Lower East Side Influence on Study Away Idea

After today’s walking tour of the Lower East Side, I began considering how I could incorporate the topic of how media makers have the power to influence perceptions of a society within my study away idea. I’m not sure if it is a whole new idea or if it is integrated. I am beginning to understand more how it is possible to create an experience that begins in auto-biographical understanding of personal place in the world, then moves out to an experience that is different from the student’s own, taking it into a global understanding.

As we walked around the neighborhood, I began to think about how it was the neighborhood where Jacob Riis was photographing for the NY Times and eventually for his book, “How the Other Half Lives.” His photographs had a large impact on the public opinion of the area, it gave voice to the impoverished conditions of the people in the area and led to some changes from the local and federal government.

Jacob Riis, “Lodgers in a Crowded Baynard Street Tenement”

In the Spring, I had some students in CI 2300 brilliantly propose an activity for middle schoolers that contrasted the work of Jacob Riis and Shelby Lee Adams, and then allow students to take pictures that describe the culture or social issues they notice in their own community/school/family. I am wondering what it would look like to use this idea in my study away and allow my students to contrast the Riis model of using photography and video documentary to give voice to the voiceless and the controversy around Shelby Lee Adam’s photos to discuss how some photography and documentary has exploited community issues or all together misrepresented them.



I loved the way that student-led projects are discussed on page 239 of our Sobania text, where emphasis is placed on giving students the freedom to develop their individual work while simultaneously providing strong support from the faculty and organizers in leadership of the program. There are a few great criteria that are laid out for the students that helps the faculty/advisors to support students without smothering their ideas. “Projects are

  1. Creative and Exploratory,
  2. Must be focused enough to manageable within the time available,
  3. Can be used as a resource for further thought.” (Sobania: 239)

Meanwhile, students kept journals with expectations that the journals are well-written and display their ability to synthesize diverse elements of their experiences. I like this concept of asking students to build on things they already know and rise to the challenge of applying it to a new scenario.

I also enjoy the table on page 238, where students have to make a Learning Goals Agreement before they even begin their experience. This forces them to outline their own understanding of how they will spend their time in the program and set goals for themselves with tangible actions to support them.



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