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Up in the air and out on the street: Beyond Colgate trips enhance learning

By Contributing Writer on February 1, 2013
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The flight over Central New York for geology students was funded by Beyond Colgate.

Five hundred feet above the ground. A street corner in Harlem. These are just two of the many places “Beyond Colgate” that students have been in recent weeks.

The program, jointly funded by the university and Colgate alumni, enables students to apply classroom material to situations and locations beyond campus boundaries. Each semester, about a dozen such trips are supported.

Students in Prof. Jeni McDermott’s Surface Processes and Hydrogeology course viewed the topography of the central New York landscape via an aerial tour of the region. McDermott wanted to show “how glaciers demolished all the pre-existing topography and left a flat landscape.”

Molly Clinton ’13, one of the students in the class, said: “This experience definitely enriched my understanding of glacial landforms. From the air we could see drumlins, the Finger Lakes, and erosion along the coast of Lake Ontario.”

“This is definitely an experience unique to Colgate,” said Professor Jeni McDermott, who led the field trip.

Spencer Wallach ’15, another student to enjoy the flight, has since officially declared geology as his major.

McDermott, who is a visiting assistant professor of geology, summed it up: “I’ve never done anything like this. This is definitely an experience unique to Colgate.”

Also this semester, Jenna Reinbold, assistant professor of religion, took the 16 students in her first-year seminar to New York City to explore a contemporary church-state controversy — whether religious groups should be allowed to use public schools for their Sunday services. Her course is called Church, State, and Law in America.

In collaboration with Tony Carnes, editor of the web magazine A Journey Through NYC Religions, the class attended a Bronx Household of Faith service, held in P.S.15. After the service, with Carnes’ staff and Colgate alum Chloe Nwangwu ’12 acting as guides, the students fanned out on the street and took what is possibly the first poll regarding the holding of worship services in public schools in New York City.

“There is a certain thrill when the students hear people talk about issues they’d talked about in class,” Reinbold said. “After engaging the public, they have a command of this information now.”

Reinbold said her students expected people on the street to be either indifferent on the issue or uninformed, but that was largely not the case. According to a recent blog post by A Journey Through NYC Religions, many of the interviewers were surprised at how the people in the street spoke vigorously and favorably about this issue.

Madeline Allen ’16, said that interviewing people on the street definitely took her beyond her comfort zone, “but the results were surprising. The trip allowed me to see everyday applications of the things we talked about in class.”

Students talk outside P.S. 291 in the Bronx.

Story contributed by Alicia Klepeis

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