The Value of Hands-On Classes

Looking back on my favorite classes so far at Swarthmore, I realized that for me one of the most valuable aspects has been the interactive components of class. I love having small classroom discussions where we can talk about educational policy or Spanish literature, but I also really enjoyed the labs for my biology classes and my placement in a local middle school for my education class.

First, I’ll talk about the biology labs since they were the most familiar to me before I even got to Swarthmore. My high school was fortunate enough to have good funding for science classes, and so I got to do all of the standard biology labs like dissections. Swarthmore biology takes it to the next level though, in a good way. First of all, I just have to say that the lab instructors for the biology classes I have had so far are absolutely amazing; they’re patient, enthusiastic, and very easy to talk to.

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Picture taken during Bio 2 Longwood Gardens trip

The labs are always very well organized, and I especially appreciate that the labs and lectures are very well integrated. The lab is based on stuff we’ve already talked about in class, and then there are lectures after everyone has completed the lab that week to give extra information. While it was a little intimidating at first, I’ve grown to really appreciate that Bio 1 and 2 require you to write several lab reports. I had written one or two lab reports in high school, but was always a little unsure about them. Now, having completed 5.5 lab reports for biology with the help of WAs, I feel much more confident about writing lab reports and think that it will help me a lot as I move on to higher level biology classes.

I also took Intro to Education this past semester, which was a much newer subject for me. While I have a decent amount of experience with STEM, I hadn’t had many social science classes before, and so Intro to Ed was different but also very exciting for me. Besides some really interesting readings that I had great conversations with other students in class about, I also really loved having a placement in a school.

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Strath Haven Middle School, the local school that I went to for my placement. Picture from school‘s website.

For most classes in the Education department, students have a placement, which means that they are assigned to a class in a nearby school that they visit once a week. The placement is a really great way to bridge the gap between theory and practice. As much fun as I had talking about papers written by experienced educators, I think that I wouldn’t have gotten as much out of the class if I didn’t have my experience in the placement to understand how those theories are actually carried out.

My last experience with hands-on classes I’d like to mention is from my first semester, when I took Intro to Latinx Literature and Culture. Our final project for that class was about the representation of Latinx in media. This happened to be around the time that the movie Coco came out, and we had fun talking about that movie.pt_coco_31b33206.jpg

At some point, one of my classmates suggested that we should go see the movie as a class since it was relevant to what we were talking about in discussions. We thought it would be a fun idea, but didn’t think we would actually get to do it. Our professor also thought it was a good idea though, and so she got department funding for us to go and see Coco! The movie was great and it really was a fun experience to share as a class.

Even though I’ve only been at Swarthmore for a year so far, I’ve already benefitted in many different ways from the experiences that my classes have given me inside and outside of the classroom.

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