Thinking about college classes more likely brings to mind piles of books, long papers and longer lectures rather than a tasty cake replica of the Great Wall of China or a sugar cube version of the Great Pyramid of Giza. But students in Ginger Assadi’s Humanities I course at Bainbridge College have changed the stereotyped images, choosing creative research projects this semester instead of traditional term papers.
Matthew Lucey of Cairo created a cake version of the Great Wall of China, which the class enjoyed visually and gastronomically after his presentation. He based the confection on pictures he researched and on observations during his recent trip to China.
|Hank Day of Bainbridge laces up a medieval era type gauntlet|
Pointing to a bend in the wall, Lucey grinned and said, “This is about where I threw up when I was walking the Great Wall.”
Hank Day and Summer Day of Bainbridge showed the longbow they made from a tree they cut down in their yard. He ran his thumb the length of the bow, pointing out the stubby remains of knobs they had shaved from it.
“The weird thing is this wood, when we were shaving it and shaping it, smelled just like a cherry cola,” he said. “You could smell it from 50 feet away.”
|Summer Day of Bainbridge prepares the longbow by scraping away bark|
“It really did,” said Summer Day. “I like to get the cherry cola from Sonic, where they put real cherries in the Coke, and it smelled just like that."
The two made other equipment based on medieval weaponry, including a flail and a gauntlet. For the latter, they used rivets from blue jean pockets to cover the knuckles and the back of the hand.
Chase Alexander of Climax and Jay Ramer of Bainbridge constructed a large-scale model of the Parthenon from recycled, found and purchased items. They made columns from mop handles and parts of the sponge mop heads cut to size. Toy soldiers stood in as the figures that are in the frieze that once ringed the ancient Greek structure. A doll dressed in gold represented the goddess Athena.
Alexander joked that he had really suffered for his project, pointing out that Athena’s gold dress was made of candy bar wrappers. “I got such a stomach ache from eating all that candy,” he said.
“You could’ve called me to help on that part,” Ramer quipped.
Other projects ranged from a literary work to art. Bainbridge resident Amanda Gossett wrote a short story from the perspective of William Shakespeare’s imagined little sister. Meagan Moncrief of Calvary created a replica of Egyptian tomb art using a combination of materials. Austin Humphries of Cairo created a Roman mosaic.
Some students built projects on a smaller scale. Lyndsey Barlow of Leesburg created a sculpture of the “Venus of Willendorf,” a Paleolithic fertility statue. Erin Campbell of Cairo made a model of the Great Pyramid of Giza, using several materials before settling on sugar cubes - it took nine boxes of sugar cubes. Bradley Jones of Cairo carved an African style mask from a block of water tupelo.
|Erin Campbell of Cairo shows her sugar cube Great Pyramid of Giza|
“I got more out of making my mask than I would have if I had written a research paper,” Jones said. “I learned different wood carving methods and also learned how to use different tools and machines.”
Choosing to research and make recipes from ancient cultures such as the Egyptian, Greek or Roman were Meagan Smith and Dana Tomlinson, both of Bainbridge, William Strickland and Sarah Watkins, both of Cairo, and Windy Singletary of Calvary.
Ms. Singletary said she opted for a project instead of a traditional paper because it was a welcome change of pace in her hectic schedule of school, work and mothering. She was able to make the project a family one since her boyfriend and his son were taste testers.
“For me, doing the project of Greek cuisine was a lot of fun,” she said. “It made it more interesting than just looking up traditional information for a term paper. I loved getting to cook for my friends and parents.
“The more creative you are the more you tend to learn. I feel that I was more interested in finding out why the Greeks used this spice and that herb more by doing this project rather than writing the paper.”
|Bradley Jones of Cairo works on an African-inspired mask|
Summer Day echoed this idea. Noting that she was perfectly comfortable with research papers because she had written several as a student in high school Advanced Placement English classes, she said that doing a project helped her “really learn” about the Middle Ages.
She and Hank Day read several books and articles before starting work on the items they created. By the time they were actually making the pieces, they had the material memorized.
“It really stays with you when you do a project,” she said, adding that she felt her understanding of the topic was very different than it would have been if she had simply memorized facts for a test and then forgotten them.
This was the goal their professor, Ginger Assadi, had when she offered the choice of a traditional research paper or a creative research project.
“There are so many different learning styles,” Ms.Assadi said. “It’s really unfair to give students a one-size-fits-all assessment. All of my students are really bright, lively, interesting people, and their work should reflect that. Some of them are fine with expressing their knowledge in traditional formats like tests and papers, but some really better show their learning through creativity and hands-on work.”