Learning by Doing

According to the 2007-2012 Strategic Long Range Plan, "Experiential learning is an educational approach where the student, guided by a professional in the discipline, engages in a self-directed application of his/her knowledge and skills, and reflects upon the experience in order to put it in context within the standards and values of the discipline.

We learn by doing. That's why hands-on learning has been a hallmark of the educational experience at York College, where most of the academic programs require or offer an option for experiential education. Good enough, right?

Wrong. There's more to educational learning than just offering opportunities. Colleges like York must ensure that the opportunities students enjoy are intentional, appropriate, rigorous, etc. York is serious about its commitment to and tradition of experiential education. That's apparent from the fact that experiential education was included in two of the College's Strategic Long Range Plans.

According to Dean of Academic Affairs Dominic DelliCarpini, "the experiences of students like the ones profiled in the following pages – and countless others – show that experience-based learning has a powerful effect upon their education. These opportunities often fundamentally change a student, not only during the experience, but afterward. Many of us have seen how these moments ignite a passion for learning that extends back into our classrooms, where that spark is then applied to the whole of their academic work. Suddenly, they know better why learning is important, and become more focused students, more voracious learners. And as with the students highlighted here, they also learn a great deal about being generous, empathic citizens."

This article shows the depth and breadth of experiential learning at York College through the experiences of some of our students. As the 2007-2012 Strategic Long Range Plan did, we'll look beyond – but won't ignore the value of – internships, which typically come to mind first in such a discussion, to explore the variety of opportunities our students enjoy.


Engineering Senior Design/Build Project

Lisa Holmes (Arnold, MD)

Senior Mechanical Engineering major

Senior Engineering majors at York College build a formula-style race car every year for their senior design project. This year, Lisa Holmes worked on building the body of the car, the firewall and the floor pans, and on fundraising. The car competed in Michigan in May, at a competition organized by SAE International (formerly Society of Automotive Engineers). York was only one of two colleges that competed against 120 of the best engineering schools in the world. According to Holmes, in many of the events, the team's car performed better than previous projects.

The learning objectives of the project were to provide the students with a design, build and testing experience on an engineering system, said Steve Kuchinski, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and advisor for the project. "Students are expected to do background research in an area that (usually) is not covered specifically in any class. Then, they are to apply the analysis tools they have developed and learned during their college careers, and finally to use testing to validate their design choices. The project helps students demonstrate their capacity for lifelong learning and their ability to design a system to meet realistic constraints. Both of these are also objectives for our engineering programs stipulated by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET), our accrediting body."

 "In the beginning of the semester, my partner and I spoke to the owner of a professional fiberglass company," said Holmes." Without his information, the body of the car would not have turned out nearly as well. I also led the team in raising money for this project. We managed to raise enough money to build a functional race car that we were proud of."

The project taught skills that could not have been learned in a traditional classroom, according to Holmes. "I worked on a team of 20 students, which was split into smaller groups and focused on portions of that car. I learned the importance of teamwork in these small teams and how to approach a problem with multiple people and to split it into sections so deadlines could be met."


Busy Bee Mosaic Project

Kelsey McFerran (Yoe, PA)           

Senior Behavioral Science major   

Fine Art and Psychology minor

Taylor LaPierre (Springvale, ME)              

Senior Recreation major                 

Busy Bee Mosaic Project involves children with vision impairment – including clients at ForSight Vision Center in York City – learning how to make mosaic art in which tiles are broken and used to create images. "They're telling a textural story of their vision condition, telling a story of who they are through texture, shape and color," said Rebecca Quattrone, an adjunct professor of art who created the art project for ForSight.


The young artists made honeycomb-shaped mosaics, and Quattrone will construct a beehive made of carved construction insulation and place the mosaic honeycombs within the beehive. The artwork will be installed in ForSight's lobby. Quattrone has been assisted by Taylor LaPierre and Kelsey McFerran, who are both completing independent studies through the project.

"This project is proof that anyone can be creative and that art is a terrific bridge for expressing feelings that cannot be put into words," said McFerran. "I look forward to looking back on this experience when I go off to Marywood University to complete the graduate program for art therapy."

