Critical thinking outside the classroom

Honor students exposed to unique experiences

honors-trip

By Amy West

The Honors College provides opportunities to prepare students for life beyond the classroom. Teaching students to think critically and exposing them to unique experiences are an important part of the curriculum.

The co-curricular activities provided by the Honors Learning Community, such as four overnight trips, help students make the connection from classroom to community. Honors classes are often faster paced and provide more evaluation and analysis and students are expected to guide content and class discussions. In addition to overnight opportunities, Honors Learning Community students are encouraged to attend numerous day trips, including tours of a Buddhist temple and Islamic center, museums visits and night hikes to help build their critical thinking skills.

Honors students recently visited Chicago, Hocking Hills, Ohio, Washington, D.C. and Stratford, Ontario in Canada, where they often attend theater productions.

“Seeing Shakespeare, experiencing a high-quality theater and learning about another culture are goals of the overnight trips,” said Jay Jones, a general studies writing lecturer and faculty member in the Honors College. 

Anna Flemming, a senior majoring in film production and minoring in creative writing influences in theatre from Chicago, just returned from Stratford, where honors students experienced the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and were given a backstage tour. 

“To get to see Shakespeare was awesome for me,” Flemming said. “The town is amazing, there are boat races, interesting little shops, lots of dogs to pet and everyone is very friendly.”

Flemming has been on the Stratford trip four times and plans on going again after she graduates. Approximately 50 students attend the trip each year and often comment that this is one of the highlights of their college experience. For many students, it's their first time outside of the country. 

“One of the things I have always appreciated is that Shakespeare meant his plays to be performed and watching a live production is so much different than studying a play in class.” said Lowe McManus, a general studies writing lecturer and faculty member in the Honors College. 

“I tell students that Shakespeare is funny, but they don’t believe me until they actually see it,” McManus laughed. “One of the highlights of the trip is the bus ride home. I love to hear the students critique each play. They sometimes challenge interpretations and their critical thinking skills are put into action."

“There is something about seeing these performances," Flemming said. "It’s so different from learning about the plays in class. Attending a live performance and being part of an audience is an experience that you just don’t get in the classroom. And for students interested in film, there’s something about seeing the actor make their own unique interpretations of the story that make the performance so interesting.”

Honors students understand when they are accepted into the College that they are signing up for hard work; but they also understand the life-long benefits they will earn from the experience. 

Students, such as Flemming, admit the hard work is worth it because they will enter into the next phase of their lives with strong critical thinking skills, a broader worldview and an established network of interdisciplinary connections.