One of Oglethorpe’s greatest attributes is our small campus and intimate feel; we have an impressive faculty to student ratio, walk-ability, and students are part of the “Oglefamily,” rather than just a name on a list. But, we also have something many small liberal arts colleges do not: Atlanta!
Oglethorpe offers the best of both worlds: a quiet enclosed campus with the benefits of one of the major business and social hubs of the southeast right outside our gates. Oglethorpe takes advantage of its location by extending classroom learning out into the “real world.” One way that’s done is through OUr Atlanta program, funded and facilitated by the Center for Civic Engagement. Students take trips throughout the city to places like the CDC, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the Coca-Cola headquarters, CNN, Atlanta History Center, and the High Museum of Art.
The program is primarily designed for the First Year Seminars (FYS) at Oglethorpe, which are one credit-hour classes that combine academic and curricular interests of students such as “Live Theater” and “Biology, Medicine and You”. Each class has a “field study” during the seminar that ties in with the classroom material, such as BODIES: The Exhibition or a Center for Puppetry Arts exhibit.
Heather Staniszewski ’02, assistant director of the CCE, says these trips are valuable because ”students are able to see new parts of their community, meet classmates from different disciplines, learn more about a topic or organization serving community needs, explore future volunteer or internship opportunities, and when accessible, learn more about the MARTA system.” Taking these first-year students into the city not only enhances their experience in their FYS seminar, but also opens their eyes to the opportunities in Atlanta.
Other classes outside of the FYS program also take advantage of OUr Atlanta trips. As part of his “Inquiring into Science” course, Dr. Dan Schadler , professor of biology, takes his students on an OUr Atlanta trip to the Atlanta Botanical Garden every year. The course is part of the Master of Arts in Teaching program, designed for graduate students who are switching to a career in early childhood education.
In the course, the graduate students learn how to teach science to children using constructivism, which is a style of teaching focused on hands-on activities and application of the curriculum. The Atlanta Botanical Garden houses two exhibits that are ideal for teaching science using this style: the Peter Rabbit Garden, which allows children to read and literally follow along with Beatrix Potter’s popular children’s story, and an outstanding carnivorous plants collection, which are always an intriguing botany subject to elementary science students. This year, the tour was headed by garden docent Sally Crowe who was an elementary, middle and high school teacher over the course of her career. She showed the Oglethorpe students how to use the exhibits to expand upon lessons they would teach in the classroom.
This link between a small school and a big city has created unique opportunities for Oglethorpe students that many other liberal arts schools could not provide. And in the end, the juxtaposition of the intimate learning environment of Oglethorpe and the scores of educational exhibits and businesses of Atlanta creates a more well-rounded student.