"This hands-on learning approach at the ForSight Vision Center came out of nowhere, and I am so pleased to be a part of this project and all that it stands for," said LaPierre. "I have created fond memories and lifelong connections with the children and their families. I have gained experience in the mosaic process and techniques, special event and fundraiser planning, and development of children's art and activities programs. These three aspects – coupled with the community involvement – has been a real-world experience that I would not have acquired from the classroom."

For more details go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/Busy-Bee-Mosaic-Project/266664703394039.


Lions Pride Academy Buddy Project

Jessica Knauer (Felton, PA)

Senior Elementary Education/Special Education major

Jessica Knauer was enrolled this semester in Assistant Professor of Education Kimberly Sutton's Special Education course, which helps future teachers learn strategies to meet the needs of students in their classrooms who have emotional or behavioral issues. The course requires nine hours of field experience, and Sutton paired up with Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12's Lion's Pride Academy to create a mutually beneficial relationship for students at both schools.

The "buddy program" began with Knauer and other students writing introduction letters to each of their Lion's Pride children. They then met with them at Lion's Pride in early February. Throughout the semester, the York students worked with their matched children on social skills – an identified deficit area for these kids, according to Sutton. The culminating event took place on April 13, when the LPA kids came to campus to spend a few hours and share lunch with their York College buddy.

Through the program, York College dual Elementary/Special Education majors were getting real experience working with children who have identified emotional and/or behavioral disorders, according to Sutton. "These experiences allow our York College students to gain a better understanding of the needs of these students; see the practical teaching skills in evidence in the classrooms that serve them; and see how the theories examined in the classroom apply to their particular student."

"The greatest benefit of this program is that the classroom curriculum is being brought to life," said Knauer. "Instead of sitting in class hearing Dr. Sutton lecture, we are hearing about the different things in emotional support and we are then able to relate them to real-life experiences. We are seeing firsthand what goes on in the classroom."


Sport Management Community Outreach Project

Eric Cianfrone (Piscataway, NJ)     

Junior Sport Management major   

Hilary Adams (Charles Town, VA)

Junior Sport Management major

Associate Professor of Sport Management Tim Newman has been teaching Public and Media Relations of Sport for 11 years. The class requires students to create a fictional community outreach project for an organization, develop and implement an effective public/media relations campaign, and develop communication strategies to publicize the project to a variety of audiences.

This semester, for the first time since Newman began teaching the course, a fictional project developed by two students turned into a real-life event that benefitted the York community. During March and April, Eric Cianfrone and Hilary Adams collected nonperishable food items to be donated to the York County Food Bank. They set up a collection in McKay Hall, contacted alumni, sent mass emails to fellow majors, and got their nearly 40 classmates involved.

"I hope future classes can see the success we were able to achieve to work and improve upon our idea," said Adams. "It was great running a project from a public relations standpoint, and I hope to use this in the future. We were able to work with a great organization and work well with many members of our class."

"To be able to do something that mattered to this extent and was recognized by so many people really was exciting," said Cianfrone. "I never would have imagined doing something like this at the start of the semester, and also never would have expected it to become as big as it did. This experience taught me that I can get involved and make a difference, something I did not think I, as a student, could do before."


Walk A Mile In Their Shoes Project

Crystal Bastress (Seven Valleys, PA)

Senior Nursing major, Gerontology minor

Crystal Bastress spent 72 hours living at The Village at Sprenkle Drive in York, PA, to more fully understand the opportunities and challenges residents in a skilled nursing facility face. Her experience was part of an ethnographic study, "Walking a Mile in Their Shoes: An Ethnographic Exploration of Life in a Nursing Home," which was conducted by Kelly Niles-Yokum, assistant professor of gerontology.

"During the summer of 2011, I was given a priceless gift: an opportunity to gain a new perspective on the life of a resident living in a nursing home, relying completely on the staff for many activities of daily living," said Bastress. "I was admitted to a local nursing home, and for the next three days I ate soft and pureed foods. I had casts on my right arm and left leg, so I felt the restricted mobility of being confined to a wheelchair. I attended physical therapy sessions and participated in activities alongside the residents. I went through many emotions in the short period of time I was there. The insight, knowledge and perspective that I gained through this experience could not be replaced nor could it be relived."

