Alison Better Becoming Community Engaged Sociologists, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Human Services 

This introductory sociology course gives students tools both to see the world as sociologists and to critically analyze persistent inequalities in society. Students’ everyday life experiences are incorporated into the classroom as a way to understand the world we live in and to seek avenues for social change. Students collect data on their lives and communities, focusing on the social inequalities (including race, class, gender, sexualities, age, immigration status, etc.) and social institutions (including families, education, work, religion, healthcare, and government) studied in this course. Students submit a final paper which focuses on three sociological concepts they observed, analyzes their lived experience with a sociological eye, and seeks avenues for social transformation in their communities. This project engages students directly with the study of sociology as well as with their local community and the places and people most important to them. Students gain tools to empower them to see the world, make connections, and orient toward change when confronted with everyday injustice.

Caitlin Cahill Neighborhood Praxis, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Human Services

In this hybrid community-based research Urban Sociology course students engage in the exploration of the critical issues facing cities today through an exploration of their concerns in their own neighborhood. Starting with their own backyard, students investigate the economic, historic, political, and social forces that shape cities and urban life. Through community-based research and analysis, students engage the cityscape at the human scale through the study of how people use and transform the spaces where they live, work and play. Students go to community-board meetings, conduct observations in their neighborhood, interview long time residents, and develop an original research project focused on issues of neighborhood change, gentrification, and equitable development. Students’ final projects include outreach to appropriate public audiences using digital technologies.

Christina Colon Civic Ecology: Blurring the Roles of Scientist and Activist through Citizen Science in an Ecology Elective, Department of Biology 

This six hour laboratory course is an elective for biology majors interested in studying local and global ecosystems, and the organisms that inhabit them. The class includes lectures and discussion, multi-media, group activities, field trips and guest lectures. Students must participate in class discussions and stay abreast of current issues in ecology. The class civic engagement component involves citizen science research on horseshoe crabs, requiring a commitment of no less than 6 hours of volunteer time outside of class. An independent inquiry investigation group assignment entails an investigation of a population of living organisms on or around campus (ants, crabs, gulls, cats, weeds, etc.). Students will generate a scientific research question. They will then design and carry out a short experiment, collect data, draw conclusions based on the data, graph and present their findings, and write a lab report summarizing their findings. A research report on a local species must include a description of the environmental concern, issue or debate related to this species, information on its taxonomy, ecology and habitat, possible solutions to protect/preserve/control this species along with associated challenges and how this species impacts the student.

Martha Cummings College ESL Students Explore, Sustain and Renew Their Campus, Department of English, ESL Program 

In this course, ESL students learned what it means to be socially responsible in higher education, that is, intentionally learning and teaching understanding of self, others, and the world. Using a participatory approach to assessing how students engage with, transform, and are transformed by their communities, students chose the college campus as their focus community. They formed four groups of approximately five students each to investigate changes that could be made in the quality of food served in the cafeteria, the cleanliness of the campus, perceived discrimination against ESL students by faculty and staff, and transportation alternatives for getting to the college. They engaged in participatory research, documenting each step of the project with note-taking as well as data from student-designed questionnaires, and interviews with students, faculty, staff, and administrators about perceived problems on campus and how we might work together to solve them.

Peter Fiume Social Sciences in Education, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Human Services

This curriculum and teaching course surveys the objectives of the social sciences as reflected in the selection, guidance, evaluation and implementation of curricula in education. Students explore the relationship between these areas and the developmental and societal needs of children. To facilitate this exploration, three professors formed a learning community, linking the Social Sciences in Education course, a children’s literature course, and a Behavioral Sciences Integrative seminar. A joint assignment requires students to write and develop a children’s book based on a social studies theme. They must also collaborate with students in a graphic design course to illustrate the children’s book. For example, students in the learning community may choose to focus on the social studies curriculum standard of culture, and scaffold the development of their theme in the children’s book by focusing on skills relevant to the study of culture, such as multiple perspectives. Through of a series of structured deliberations with the graphic design students, they come to a consensus on illustrations for the children’s book.

Laura Kates Teacher Education Students Inquire into Sociocultural Contexts of Schooling, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Human Services

The Early Childhood and Childhood Education majors in this fourth semester fieldwork seminar and practicum explore a self-selected educational issue meaningful to them as a result of their lived experiences, including time spent as student teachers in New York City public school classrooms. They read other educators’ blogs to learn how practitioners are framing the problems encountered in schools, and how they are organizing toward possible solutions. They conduct qualitative interviews to ascertain firsthand the perspectives of local practitioners about workplace conditions and the possibilities for their roles. The assignment culminates in students authoring, posting, and receiving comments about an entry to our class blog, Voices of Pre-Service Teachers: http://edc90.bkpublicscholars.org/. This enables students to enter into the public discourse about education and receive comments from a wide and diverse audience in their chosen profession.

Jason Leggett Law, Society, and Justice: Mapping Our Socio-legal Communities, Department of History, Philosophy and Political Science 

This American Legal System course investigates whether the denial of, or unequal access to, socio-legal services undermine the rule of law. The course examines the meaning of community, difference, and democratic thinking and how that relates to legal definitions of sovereignty and “rights.” As co-investigators, students explore their own communities to determine whether the basic elements of a sustainable, “just” society are present and consider how law relates to society and culture in “real life.” We seek to better understand how we can be active and engaged citizens by applying critical analysis to the way the law operates opposed to its ideal, through the case studies of American Indians and undocumented immigrants. Through this inquiry we hope to identify meaningful reforms, supported by evidence from our communities that support the principles of accountability and civic participation to build stronger communities.

