Jazmin Fontenot’s Passion for Nature and Civil Rights

dingle-day-4-593My honors students left Ireland 11 days ago, and I am resting and reflecting, and catching up on a few details during my stay here in Dunquin, Co. Kerry. In earlier posts, I wrote a bit about four of my eight students – in the next few posts, I’ll write a bit about the other four of my students. We had such a great learning journey – each of these eight students – with their own personalities, learning styles, rhythms and preferences, made such wonderful contributions to this group. It was marvelous to watch them as individuals – learning, processing, struggling to understand, being delighted and enchanted, talking and reflecting – through solitary and group cybersleuthing and research, through small group and whole group discussions, through blog responses, and through planned excursions and serendipitous in context impromptu encounters.

One of these fabulous Honors students, Jazmin Fontenot, was one of the CU Denver UHL (University Honors and Leadership) Program students who came to me the fall of 2013 with a request that I teach an Honors Maymester in Ireland. I was impressed with Jazmin’s perspicacity all along the way – she and Kate O’Connell met with me several times during the year as I planned the class and began to work on the huge number of details required for a learning experience in two countries over three weeks! She’s a quiet but determined young woman, and keenly interested in broadening her life experiences and worldview. I believe she now has a solid base from which to expand those goals – she served as one of our two student leaders and did a great job! Take a look at her blog to see the topics that deeply resonated with her – her love of nature and her deep emotional reaction to learning about The Troubles, hearing personal stories, and making profound and poignant connections to the Civil Rights movement in the US. Her post on Unspoken Love, the play we saw in Derry about mixed marriages (Catholics and Protestants) is moving.


Last Day of Maymester and Final Projects – Day 19

IMG_2295Friday, June 6 was our last day of Maymester class – it seemed impossible to all of us that the class was nearly over. Where had the last three weeks gone?! This class was an intense experience but an amazing opportunity to learn in situ and in context– to experience the beauty of these incredible countries (the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), their unique histories and fabulous people. Every day brought new, wondrous, exciting, and sometimes challenging learning and cultural experiences – those that had been planned and those that were serendipitous discoveries and in context individual and group happenings.

IMG_2301Perhaps you’ve read the student blogs and their powerful intellectual and emotional responses and reactions to some of these in context learning opportunities – the incredibly moving play we saw on mixed marriages (Protestant and Catholic) in Derry, the somber and beautiful exhibit of art inspired and/or informed by The Troubles we went to in Belfast, and the fun and beautiful night of music and pub culture experienced in the Dingle pubs, i.e. All of these events and experiences – planned excursions and in context discoveries, delicious meals, discussions with Irish people, engaging in Irish culture and politics, deep learning about The Troubles and personal stories and putting that into present perspective, the evening at the US Ambassador’s residence in Phoenix Park in Dublin, our morning at the Irish Fulbright Commission, our tea with the Bibeanna and the Men of Ventry – helped these students to fall in love with Ireland and to discover, construct and embrace a new world view of themselves and their potential roles as citizens of the world and cultural ambassadors. I am so proud of these students and their commitment to getting everything they could out of this experience and bringing curiosity, grace and respectful inquiry to our process and its product, their insightful and wondrous blogs.

IMG_2303This last day was a free day – students had time to write, edit, contextualize – finish up their last few blog posts, write their final reflections in Canvas, and record their summative VoiceThread discussions about their reflections on how they had changed over the course of this three-week class.

IMG_2306At 4pm, we met in Paudie’s Bar in the Dingle Bay Hotel (their sticky toffee pudding is to die for!) so that students could give their final presentations and order a snack and a pot of tea. We discovered when we got there, that there was a wedding reception scheduled at 5pm, so we got through about half of the presentations before it was too loud and busy to continue. But, in context, it was great fun to see an Irish wedding reception – the fashion, the particular rituals of toasting the bridge and groom, the music and the dancing! We moved on to Lord Baker’s Restaurant, where we were to have our final group dinner – a significant place (this is where, during my Fulbright year in Ireland, I met Maureen Kearney, Martin Kearney’s niece, her husband John Moriarty and their son, Jonathan – owners of Lord Baker’s). We arrived a bit early and asked if we could finish up the presentations before our dinner, and we did just that.

