ELAS students have the opportunity to connect course work outside the spaces of a classroom by applying their knowledge and skills to real world situations. By engaging directly with a community (or communities), students contextualize how education and personal development can advocate, empower, or reimagine topics that are important to them.
Past ELAS Fellow, Eric Dougherty '20, performing for residents from Ferncliff Nursing Home at Bard's Chapel as part of a project for Duff Morton's Spring 2019 Action Research class.
ELAS Student Fellows Program
ELAS student fellows can be an integral part of experiential learning given their perspective, skills, and expertise in a discipline related to an ELAS course. Ideal candidates for an ELAS fellow are students who have either previously taken the course to which they are applying for a fellowship or through a recommendation by the professor who is teaching the ELAS course. Fellows are helpful in restructuring certain classroom designs by bridging the gap between students and professors--allowing students to connect with ELAS fellows through a peer-to-peer network. However, ELAS fellows are expected to conduct themselves professionally, respectfully, responsibly, and with enthusiasm whenever they are working with the ELAS class.
Students from Leanne Ussher's Fall 2019 Local Community Currencies course developing a module to analyze economic exchange within communities.
During the course of a semester ELAS students will:
Demonstrate relevance of community experience to course content
Increase students' knowledge of community issues, needs, strengths, problems and resources
Improve reciprocity and interdependence between community and students
Synthesize and articulate how the ideas and experiences provided by the course might inform their personal, academic, and/or professional pursuits
Respect and appreciate different perspectives within diverse populations
Students from Cammie Jones and Deirdre d'Albertis' Fall 2019 Women and Leadership class hosting a panel during the Women and Leadership Summit for students from Bard Annandale, Bard
Microcollege Holyoke, Bard College Simon’s Rock, BHSECs, Siena, SUNY Ulster and BPI.
Students collaborate on projects that relate coursework with community action
This course connected art and multimedia with environmental and urban sciences as a way to understand, communicate, and advocate for environmental studies. Covering a wide range of experimental humanities, students learned how to create maps as a learning tool to demonstrate the types of information (or lack thereof) available about environmental issues that affect their communities. By focusing on the ways environmental racism, public policy, and organizations respond to different types of environmental crisis, students were able to connect with their own communities while establishing communication skills necessary for the kinds of advocacy work their projects call for.
A map of a proposed oil pipeline that would run through a water head at the start of the Mississippi river.
Publicly available information of water pollution control in the Connecticut river.
An overview of H-2A visas and how they affect foreign national workers from Jamaica.
Dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay and how they affect the ecology and water quality of its surrounding community.
An analysis of the geography of Haiti and how it has changed from 1969, its earliest satellite images, to today.
Science and Identity
Throughout the semester students applied psychology research methods to design their own experiments and interpret the results. Students addressed issues such as the presence of biases in the STEM field and its audience, the emotional response of loneliness during a pandemic and a correlated rise in playing video games, self care and anxiety studies, and the effect of cultural backgrounds in science denial. By recruiting participants from MTurk, an online method for data collection, students were able to interpret and modify their data to analyze how participants responded to their experiments. Students learned the specific procedures of conducting a psychology experiment (forming a hypothesis, recruiting participants, creating consent forms, designing the experiment, developing a questionnaire, and forming a conclusion based on their results) and how to present their data to an audience unfamiliar with the topic and data.
Student as Citizen
In this course students engaged with local, national, and federal policies by researching a topic of their choice and creating a project proposal to address that issue. Students interviewed professionals, community leaders, and educators to establish a more fundamental understanding of their topic and develop a needs assessment for community action. Projects included the following:
Mental Health in Ulster County: This project consulted local politicians, community organizers, and leaders from the NYSNA to learn about the funding process for mental health resources in hospitals and how COVID-19 has depleted mental health and detox services.
A Case Study on IEPs in Yonkers: A nuanced approach to writing measurable goals and determining the types of special education students will need based on their disability.
A Comprehensive Explanation of New York State's School Resource Officers: Based on research and interviews with a public school superintendent, this project provides an overview of the types of training and intervention methods police officers in schools undergo and their potential pitfalls in fields such as bias, cyberbullying, discourse, brain development, triggers, and child psychology.
Ulster County Sexual Assault Unit and Programs:The types of programs implemented by the Ulster County Bystanders Agains Sexual Assault available to public, social places such as bars and restaurants that aim to prevent sexual assault and intervene to reduce the number of sexual assaults that happen (ordering an "Angel" shot, for example, is a code word for a potentially dangerous encounter).
Maternal Morality in NYS: This project included research into state programs and an interview with an expecting pregnant Latinx mother about raising awareness to post-birth trauma mental health services for women who have experienced difficulties during birth.
Voter Education for Immigrants in Gwinnett County: A student conducted research in their own community to see what kinds of voter information is publicly available in order to bring attention to public resources that lack in areas of public education.
