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Posted by ChaMarra K. Saner

April 18, 2018

Category: Faculty Blogs

ChaMarraSaner.jpgBy Dr. ChaMarra K. Saner

At Catawba College, a brainchild originated from a whim and a desire to create a course where two facets of the same coin could merge together in unity. Those two sides, science and art, specifically dance, were merged to form a STEAM (science technology engineering arts and mathematics) course.

cuba.jpgCo-taught by Dr. ChaMarra Saner, an assistant professor of chemistry, and Professor Meredith Fox, an associate professor of theatre arts, Cuban STEAM is focused on effectively merging arts into sciences. This course is a “means to re-envision the traditional science curriculum so that students are more eccentric and likely to explore the rigorous topics in environmental chemistry in a creative manner,” says Saner.

Using a student-led and guided inquiry type experience students utilized the ideology and techniques learned in the dance portion of the course to clarify and expand understanding, foster expansion of knowledge, and foster STEM engagement in new ways. Throughout the course bi-weekly topics that are traditionally science and dance in nature were introduced to the students in the course through scientific papers, required books and other handouts. Students explored these concepts in depth as they paralleled them in context to one another and those concepts were then related to the fluidity of the Cuban culture.

cuba2.jpgAt the mid-point culmination of the course, students had the opportunity to take information that they have discussed, including topics of agroecology, water/air quality, and Cuban-originated dance styles such as Rumba and Cha-cha, and spend the week exploring the country of Cuba!

The Catawba group was greeted by beautiful weather and the warmest salutations upon arrival to the country for its STEAM experience. From the central part of Cuba to the northern part, students were shown the hidden wonders of the country by two wonderful guides, Fransisco Sar Moscoso and Yudenia Sanchez Hernandez, who throughout the week became more like family.

The class explored natural landscapes in the Escambray Mountains at Sendero Reino de las Aguas (Trinidad, Cuba), watched pottery being made at Al Elfarero (Trinidad, Cuba), learned about agroecological farming at Vivero Alamar (Havana, Cuba), picked their own herbs, had a cooking lesson and learned how to make proper mojitos at Ajiaco Garden and Restaurant (Havana, Cuba), explored artistic endeavors at several community projects, including Compañía Danzaria Proyecto Joven (Cienfuegos, Cuba), Habana Compas Dance (Havana, Cuba), Sociedad Gráfica de Cienfuegos (Cienfuegos, Cuba) and Cantores  de Cienfuegos (Cienfuegos, Cuba), where students mingled, networked, danced, sang and explored the numerous STEAM topics. And these are only the highlights!

Students also had the opportunity to explore a plethora of the rich history in the various regions of the country including the infamous 1961 invasion at the “Bay of Pigs.” 

Overall the trip was an amazing opportunity and experience for the group of individuals who have been a part of this STEAM experience. Fortunately for the participants of the class, “Cuba was the icing on the cake,” say both Fox and Saner. Saner and Fox, along with their students, are appreciative and thankful to the generous donors from the Catawba College Honors Program, the parents of the students for financial support and permission to travel, directors of the both the Honors Program and the Glenn and Addie Ketner Center for International Studies, along with Catawba faculty and staff for the abundance of guidance and support given over this two-year process. The Cuban STEAM class, along with honorary class member Marilyn Fox (mother of Professor Meredith Fox), will remember this experience for a lifetime!

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