The significance of these final project presentations in this place was so lovely. We had a marvelous dinner, and the student presentations were just incredible. They each did a PechaKucha presentation on a topic that deeply resonated – their presentations were unique, creative and engaging – and they were passionate research, synthesis and contextualizing capstone experiences, owing to our active practice and pedagogy of student-centered learning. Take a look at their blogs to read their reflections on their own work and that of their peers.

Thanks to my wonderful Maymester students for a marvelous and unforgettable learning journey –

Marie Angoulvant – Marie Goes to Ireland
Josh Blair – From Ireland to Paris
Peter Costea – People Places and Adventures in Ireland
Austin Fogle – Ireland Blog
Jazmin Fontenot – And the Journey Begins
Adam Gerken – Adam’s Ireland in Context Blog
Kevie Kawasaki – Adventures Abroad
Suzie Lee – Spectacular Journey In Ireland With Suzie

Day 10 – Paddy Campbell’s Famous Black Taxi Cab Tour of The Troubles (May 28)

IMG_1507This was an amazing day – students continued to learn more about The Troubles, adding to developing layers of understanding, as we visited the Belfast political murals in several sectarian neighborhoods. We studied these areas of sectarian divide and the murals in class last semester (spring 2014), but actually seeing them, firsthand and in situ, was powerful, disturbing and absolutely essential to really being able to begin to grok all of this complex history – on any level.

Our three black cab taxi drivers – father Paddy Campbell and sons Peter and Sam – were terrific. They picked us up at our Guest House and engaged students, from the start, with their generosity of spirit and, at turns, humor and somber storytelling about all sides of The Troubles.

IMG_1527We were able to see many parts of these sectarian areas, including the Crumlin Road Courthouse and Gaol, West Belfast (Gaeltacht Quarter) and Falls Road, Shankill Road and the Lower Shankill Estates, and part of Belfast’s biggest and tallest peace wall (‘peace lines’) along Cupar Way which divides the loyalist area of Shankill Road from the Springfield/Fall Roads Catholic area of west Belfast. Please take a look at the amazing student blogs to get a sense of their experience – they’ve written some powerful reflections.

Next, we drove along the gorgeous North Antrim coast. Seeing The Dark Hedges (from The Game of Thrones) was a huge hit and lots of fun – it is a gorgeous, fabulously creepy place and we could all imagine ourselves in that famous fog and chiaroscuro moonlight scene!

IMG_1548Next, we drove close by Dunseverick and Protballintrae (getting out in the glorious sunshine for a look at the sea and across to mainland Scotland – for a few students, this was their first time to see an ocean) and then to the beautiful coastal hamlet of Portbraddan (‘Port of the Salmon’). Historically a famous fishing spot, it still has a working slipway.

IMG_1555Students were enchanted with the tiny, beautiful St. Gobbans church – Ireland’s smallest church – a local man’s tribute to St. Gobban, a 7th-century Benedictine monk.

IMG_1577They absolutely loved and were delighted by The Giant’s Causeway – one of my favorite places. It is a magical place, and students were like small children – fascinated, happy and charmed by exploring this wondrous, natural place.

IMG_1612Our last two stops of the day were at Dunluce Castle (not far from Derry) and The Wee Cottage. It was a long day and everyone was tired, but elated at what a beautiful day it had been. We arrived at the castle about half an hour before closing time, and students really just wanted to explore the grounds and wander, which was lovely. The sun was warm and the air was cool – it was a perfect place to explore and to reflect on the day. Soon, tired and hungry and thirsty, we went in to the Wee Cottage – a fabulous and wacky little traditional cottage that serves delicious homemade soup, sandwiches and scones. I’ve been here before and was so glad that Paddy brought us all here – we had leek and potato or tomato and basil soup, chicken sandwiches, and endless servings of light, flaky scones with cream and jam – and pot after pot of hot tea. Students were in heaven (and so was I, truth be told) and happy, happy with this day. An hour or so later, we were tucked into our beautiful and contemporary B&B in the Bogside area of Derry – a great and historic place from which to learn more about The Troubles.






