Experiential Learning and Community Connections

Posted May 28th, 2014 at 2:58 pm.

Praxis courses offer Bryn Mawr students high quality experiential learning  opportunities that combine concrete experience (doing), reflective observation (What happened?), abstract analysis (so what?), and active experimentation (now what?).

Samyuktha Natarajan '15

Samyuktha Natarajan ’15 (center) coordinates the College’s partnership with Parkway West High School.

Praxis is based upon the belief that knowledge is created through the transformation of experience and that it is valuable for some of that experience to take place in off-campus settings, such as schools, community-based organizations, museums, theaters, media organizations, businesses, and hospitals. Praxis courses  broaden the scope of learning, enabling students to build connections in local communities, to participate in activities and projects that are useful to the organizations they are engaged with, and to develop competencies in areas related to their career interests and personal development. Praxis places a high value on reciprocal and sustainable engagement with our community partners.

Samyuktha Natarajan, ’15,  is a student leader active in issues of public education and environmental justice. During her first two years at Bryn Mawr, through her Praxis placements in Education and Ecological Literacy and Multicultural Education, she developed and implemented two projects at Parkway West High School, in West Philadelphia.  The first focused on engaging and empowering high school students to consider issues of food access, nutrition, and community development in their neighborhoods, and included the creation of a community garden. The second focused on engaging high school English Language Learners in exploring issues of identity and culture and developing skills in self-expression through writing.

These experiences led to Samyuktha to her current employment as a Student Coordinator in the Civic Engagement Office, where she coordinates the College’s partnership with Parkway West High School; she has developed extraordinary organizing skills and systems-thinking skills and and has been able to sustain both projects beyond her “field placements” by inspiring and collaborating with other college students, high school students, teachers, and community members.  These experiences are leading her to consider non-teaching careers in the field of Education.  This year, she has developed an Independent Study Praxis course called: New School Design: Design, Implementation, and Implication.  Her internship for this course is in the Office of New School Models in the Philadelphia School District, where she has been working on developing a “culture plan” for a high school that will open in fall 2014.

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