Framing the Election
With 2020 being a particularly energized election year, students used their classroom experiences and skills to develop short films that interpreted their own reflections about the election. In doing so, filmmaking theories and the practical realities of 2020 merged into creative outputs that allowed for individual expression and collective discussions. Featured below are some of those films:
"Campaigners" by Charlotte Geissler Chuck and Charles compete to become the next subdivision representative of Tradition Village, Red Hook NY. Most quotes are directly derived from campaign ads played in the US 2020 presidential election. Starring: Bruno Becher Sound Director: Frances Lewis A film by Charlotte Geissler
"This is What" by Kai Parcher-Charles "This Is What" is an inquiry into what democracy looks like. More specifically, what it looks like in this country. America. The States, rather not united. My intent is to open up the statement, “this is what democracy looks like,” into a question, encouraging the viewers and those experiencing the piece to challenge what a democracy is, what it may represent, how it functions, and what it looks like. The use of intense borders is a way of symbolizing the ways in which my perspective is limited, and how there is always a crop on what we hear, read, or see.
"Sick Again" by Seamus Heady In this short film, entitled Sick Again, the political is made personal. I explore the connections between my family’s past and present, contained within everyday photographs and artifacts. My sister’s childhood leukemia, my father’s multiple diagnoses, and the current COVID pandemic are tied together through the themes of resilience, compassion, and humor.
Students from Myra Armstead's course engaged with speakers throughout the fall semester: from the Mayor of the Village of Red Hook, the Director of Community Engagement for Dutchess County, and a Talent Outreach Specialist for the U.S.census along with independent research to design illustrations, a graphic novel, and script that creatively address themes of violence and slavery, permissible civic discourse, the politics of celebratory narratives, Constitutional originalism, and citizenship and belonging.This collaborative project culminated in an audiovisual performance that will consider the question, “Who counts, and why?” and compare the politics underlying the U.S. federal censuses of 1820 and 2020 pertaining to race, citizenship rights, and benefits. "Who Counts?" is a collaborative performance of students from various educational backgrounds and majors working together with information derived from individual research and the input of community members and officials from Dutchess County.
Students from Cathy Collins' Plant Ecology course applied their classroom knowledge to make creative projects that would be shared with kids from Kingston schools, the YMCA, and Bard's own outdoor air club at Montgomery Place. By using a tutorial model geared toward teaching young children, the students from Plant Ecology were able to strengthen their own understanding of a topic in a way that is translatable, fun, and engaging.
Along with implementing workshops to talk about plants and use them for creative projects, some students also created instructional/informational videos about plants that will be shared with Kingston teachers for their plant studies activities in the spring: Growing Toward Light (Erynn Frost)
Another student decided to focus on autoethnography with and about their partner. The ethnography was not a representation of the family as the student saw it, but was done through the interpretive lens of how an ethnographer sees how their partner sees their family. This project speaks to the importance of connecting storytelling as a narrative to the multiple forms of engagement decided by students and the people in their field site. By creating their own terms of engagement, students can have a more fulfilling ELAS experience.
Toward pandemic response on a social level, one student looked toward Black student leaders on Bard’s campus, how they interact with the campus, and what the campus means to them. This project engaged with a different narrative form: a survey. Through specific interactions and questions with Bard’s community, the student realized how much Black student leaders work on Bard’s campus, and how the emotional aspect of their work cannot be quantified. Furthermore, recognizing the invisible labor that student workers do,the student asked: why is it that we feel so much burnout/urgency during times of crisis? The ethnography became a reflection of how labor contributions do not allow for the practice of self-care.
Anthropology of Institutions
A video of musical performances and instruction with students from George Washington Elementary from a Bard conservatory student. By using a webcam platform to chat with children about their musical preferences, this project revealed how young students express themselves musically while also making a personal connection. View George Washington Elementary students’ musical responses here
A book-making project with George Washington Elementary students which consisted of two half-hour lessons per week, over the course of three weeks, dedicated to writing and illustrating. The project was designed around a system of connecting with students by allowing creative expression and open, supportive sharing. By the end, three full books were completed with more on the way as the elementary school students prepared for summer vacation.
An infographic of 10 Tips on How to Approach Remote Learning. This information was compiled through a survey of BHSEC students to address their experiences and thoughts on remote learning. While tutoring a BHSEC sophomore, the ELAS student noticed that their tutee and peers felt stuck in a new learning environment that was confusing and hectic. The infographic was created to not only cohesively address remote learning, but self-care strategies as well.
A community virtual screening of the documentary, Care via an internship with Caring Majority. Through Zoom screenings and discussion, the ELAS student learned networking skills while navigating coronavirus concerns. While the movie screening focused on the reality of aging, this project also created a platform for attendees to speak their thoughts on affected populations, grim news, and what it means to be vulnerable during a pandemic.
Two students collaborated on work with Ulster Immigrant Defense Network (UIDN) to create a client database which consisted of an intake form, needs assessment, and urgent requests. This shareable model was created to assist with helping immigrant families with services, meet deadlines for bills and documents, and be known as members of Ulster’s community.
Family of Woodstock, a longtime partner with this course, allowed students to continue staffing their hotlines remotely. One student used their reflection assignments to create a narrative project that expressed how they felt during these phone conversations. Describing them as “powerful” and “emotional,” this project touches on the subject of what it is like sharing stories with someone whom they may never likely meet. Similarly, another student worked with a Crisis Text Line that allowed people to connect via text messages.
