Profit.  Students will meet with the Director of Community Partnerships every week and with a Faculty Sponsor four times throughout the semester.  Interviews for this course take place the previous semester. Open to Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors.

Pattern
Faculty member: Philip Ording (Mathematics)

Fall 2021
This seminar will study patterns in nature and design from the mathematical point of view. Examples will be primarily visual, including beadwork, braids, tilings, trees, waves, and crystals, among others. The workshop format of the class will give students the opportunity to discover collaboratively the structures that govern patterns. Students can expect to use both visual and logical reasoning to answer open-ended problems that involve hands-on experimentation and creative problem solving. By the end of the semester students will know how to reproduce a given pattern in one, two or three dimensions, how to identify its symmetries, and how to compare it to related structures. For conference, there is a possibility of service learning placements in community-based organizations, depending on availability. No particular math background is required. This course is recommended for any students interested in mathematics as the science of patterns, and strongly recommended for those studying education.

BAD NEIGHBORS: Sociology of Difference, Diversity, and Cosmopolitanism in the City
Faculty Member: Parthiban Muniandy (Sociology)
Fall 2021
The focus of the seminar will be on questions of diversity, difference, and cosmopolitanism as it pertains to urban life in a contemporary American city such as Yonkers or New York City, as well as in urban societies around the world. We will take a sociological look at how urban communities experience, navigate, and transform social structures, relationships, and institutions in their everyday lives, as they deal with problems such as inequality, hate, and exclusion while co-existing with different and diverse populations. We will read books and essays by Arlie Hochschild, Asef Bayat, Yuval Noah Harari, Dina Neyeri, Robert Putnam, and others, as we explore ways in which cities embody particular histories as central while marginalizing others—and how communities and people in their everyday lives resist, alter, and decenter those histories and hierarchies. Through engaged field research, we will try to learn and understand how diverse communities of people work and live together; build and provide for the wider community; and rely on informal and formal opportunities, resources, and networks to make life in the city possible.

Gold Hoops, Red Lipstick, and YHLQMDLG: The Cultural in Everyday Politics & The Political in Everyday Culture
Faculty Member: Luisa Heredia
 (Public Policy)
Spring 2022
While ideas of politics and policy change can focus on electoral and sometimes contentious politics, the role of culture is important in (re-)shaping ideas and discourses on particular issues, and as political acts in and of themselves. For example, the visual imagery, musical soundtracks, theatre productions of migrant justice, Black Lives Matter, climate justice, and many other social movements have aided in providing and disseminating counter-narratives and political claims that disrupt everyday institutional politics. In doing so these cultural productions can help to build movements and provide power to those on the outside seeking change. Everyday culture however, can also be political. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sonia Sotomayor have raised the significance of gold hoops and red lipstick as fashion choices rooted in Latinx communities but also as symbols of disruption as they are Latinx women traversing hegemonic political spaces. The trap artist Bad Bunny, debuted his studio album YHLQMDLG during a mobile concert in New York that started in the Bronx, traveled through Washington Heights, and ended in Harlem. According to anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla, while on its face the concert was expressly apolitical, the route it traversed, the date it was planned, and the songs themselves posed a political critique of a history of governmental neglect; it marked the eve of the devastation of Hurricane Maria and traversed historically Latino communities that have been most devastated by the current pandemic. At the same time, the mobile concert provided Latino communities a respite, a moment of collective joy and celebration that was also a response and production of this time of social distancing and the end of large gatherings. Popular culture in the form of beauty, fashion, music, and other productions and practices is shaped by and responds to cultural, political and historical forces in ways that can sustain or reject dominant hegemonic constructions. This course, then, aims to provide an understanding of how the political marshals culture, of how everyday practices of looking and consuming are mediated through fields of power, and of how these practices can become the locus of world building for different marginalized communities. In centering culture in this course, race, immigration, and gender/sexuality become important axes of analysis, as they have been intimately linked with major social movements and with world making on the margins. While the course will cover politics and popular culture historically, it will also highlight current movements and social issues and include a community engagement component that will help to situate the course’s themes in time and place.

Advanced Intermediate Spanish: Political Creativity
Faculty Member: Heather Cleary (Spanish Language and Literature)
Fall 2021 & Spring 2022
This course looks at ways that individuals and communities across the Spanish-speaking world have gotten creative about politics, and political about creativity. Students will develop analytic skills and explore social justice issues through literature, film, music, and visual art by Miguel Ángel Asturias, Gloria Anzaldúa, Nancy Morejón, Sara Gómez, Rebecca Lane, Yásnaya E. Aguilar Gil, Lia García La Novia Sirena, and many more; we will also study the politically creative actions of communities and organizations working outside the structures of the nation state. An important aspect of this course will involve following activist movements across Latin America in real time and working with social justice initiatives in Yonkers and its surroundings. Students will produce both critical and creative written work. This discussion-based course will be conducted in Spanish, and is intended for students who wish to further develop their communication and comprehension skills through advanced grammar review. The Spanish placement test is required prior to interviewing with the instructor (contact hcleary@ for information on taking the exam).

Stories And...
Faculty Member: Myra Goldberg (Writing)
Spring 2022
This class involves reading stories, telling stories, writing or recording them, illustrating stories with photos or drawings. It involves becoming collectors of the story telling all around us, and analyzing its form, its uses and pleasures. It includes oral and written storytelling, formal and informal, short and long, fantasies, tales and gossip . It also involves practice in being both a leader and  a member of a story  group at the Wartburg Elder Care Residence, in nearby Pelham.  The class will be scheduled for three hours, which includes a group trip to  and from Wartburg, where we will gather with  residents, to be given or to choose  a prompt, prepare our stories, and share them. Homework will  involve reading, working together as author/ illustrator with a classmate, and calling on family and friends to tell their stories. Anyone interested in their own or other people lives, in leadership and followership, in teaching, and in stories should consider it . Open to sophomores and above. Spring semester, day and time to be announced. 

Urban Health
Faculty Member: Linwood Lewis (Psychology)

Fall 2021
This community partnership course will focus on the health of humans living within physical, social and psychological urban spaces.  We will use a constructivist, multidisciplinary, multilevel lens to examine the interrelationship between humans and the natural and built environment, to explore the impact of social group (ethnic, racial, sexuality/gender) membership on person/environment interactions, and explore an overview of theoretical and research issues in the psychological study of health and illness across the lifespan. We will examine theoretical perspectives in the psychology of health, health cognition, illness prevention, stress, and coping with illness and highlight research, methods, and applied issues. This class is appropriate for those interested in a variety of health careers or anyone interested in city life. The community partnership/ service learning component is an important part of this class - we will work with local agencies to promote health adaptive person-environment interactions within our community. A background or interest in social sciences or health professions is recommended.