Cornerstone Learning Communities

Interview with Kemille Moore and Maggie Bannon, University College

UNCW Cornerstone learning communities are made up of three courses: two basic studies courses and a seminar focused on integrating the concepts in the other two courses. The faculty teaching these courses collaborate to teach different perspectives on a common theme.

Kemille – Cornerstone Learning Communities started four years ago. Last year we graduated our first class of kids who started with the Learning Community. It is a living learning community which is the national language for what we are doing. You can have learning communities and we do have other learning communities, which are just courses that are linked and you have students in the same courses. The living learning community involves taking the courses in the residence hall. In order to participate in it you must live in Cornerstone, it is not open to students in other residence halls. Part of the idea is that it makes it convenient for the students, but also to make connections with the faculty. I think that one of the more amusing things that happens is that faculty aren’t used to teaching in a residence hall. Some of the faculty flat out don’t like it.

You have to set the tone. One of the things that we learned early on is that it is a little more work to set the tone in the classroom because these kids know each other really well. They are a little frisky sometimes. We can do about nine learning communities, that is the maximum we can do in Cornerstone which is about two hundred and twenty five students. Students apply to be in Cornerstone as part of their housing process. So we sell it at orientation, they get information about it and it is on a first come first serve basis.

The physics community will do buoyancy testing in the swimming pool. They do one of the best field trips actually, and it’s legit. They go to the state fair in the fall with all kinds of physics measuring instruments, and they measure velocity and centripetal force and stuff like that. Their physics faculty member goes with them and teaches them how to use the instruments and they have to write a lab on it. They really enjoy doing that. That is part of the idea, we do learning outside of the classroom.

Another of the popular learning communities a couple of years ago was “Lure of the Sea.” Which links history of the sea to a literature of the sea course and housing took the kids to the Outer Banks so the kids got to go on a weekend trip to the Outer Banks and to a pirate museum.

Maggie – One of the ones that they are going to redo, and if they do it will be the fourth or fifth year, links the gerontology course with English literature and one of the things that they did this year, is they had goggles so the kids could see what the older people go through when their eyesight is not as good. They had them put up tents with gloves that helped show them what arthritis is like. So they had these things that helped show them what life is like when you get older.

Kemille - Originally we started it as a way to help kids with transition to college. One of the goals with it with the founding group also was to find a way to make sure we didn’t lose the personal contact at UNCW, that we could provide a mechanism so faculty could be on a first name basis with their students. We can’t do it for everyone, but to provide an option so that we could give personalized attention.

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