I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Celeste Leander and Carla Paterson about their UBCmix project from last Fall. As I walked into the room, I could already tell that these two had made a deep friendship as they exchanged the latest news of their personal lives. I was quickly to realize that their pedagogical partnership was just as profound.
Celeste and Carla were at a TAG meeting on campus when they met with Geoff Costeloe and David Ng. After a short conversation, they knew that UBCmix was something they wanted to do.
Carla Paterson’s training in the history of science certainly helped. She’s cross-appointed between History and Engineering. But she knew she’d met a fellow interdisciplinarian in Celeste who teaches biology for Science One, a freshmen mixed Science curriculum.
“We went a little overboard,” Celeste started, “It started off as one term project and it just grew.”
The two had originally just wanted their students to partner together to identify five species of native coniferous trees and to explore indigenous people’s knowledge about them. Students had the UBC Botanical Gardens and the Museum of Anthropology as their resource base. Each team consisted of two Science One and one or two HIST104 students. They were to prepare a short movie or a PowerPoint lecture. There was even a prize for the most creative project.
But as they worked together, they formalized a deeper relationship. They planned four lectures together. Carla introduced the Science students to key thinkers such as Charles Darwin and Rachel Carson and Celeste inducted the History students into ecology. They even formalized an e-mail pen pal program that exchanged messages after each joint class.
When asked what she got out of the Mix partnership, Carla did not even hesitate.
“It was fun,” she said, “And I’m a big believer in collaborative work.”
The opportunity to make a connection easily trumped the extra work. The two had several meetings over the summer to discuss their strategy but that just seems to have consolidated their friendship. And of course there was extra grading. They used the funds they received from UBCmix to employ a TA to grade the e-mail pen pal assignment.
I asked about how their students benefitted from the assignment.
“My students benefitted completely,” answered Carla. “They really enjoyed the opportunity to do something new.”
“The Science students were able to make a lot of new personal connections,” added Celeste. They take 26 credits together during the Science One program and this was an opportunity to go out and meet students from other disciplines.”
Did they learn more about each other’s work?
“The Science One students were amazed that the History students read entire books.”
“Well, selections of an entire book,” Carla corrected with a smile.
Advice to new UBCmix instructors
The two are already well into planning their next Mix class. I can only mention that there’s a comic strip worm involved.
So what advice do they have for new UBCmix instructors?
“Start small and see.”
Carla piped in: “And book a large lecture room!”
New instructors need not worry about losing curriculum content.
“I only marginally modified previous lecture material for the joint lectures,” said Celeste.
Both Carla and Celeste felt that they had gained much more course content out of their partnership.
And a final piece of advice?
“Go for it. It’s fun!”
Photo Credit: kennymatic