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Cultural Center Field Class Inspires Faculty-Student Connections and Academic Enrichment
What other study abroad program teaches concepts in class one day and then provides an opportunity to see that concept at work in port the next? Field classes take students out of the traditional academic environment and provide them with a hands-on application of their studies.
Psychology of Human Sexuality taught by Academic Dean Toni Zimmerman focuses on the nine main concepts of human sexuality and uses a comparative approach to learning across the 13 ports of call on the fall voyage. The three credit course was complemented by a full-day academic experience in Morocco on Oct. 10, which included a tour of the high and low income neighborhoods, a visit to a local hospital and volunteer work at the Sidi Moumen Cultural Center.
“I wanted this field class to be in a port that was highly gendered,” Zimmerman said. “Morocco is still very gendered and I wanted the students to have direct interactions with this.”
Most of the field class was spent at the Sidi Moumen Cultural Center. Located in the lower-income area of the city, the center offers after-school tutoring, sports, and music-related activities to local students. The center accepts volunteers in the area to serve as tutors, teachers, and instructors and helps foster relationships within the community.
Application of Course Curriculum
Semester at Sea students volunteered their time interacting with the preschool children, cleaning outdoor learning spaces and working in the backyard area that will soon be turned into a sports court for women at the center.
Alex Plaven (Colorado State University, Hospitality Management) noticed how Morocco still has a lot of division between genders roles – a topic they are learning about in their psychology course.
“They have a separate sports court for the women because they don’t feel comfortable playing with the men,” Plaven said. “The field class really gave me a deeper appreciation for different cultures and makes me want to learn more about these concepts.”
Subjects within human sexuality include pregnancy and childbirth, contraceptives, gender socialization, religion and sexuality, GLBT and anatomy.
Gender roles within Moroccan culture generally represent more traditional practices. Zimmerman noted that Moroccan vendors tend to avoid selling contraceptives. Even conversation about sexual concepts can be taboo.
Travon Terrell (Ohio State University, Biology and Psychology) observed: “The guys at the center were all helping us clean up and the women were there to just pick up the children. Men did the hard work and women were the caretakers.”
Field classes allow professors and students to form a different type of relationship outside the classroom. They are able to interact in a way that is still academic, but with a more hands-on, personable approach.
Hadlie Plummer (University of Oregon, Undeclared) also attended the Moroccan Field Class and described the experience to be an enriching part of her academics.
“All of the professors on SAS know your name and want to get to know you,” Plummer said. “It makes you want to go to class and want to learn because you know how much the teacher cares.”
Zimmerman is a faculty member from Colorado State University and is serving as the Academic Dean on the fall voyage. This is her fourth voyage with Semester at Sea.