I joined the Living Lab project as a Third Year Fellow in the spring of 2013. This fellowship has been among the most important learning experiences in my teaching career, and it has also been one of my best experiences at City Tech.
As a teacher, the many readings and seminar discussions between the faculty from all departments of the college exposed me to new ways of thinking about education. These discussions were a reset for me, leading me to broaden significantly my efforts to mentor and nurture my students. The emphasis on General Education clarified the whole person that we need to address and awaken in our students.
The experience of the Living Lab project has been one the best for me at City Tech, due largely to the interaction and friendships formed with the diverse and dedicated faculty from all over the college. I feel I am among kindred spirits when we assemble for another event. My involvement as a fellow has included many “walking seminars” where we worked together to explore and investigate our neighborhoods and uncover the critical issues impacting them. I brought a camera along to help photo document our work in the field, including meetings with local activists and business owners to hear directly their voices and concerns. As Third Year Fellows we focused our efforts on developing Academic Service Learning Projects that could be integrated into our curriculum. My work evolved into a project to provide a business owner affected by Hurricane Sandy with documentation and design services to develop strategies for flood protection for future storms. We executed this project with first semester, first year students. Judging by the reflections by the students and the feedback from the business owner at the final review, the fundamental goal of the academic service learning project was achieved; the students gained an invaluable real world experience on a topic that will likely be significant throughout their professional careers while the business owner was presented with valuable documentation of his facility and creative solutions to his vexing problems of storm exposure. In my second year as a fellow, I shifted gears towards helping a new group of associate fellows grow and learn in similar ways. During the spring semester I volunteered to help facilitate the walking seminar at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This is of particular interest to me because I now believe that place based learning is a critical strategy for effective teaching, especially for our City Tech students. I am now continuing this focus, working on the development of a new multidisciplinary course around place based learning with Prof. Smale from the Library.