Hudson Valley Cities/Environmental (In)Justice
Community Conversation Toolkits Students were tasked with an ongoing project of how to communicate effectively and mindfully with community partners and the people involved. By flipping the notion of classroom expertise, and allowing Hudson Valley residents and leaders to speak for themselves on issues like the housing crisis, conversations opened students up to experiences of community solidarity and compassion. Digital platforms like Zoom offer unique opportunities for community conversation toolkits by keeping community members informed and allowing feedback to innovate discussions. Conversations revolved around social justice issues like food security and housing. "Kingston Community Conversation Toolkit: Let's Talk Housing" by Julia Gloninger, Jack Kaplan, Misbah Awan, and Danielle Ranieri
Thrive On! Kingston It is not uncommon for ELAS projects to evolve beyond the scope of one course in a single semester. Thrive On! Kingston is an example of student empowerment fed through the opportunities and experiences that ELAS lends itself to. Students involved with this project found themselves facing the reality of injustices that were theorized and discussed in the course, and wanted to do something about it. As a resource distribution project, Thrive On! Kingston mobilized and organized students to distribute handmade masks, socks, toothpaste, detergent, and anything necessary for at-risk communities. Students also involved themselves in fundraising activities earning more than enough to fulfill two full rotations of Kingston shelters. “It gave me a sense of purpose,” recalls one student.
Improving on the O+ Music Festival which exchanges music for wellness services, one student proposed a voucher system that would allow musicians to earn and store credits. Musicians could use credits over the year in their location, rather than just the 3 days during the annual festival in Kingston. An interactive Kumu map of all O+ wellness providers was created, which could be the building blocks for an interactive app for musicians and wellness providers to trade, state or nation wide, “the art of medicine for the medicine of art”. View project here
Member countries of the European Union do not have independence in their monetary policy and so they cannot devalue their currency or expand credit, to stimulate demand, autonomous from the European Central Bank. One student’s project proposed the re-creation of national currencies that would complement Euros. Each EU member country would offer a mutual credit platform for citizens called Tauro. The platform could also issue Tauros based on a fractional reserve of Euros. Based on the reserve amount the exchange rate of Tauros would be algorithmically determined by a ‘bonding curve’, to equilibrate trade between different member nations. This student’s ideas build upon the Sarafu network, a successful blockchain community currency that circulates among informal sectors around Nairobi, Kenya. View project here
One ELAS student took as a starting point the Bard Wellness Team campus food pantry delivery system during the Spring 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, and suggested it should be decentralized into pantry and network pods to reduce contagion and distribute workload. They also wanted to gamify idle Bard Bucks which could finance the pantry workers and circulate among students virtually to create an ecosystem of student trading of live music, tutoring, food delivery on campus, Bard buddy networks etc. They began an interactive Kumu network for visual presentation of her network. View project here
A student designed a local music currency to establish the Hudson Valley as a musical-cultural center and a place where musicians can work for a living wage. This currency, inspired by a depression complementary currency from 1932 - the Worgl - includes a demurrage or rate of deterioration to promote spending. The currency is issued and managed by a newly created musician union, that would match venues with musicians, maintaining a living wage and full employment of musicians. The new currency was effectively backed by music and would gamify the tourist ecosystem and create a musical identity and appeal of Hudson Valley as a tourist and musician destination - an arts hub with its own sound. View project here
As an extension upon the Hudson Valley Current local currency, one student designed a new circulation system in the Ponckhockie neighborhood of Kingston called the Satisfy Hunger Green Grocer. Inspired by the Curitiba local currency in Brazil, they proposed to institute food security through the spending and earning of Currents. By taking donations of (expiring) fruits and vegetables from local grocers, selling them at a discount in USDs to Pockhockie residents along with 1 Current for every 2 USDs spent. The Currents could then be spent or donated towards community initiatives such as a local bus service. They began an interactive Kumu network for visual presentation of the network. View project here
Climate & Agroecology
Students visited Heermance Farm in Tivoli in early February testing some of the soil health assessment protocols with the farmer and his assistants at Heermance. The students had also produced a sixty-page soils report using the USDA/ NRCS Websoils software documenting the soil parameters of interest to give to the farmer. After we completed our soil tests with the farmer, they gave us a tour of the greenhouses. This trip not only allowed us to field test some of the protocols the Land Lab is developing, it also helped to build a relationship with a farmer “in our own backyard”. In lieu of the hands-on lab work the students would have completed this semester, they wrote an assessment of the soils protocols being developed in the land lab, including some discussion of the degree to which they are useful and appropriate for farmers to use on their own, one of the objectives of the Land Lab team. The visit to the farm in Tivoli was helpful for the students to have some perspective on what matters to farmers and what the limitations might be in an on-farm context. View the Hermance Farms Soils Report here
Sculpture 2: Air, Earth, Water
Working site-specifically, students created a series of sculptural projects that address the research platform of the class in fresh and poetic ways.