This month, about 25 students from Dartmouth and Ledyard Charter School gathered around tables in Rauner Library, perusing some of the library’s most valuable works—including a group of first-edition books by Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, some of which are valued at about $100,000 each.
Every Tuesday and Thursday in October, Dartmouth students in an English 40 American Poetry course learn alongside high school students. The class, taught by Professor Ivy Schweitzer, has a community-based learning component that allows the groups to learn with each other and travel to each other’s classrooms. Ledyard Charter School (LCS), an alternative school in Lebanon, N.H., serves about 40 students. The Dartmouth students travel by bus to LCS on Tuesdays, while the LCS students join the English course in Dartmouth Hall on Thursdays. These trips are part of an effort to promote mutual understanding and appreciation for each other’s learning environment.
Lee Walker, an LCS teacher who is involved with the course, says giving high school students this sort of exposure and access to a college campus has been valuable.
“It’s been absolutely fantastic,” he says. “(Our students) have made some real connections with the Dartmouth students.”
Schweitzer says she does not want the Dartmouth students to feel as if they’re teachers or mentors to the younger students. Rather, she hopes the course will promote a collaborative environment, giving Dartmouth students a better understanding of the Upper Valley and LCS students a glimpse of college life.
Earlier this fall, Shelby Jackson ’13, student director for community-based learning at the Tucker Foundation, met with the LCS students once a week for a month, helping prepare them for their participation in the English 40 course.
“I now have a better understanding of the types of struggles—such as working a full-time job in addition to attending high school—that make graduating extremely difficult for some teenagers,” says Jackson. She says the facilitating experience has shown her “how important it is to connect with students on a personal level if one wishes to spark interest or inspire.”
It is beneficial for his students to learn side-by-side with Dartmouth students, and they have developed “a real camaraderie” in the classroom, Walker says. He adds that it was a great experience for his students to visit Rauner Library, which houses books that date back to the year 2000 B.C.
Schweitzer says she hopes LCS students benefit by “getting out of Lebanon and coming to a college campus and thus being able to imagine themselves in a place like Dartmouth, working with students who are fiercely committed to the learning process.”
The course is supported by the Tucker Foundation, which allows professors to apply for funding for community-based learning courses. The goal is to deepen students’ understanding of the surrounding communities and bridge the gap between academics and service. Other community-based learning courses have allowed Dartmouth students to work with museums, homeless shelters, and correctional facilities.
Dartmouth and LCS students pair up together for a culminating project, in which they study a specific poem. After studying the poem—as well as the writer and time period in which the work was written—students will give an interpretative recitation and write an essay about their projects. In addition, some student pairs have written their own poetry or have compiled poetry from lyrics of pop songs.
The poetry recitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on November 8 in One Wheelock at the Collis Center. The event is free and open to the public.