How social justice inspires creativity in online learning

Instead of a final paper, sociology students used their creativity to explore social justice

The Hamilton College museum’s social justice exhibit kept students highly engaged in their final Sociology 101 projects, even after the students left campus.

Instead of assigning a final paper, assistant professor Jaime Kucinskas gave her students—many of whom were pre-med and STEM majors—a chance to combine their creativity with their concerns about social justice.

She also didn’t want to simply assign more reading and writing while students were isolated a home.

“For a lot of them, art was a stretch,” Kucinskas says.

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Before campus closed, the students toured the museum’s spring exhibition, SUM Artists Visual Diagrams and Systems-Based Explorations, and then participated workshops in podcasting, digital editing and blogging.

Once students went home, Kucinskas said her first priority was to check on the well-being of her class: “The first touchpoint was, ‘Are you OK?’ ‘What’s going on?”

[VIDEO: One students’ final video explored the environmental impact of the fashion industry.]

About a quarter of her students were dealing with economic issues or health problems. Others had to find full-time work to help support parents who had lost jobs.

Yet, her students really dug into their projects as they shared their early drafts and received feedback.

“We’re more in touch than we would have been during a normal class, and it was over something constructive that we were building together,” she says. “It has made me more eager to try out other kinds of assignments like this and teach sociology using students’ different skill sets.”

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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