Niles-Yokum maintained contact with Bastress, reviewing her journal entries and monitoring her experiences. The data collected from Bastress's journal was analyzed and categorized into themes, revealing key impressions and experiences. The themes were presented back to The Village at Sprenkle Drive staff to help them improve practices and streamline processes. Bastress and Niles-Yokum also presented on their study during the Southern Gerontological Society Conference in Nashville, TN, in April.


Music for 4 Cajón & a Small Gong Project

Shane Ruck (York, PA)

Junior General Music Education major

As a music major, Shane Ruck "dabbles in anything I possibly can that will help make me successful in the cutthroat industry of today." He composes a lot in his free time, and when Jeff Stabley, adjunct professor of music, mentioned that he needed another piece for the Groove Ensemble concert in April, Ruck was ready.

The piece, titled Music for 4 Cajón & a Small Gong, featured ensemble members playing a box-shaped percussion instrument from Peru called a cajón. According to Ruck, the piece uses two main techniques: the 20th century technique of construction and deconstruction, which was widely used and adapted by the composer Steve Reich in compositions such as Drumming and Music for Pieces of Wood; and an adapted modern version of soloing. "The solo section has an adapted drum set type groove that repeats underneath the soloist," Ruck said. "However, before the soloist is allowed to begin their solo, they must get off their cajón and hit the small gong, which is placed on a table in the middle of the stage set-up."

"I choose the performers myself. In the style of the great John Cage, I did not choose all formally trained percussionists. I chose ensemble members that I believed would be most dedicated, and enjoyed playing the piece the most. As a modern concert percussionist, I am a stickler on using proper technique when playing any instrument, but in this case, it's not about technique or playing the proper way, especially in the solo section of this piece, it's about imagination, creativity and the vibe of the music."

"Shane has a creative spark that manifested itself this semester in an original piece for the Groove Ensemble," said Stabley. "His composition contains improvisation, theatre and intertwining rhythms. I believe this was a learning experience for him in many ways. He saw a project through from design to fruition. He successfully wrote down ideas that he communicated to other musicians and ultimately to those in attendance. He also has the option of publishing this composition. There is much to be gained by navigating that process as well as the opportunity to make money."


Health Screening at Crispus Attucks Project

Tammy McGuinn (Seven Valleys, PA)

Graduate student, Master of Science in Nursing

Adult Nurse Practitioner track

Tammy McGuinn, a graduate student in the Adult Nurse Practitioner program, approached Crispus Attucks when she was searching for a location to complete 55 clinical hours for her Health Promotion and Disease Prevention For Diverse Populations class. Her request landed on the desk of the director of the organization's Early Learning Center, who immediately asked if she could do a health screening for the Center. With almost 200 children enrolled in the center, McGuinn realized this was not a one-person undertaking. "Since there were five other classmates searching for clinical hours, we became a team," she said.

After reading literature and investigating resources, the class decided to offer height, weight, BMI (body mass index), blood pressure and random glucose screening. To encourage parents to participate, they sent out requests to national and local businesses requesting contributions "of anything that might entice people to take part," McGuinn said. As a result, the group was able to offer refreshments and a thank-you bag of goodies to parents and staff – around 87 – who came through the screening.

The clinical portion of the diversity class has several important outcomes, according to Marian Condon, associate professor of nursing, who teaches the course. Students compare and contrast their personal values, beliefs and practices (related to health promotion and disease prevention), with those of the individuals they encounter; they acquire information about, and demonstrate insight into, the real-life experiences of individuals who differ from them in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation/identity, etc.; and they demonstrate the ability to provide culturally competent nursing care to clients/patients from diverse populations.

"Most students in this class were born into U.S. middle class, Caucasian families, and all are college graduates and professional nurses," Condon said. "As relatively privileged individuals, they are sometimes shocked when they come face-to-face with the realities of life for people whose circumstances are very different from their own."