Buddy Day – Pairing up with a New Learning Partner

IMG_0966Today, after our excursions were finished, I had the students pair up with someone who they didn’t know well – for the rest of the afternoon. They decided what activity they wanted to explore, together, and set off. Check out their blogs to see what they did! It was a great opportunity for them to get to know another peer a bit better, confront a bit of discomfort in learning to navigate in a different way, learn to recognize the ambiguity that this kind of situation sets up and appreciate just going with the flow, and exploring a different part of Dublin. They all had a good time and learned a bit more about each other. Afterwards, they shared what they learned about their buddy and what they learned about the city. It was a nice activity as we head into our second week of Maymester.

Here are a few of them in the Museum Café – before they set out on their buddy journeys.

The Chester Beatty Library

IMG_0838Is there, anywhere, a more exquisitely breathtaking collection of beautiful objects celebrating the development of the book? This library, in the clock tower building of the castle, is one of my favorite places in the world. I have happily been lost for hours (on many occasions) in this amazing place. Through a scheduling mishap by front desk folks (who, ironically, cancelled our appointment for a tour, made half a year ago – just minutes after I confirmed that we were all there and then, purchased our tickets), our tour guide arrived late and our tour was reduced from an hour to a half hour. But, our guide, James McMannon (a retired Guard), was fantastic as he gently rushed us through the highlights and captivated the students with his incredible memory, bright intellect and palpable passion for his subjects. I was proud and happy to know that all of the students decided that they would return to the library during free time, the next day. How lovely! The two CAM (College of Arts & Media) students, Josh and Marie, and Peter, a psychology major, were especially enthralled at artistic process and product of these gorgeous objects.

American-born mining engineer and art collector, Sir Chester Beatty (1875-1968) bequeathed this gorgeous, world-renowned collection to the Irish Sate. The collection comprises more than 20,00 manuscripts, rare books, miniature paintings, clay tablets, costumes and other beautiful artifacts – including 300 copies of the Qu’ran, 6000-year-old Babylon stone tablets, Greek papyri and biblical artifacts in Coptic (the ancient language of Egypt). I love the Chinese jade books and the exquisite little medicine boxes, and the Japanese paintings, woodblocks prints and books and scrolls from the 16th to the 19th centuries – in the Artistic Traditions Gallery. The Sacred Traditions Gallery features books from many religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. The collection of Qu’rans (spanning the 9th-19th centuries) is considered to be among the best-illuminated texts anywhere in the world – they are gorgeous. This is a beautiful follow-up to our Book of Kells visit – I can see the students making deep and wonderful connections. This is what teaching and learning is all about. Good stuff. Really, really good stuff.

Are you reading the student blogs? They’re amazing – they’re all taking very personal approaches (some analytical, some experience-based and reflective, some aesthetic and creative, some deeply introspective) and writing/designing/editing/reflecting what resonates and what beguiles – while also discussing and reflecting a great deal with each other and filtering all of that through their process of research and contextualizing what and how they’re learning. I feel proud and honored to be here with them, sharing in this incredible journey.

Student Blogs

Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin, Ireland.We had our first pre-trip Maymester meeting last week and everyone’s super excited! Students are working on getting their individual blogs up over this weekend and they’ll begin their ‘Blog as Journal’ project before we depart for Ireland in just a few weeks. They’re selecting their own blogging platforms and styles, according to personal preferences, and as soon as all URLs are confirmed, I’ll get them posted, here. Please take a look at the student blogs to share their experiences, research and reflections — in context and as we go.

You can also listen to our online summative VoiceThread discussion, if you wish!

As they say in the West of Ireland — come along with us!

Photo credit — Trinity College Dublin, Global Relations Office