This fall, the first-year learning community taught by Professors Mary Zanfini and David Gordon includes two different sets of students, both new to Wagner. Although much divides them, by coming together they have discovered more commonalities than you might expect.
The first set of students are some of this nation's top high school graduates. They can boast of stellar grades and extracurricular leadership. In other words, they are Wagner freshmen. Many of them want to major in education, and are taking this LC, which includes an introduction to literature and a multidisciplinary course in “Ways of Knowing,” as their first step toward that goal.
The second set are a group who never expected to be a part of a college course, who struggle to find meaningful work and a place in society. They are program participants in Lifestyles for the Disabled, a Staten Island organization (led by Richard Salinardi '69) that provides enriching learning experiences for intellectually disabled people.
The interaction is focused on writing poetry. The Wagner students have developed lesson plans to teach simple poetic forms to the Lifestyles program participants, who are visiting the Wagner campus several times during the semester.
Each side is giving and receiving new experiences and knowledge that could not be taught through a textbook.
“It took me a while to understand concrete poetry,” confesses Trevor Krafnick '15, who is himself an experienced creative writer. But he says that his Lifestyles student immediately grasped this poetic form, which uses visual layout to help convey meaning. “He jumped all over it and was really excited,” says Krafnick. “It's really cool to teach someone something that you love.”
Professor Gordon remarks that the Wagner students are experiencing a great diversity of learning styles. “Here's how I know it's going well,” he says, while watching a room humming with organized activity. “The fact that we instructors aren't having to do a lot of hands-on shows that the students are taking responsibility.”
The smiles seen around the classroom show that real connections have been made between these diverse groups of learners as well.