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Cardinal Foundation Seminar Showcase Displays Learning Across Disciplines

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First-year SUNY Plattsburgh students who completed the college-introductory courses called Cardinal Foundation Seminars displayed the work they completed last semester at a showcase held in the Warren Ballrooms.

According to Dr. Wendy Gordon, professor of history and Cardinal Core Curriculum coordinator, 25 classes were represented at the showcase, which boasted some 250 students, faculty, staff and administrators in attendance.

More than 600 first-year students completed the seminars, designed to get them engaged in the Plattsburgh community and help them understand how a college education is different from what they did in high school, Gordon said.

“(The seminar program) gives them a chance to have a class that digs into a particular subject deeply instead of a typical broad first-year class,” Gordon said. “They’re designed to get students thinking critically about things and also asking their own questions and using academic skills to find the answers.”

In addition to knowledge-based learning, the seminars are designed to help students learn about key college skills like course registration, how to use the library, study skills and more, Gordon said.

The inaugural fall showcase started as a venue for students to publicly display the skills and knowledge they learned their first semester on campus, Gordon said.

‘Show off Creativity in Learning’

“Some of the professors have been enthusiastic about the work their students are doing, so we brainstormed this event as a chance for new students to the Plattsburgh community to show what they’ve been working on to raise the profile of the Cardinal Foundation Seminar program and really just have the people see how creative students and professors are being in their classrooms,” Gordon said.

She said that each professor made a decision about how their classes would participate in the showcase.

“Some classes worked together on a unified display, and in some each student did their own project. Most commonly, the classes broke into several small groups and each group did something,” Gordon said. With about 20 displays in all, some of the more notable according to Gordon included:

  • Four separate wellness games presented by “The Art of Making a Difference” class
  • A large poster display on ways to conserve and protect waterways by “The Worth of Water” class
  • Individual handmade storybooks from students in “Little Books; Big Ideas”
  • Posters and demonstrations on the history of handwriting from “Handwriting for the Humanities”
  • Three skit performances by “Fan Fiction Drama”

cardinal seminar showcase teaOther seminar titles included “Game on for Sustainability,” “Our Robotic Overlords” and “Astronomy in Society: Eclipses.”

The event was open to the public and attendees walked from table to talk, looking at displays and asking students to speak about their work.

Gordon said the “Little Books, Big Ideas” class planned to attend in one large group and read the books they created for attendees.

Students in other seminars worked in shifts to explain their projects to those passing by their booths.

‘Deeper Meanings’

Jack Castillo, a criminal justice major from Massapequa, N.Y., said the depth of what he learned was beyond what he first anticipated when he selected the “The History of American Breakfast,” taught by Dr. Connie Shemo, professor of history.

“Originally, signing up for this class, I thought it was just going to be about learning the history of making these certain food and breakfast items, but shortly after, when we started going into class, I realized it’s about the darker history and deeper meanings about these foods and how they came to be whether (how they’re) harvested or produced,” Castillo said.

His class learned about how child labor is used in west Africa to harvest the cacao plant, which is used to produce chocolate, he said.

Beyond learning about human rights violations, Castillo said he learned how to effectively work in small groups for greater overall understanding as a unit.

“I actually learned how to listen to my peers and conduct not a summary, but an overall better understanding,” Castillo said. “When we’d sit in circles and discuss what we’d learned from the certain topic that week, we’d all write and learn from each other based on what we were saying in that circle, how to further understand and develop and greater idea of the food we talked about that week. Just bouncing ideas off each other helped a lot.”

Then each student would reflect in writing about how the small group discussions helped them better understand the seminar’s material, Castillo said.

Note-taking, Setting Goals

cardinal seminar showcaseTristan Laundree, a math adolescence education major from Keeseville, said he has a greater awareness of nutrition and dietary supplements after taking “Eat Smart, Be Smart, Stay Smart.”

“We did have a lot of guest speakers” as well, Laundree said, including speakers from the Career Development Center, a nutrition faculty member who spoke about the microbiome, and a food culture speaker.

Laundree and his classmates learned about notetaking, the importance of setting goals in college and the negative health effects of stress.

The class worked in small groups to create group presentations to speak about at the showcase.

Pearl Smyth, a nursing major from Eldridge, N.Y., selected the “Handwriting for the Humanities” seminar, taught by Dr. Sylvie Beaudreau, associate professor of history.

“Each student got a major event in handwriting like the time of handwriting and wrote a little blurb describing how it affected handwriting, how it played a part in (its history),” Smyth said.

Dotting the elaborate posterboard her class made were multicolored sticky notes where Smyth said students wrote facts they learned in class or things that interested them about the material. The sticky notes went on the board, now their “wall of wonder,” Smyth said.

Library Tour

As part of the practical skills portion of the foundation seminar, Smyth’s class took a tour of Feinberg Library and learned about the services it offers, she said.

Students in the class learned cursive handwriting and about key moments of literacy from history like Frederick Douglass using literacy as a conduit to freedom from slavery.

A handwriting demonstration at the display invited attendees to use a replica of a Victorian era square-tipped-nib stylus dipped in sepia ink, which gives the writing a calligraphic effect.

Printouts of Douglass’ handwriting and information from the Smithsonian about literacy and slavery were on the display table at the showcase.

Smyth said the seminar provided a welcome change of pace from the introductory classes in the nursing curriculum.

“Right now, I’m very science (oriented), so having to take a class like that was very interesting and nice to have,” she said of the seminar.

— Story, photos by Assistant Director of Communications Felicia Krieg

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