CAMP Learning Community
In the fall of 2008 I had the opportunity to design and then lead a learning community for first-year students enrolled in CAMP (College Assistance for Migrant Program) and a bacc-core Lifetime Fitness course. I came into the position with complete freedom over my syllabus and learning objectives, which was exciting and terrifying. I knew the most basic goal of this learning community was to support CAMP students in the Lifetime Fitness course which had been historically hard for new students and also knew the basic goals of learning communities in general, but I did not have a solid grasp on the resources available to me.
A significant portion of my understanding of the needs of the students in the learning community came from my scholarship and work with first-year students. I wanted to create classroom activities, assignments and learning outcomes that would address some of the academic and personal transitional issues faced by these students. I created weekly reading outlines designed to encourage students to do their required readings, take thoughful notes and report back on any questions they had on the material. Reporting back as emphasized as a way from the class to form a true learning community where everyone was both a learner and a teacher. I also emphasized time management and goal setting by having my students complete weekly schedules and keep track of their progress towards meeting both academic and wellness related goals in a personal journal.
In an effort to promote habits for academic success and extra-curricular involvement, I had students participate in two experiential activities during the term. One had to be focused on academic success (visiting a professor’s office hours, meeting with an academic success coach, or visiting the writing center) and the other one had to focus on doing something beneficial to the student’s overall wellness (joining an intramural sports team, visiting with a dietitian, going to a meeting from a social club, etc.). I had students reflect on the short and long-term benefits of doing these activities and write short papers in order to work on their writing skills.
One of my proudest pieces of program planning that I did for this course was creating the final project. The assignment was to take a traditional family recipe and remake it using the wellness concepts discussed in both our learning community and in their health course. A lot of thought and planning went into this assignment. I let students create their own time line for when they would turn in certain parts of the project; this allowed them to showcase their time management skills and learn to separate their large projects into smaller, more doable pieces. I also required that they prepare both a written summary of the general history of their dish and also their personal history with it (who in their family made it first, when did they typically eat it, do they remember the first time they ate it, etc.) and also a five minute presentation to work on their verbal communication. The assignment required that they take the information that they were learning in both classes and put it to use in a practical way. I also felt like the assignment allowed them to be creative in how they viewed wellness. Some students stuck to concepts of nutrition, but others branched out and talked about how using organic vegetables would be better for environmental wellenss or how discussing the recipe with their families made them feel less homesick, which brings me to the other reason I am very happy with my project planning around this assignment…
I wanted to create a project that attemped to address some of the unique transitional issues faced by students in the CAMP program. Most of the students in the program are Latino and first-generation. I identify as neither of these but I wanted to find a way to celebrate something that ties all cultures together and the first thing I thought of was food. I also knew that one of the transitional issues that many CAMP students face is feeling separated from their families who they have often been a great influence on their life up until college. I wanted to find a way for students to reconnect with their families and also a way for their families to be involved in an aspect of their student’s academic success. I think that first-generation students sometimes feel like their families have nothing to offer when it comes to their college success and I wanted to try and lessen this feeling.
A formal evaluation of the class was scheduled to occur during the winter term through the CAMP program and on the last day of class I asked some informal questions related to the effectiveness of the class. I have not had the opportunity to look up my students’ grades in their lifetime fitness course yet, but I have heard that the CAMP students had their best collective GPA ever this term. I hope that my learning community played a small part in that success.