Stuart Parker Defining Community, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Human Services 

To enhance students experience with the web of reciprocal relationships and commitments of community beyond one’s extended family, this Introduction to Sociology course is designed to provide students with the conceptual tools for beginning to analyze the dynamics of power in society and the experience of connecting with, and understanding, a local social change organization. Through a set of experiential exercises we develop a simple model of society and apply it throughout the course of the semester to a variety of sociological topics which explore the dynamics of power and inequality. Students then apply this model to a particular organization of their choosing where they combine an interview, an observation and an independent analysis of the problem or issue that the organization is committed to addressing. Their final paper describes the fit between the organizations mission and strategies, with the systemic dynamics of the problem that is being addressed. Students who have completed this assignment report an increased interest in the possibility of social change after learning about and engaging with local groups of people who are trying to make the world a better place.

Anna Rozenboym Incorporating Civic Engagement in the Human Anatomy and Physiology Course, Department of Biology

To make civic engagement relevant to individual students as well as to encourage investigation of health issues as they relate to the course work, students learned about the workings of the human body as well as health issues relevant to their lives. Students began by reflecting upon their individual interests, conducted research on possible community partners and investigated an issue in health care. Issues ranged from understaffing in nursing homes to obesity in children and adults. Toward the end of the semester, students formed groups based on their common interests and made superb presentations of their work to the class. These presentations sparked heated discussions and debates. Students became engaged and enthusiastic once they realized that healthcare issues personal to them were relevant to other students and could be tied to the course content.

Emily Schnee Engaging Students in the Community of College, Department of English

This course is designed to turn community college students’ attention and engagement inward on the college experience through the curricular redesign of elements of a Composition I course and the student development course to which it is linked through a first-semester learning community. Students are introduced to the college campus and community and, through a semester-long series of participatory activities, engage in reflection on what it takes to be a successful college student. Though community engaged teaching and scholarship often seeks to promote students’ connection to off-campus communities and concerns, this course explores the possibilities and challenges of pedagogical and curricular innovation to increase student engagement in the community of college. Rather than tapping into the wider world beyond the classroom, this counterintuitive approach to civic engagement pulls students inward and binds them to our shared college community as they pursue that elusive end goal of a degree. To this end, students learn from the experiences of other first generation college students, dialogue with more advanced KCC students about their educational challenges and successes, participate in a campus-wide scavenger hunt to learn about key offices, programs, and supports at the college, and set goals for their college education and develop concrete strategies for meeting them.

Debra Schultz Civil Rights as Civic Engagement, Department of History, Philosophy and Political Science

This 20th century US history course engages students in using historical and contemporary evidence to explore whether we are living in a “post-racial” society. The course focuses on teaching a more accurate history of racism and the ongoing fight for civil rights in the United States. An emphasis on primary sources enables students to develop critical thinking skills and grapple with the complexities of how social change happens over time. Intensive study of the organizational infrastructure of the movement; debates about strategies and tactics such as nonviolent resistance and self-defense; the importance of grassroots leadership; and the role of women as “bridge” leaders all seek to demystify how social change happens. Documentary film footage emphasizing the role of student leadership highlights young people’s potential to catalyze social change. Students engage in reflective writing about how to make choices and take action in contexts of injustice. The final project requires students to watch Spike Lee’s documentary “When the Levees Broke,” and write an extended essay on the demographics of New Orleans and the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Given students’ recent experience with Hurricane Sandy, they find the film both disturbing and powerfully thought-provoking.

Indira Skoric Immigration Hub, Department of History, Philosophy and Political Science

Immigration Hub is designed as an online community that contains a series of ongoing moderated forums/discussions each centered on one topic and group of immigrants, and non-immigrant students. A new forum will be launched every month, to stay active indefinitely. In addition, a virtual gallery will contain art, music, and film submissions to serve as a complement to the forums. Ongoing immigration debates resonate deeply with Kingsborough’s student body, which represents over 140 nationalities. The goal in working with our students and immigrant organizations is to help bridge the divide between immigrant and non-immigrant, to break down barriers and pre-conceived notions of various groups while building new alliances in the KBCC community in addition to helping students understand the history of most recent immigrants in American society. Sharing experiences and stories helps to promote common goals and understanding. Students can study the many successful partnerships among immigrants, community organizations and non-immigrant groups in Brooklyn and New York City (including the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs).

Tisha Ulmer  |  Building Bridges through Research, Department of English

This Freshman English course re-envisions the required Capstone project to more deeply engage the mostly first and second generation immigrant students. The goal was to improve in two areas: to develop deeper, more sophisticated analysis of texts, sources, and ideas and a stronger writing voice in their Capstone project, a final research paper on immigration reform. Students conducted interviews with ESL students on campus, which had also allowed the ESL students to practice their English speaking skills. The Freshman English students conducted research with a real person, explored the relationship between language and advocacy, and, perhaps, closed the gap between the self and the other, the documented and the undocumented.

Jason VanOra Exploring Community in a First Semester General Psychology Class, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Human Services 

With sensitivity to students’ psychosocial identities, challenges, wisdom, and resiliencies, this course highlights the ways first semester students grapple with the meaning of community and identify themselves within various on-campus communities. Students conduct research on food justice at the KCC farm and gather information about various community and advocacy efforts on campus. They are asked to articulate how and why they might become involved in at least one of the community-based initiatives they have identified. The course also explores the ways students carry wisdom from other communities into the classroom, and “bring back” what they have learned in class to their communities of origin.


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