Who Says School Needs to Be Boring?

I’m one of those students who loves school. I know, I know. That’s weird. But I always have and I think I always will. If I could afford it, I would probably become a professional student. But not everyone enjoys school the way I do. Some people find sitting in a hard chair desk, like those desks with connected chairs that most of us have used since 1st grade for an hour being talked at about some topic required for you to learn at a liberal arts college, boring. You really can’t blame them for that. I fully acknowledge that my love of school is not universally true. I still think traditional classes are very important, but schools that are expanding their pedagogical techniques are creating more active involvement in the classroom.

Schools have been beefing up their educational opportunities. Last year, my school offered a Forensic Chemistry class for the first time. As a student in that class, I have to admit that I really enjoyed it, despite the fact that my lab session started at 7:45 in the morning. It always ended up being one of the best days of my week, just because it was Forensic Chemistry! We would solve cases like on Bones or CSI. It was so much fun! But the point is, Northwestern was trying something new to get students excited about chemistry and it worked. . . they’re offering the class again.

Besides adding new classes, colleges and universities are collaborating with businesses in order to bring students experiences that extend way beyond the classroom and to offer businesses both fresh, new ideas and cheap (or even free) labor.  (Some even include a few new majors along the way) A few of these projects I found include:

  • A brewery classroom: Even though I personally find the taste and smell of beer disgusting, I can appreciate the fact that beer-making is an art. I think it’s remarkable that the Eight Wonder Brewery is collaborating with students from the University of Houston to give them hands-on experience in both a home-brewing and commercial-brewing setting in order to prepare them for their careers in beer.
  • A head mouse: Yes, it sounds weird, but the gist of this project was to create a computer mouse which could be used by people who physically cannot use a regular mouse. This device uses virtual sight technology and head movements to convert into movement on the screen, allowing users to control the system with head movement alone. This was all done through collaboration with various universities and is only an example of many projects which have used the innovation of students still in college.
  • “Live Well” Collaboration: Several companies are putting the creative energies of current University of Cincinnati students to work in order to create products that are useful to consumers 50 years and older. Companies like Citi, Kraft Foods, Boeing, General Mills, and LG are all searching for ways to serve their baby boomer consumers and providing great experience for students in return.
  • Cooperative-education programs: Kettering University’s cooperative-education program with multiple employers (most notably, General Motors) is a great starting place for students looking for a non-traditional experience. Students spend their college career rotating between work shifts and classroom shifts. They spend 11-week terms in the classroom, broken up by working full-time with one of 500 co-op employers. For example, in the program with General Motors, students spend their full-time work in the factory either on a labor track or a management track.

Believe me, I love being in the classroom. I love listening to my professors share their wealth of knowledge with me (at least most of the time). But I also like the chance to get out of the classroom every once in a while and get a little on-the-job training. Some people actually learn better that way.  I think it’s cool that the creative minds in this country are coming up with better ways for students to learn. What is your school doing to break out of the mold of classical education? What wild and crazy ideas do you have to push your school out of the mold?

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