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hannahgisele's picture

Group Project Write Up

When thinking about what kind of a project I wanted to do for the end of the semester, I tried to think about the different ways our class had learned and been taught to learn over the course of the term. For me, the two most important things I came to understand where the way I presented myself in arguments, and the ways I learned to hear more openly, and allow my views to shift. Consequently, my group decided to create a human barometer in which our classmates would line up on a spectrum ranging from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’ as they responded to prompts inspired by the works we studied in class. In keeping with the ‘evolution’ centric topic, we ordered our prompts in the same order as we read/watched them. The prompts we asked also displayed the new ways we’d learned to think as a result of them. In chronological order, they were: “randomness is a bad thing to teach high school kids,” which was Devanshi’s reaction to Darwin. My statement was “memes alone separate us from the animal kingdom” in response to Dennet. Hope responded to Richard Powers’ Generosity with “there are areas that science should not interfere with.” Rachel’s was essentially that “the plague was a human construction,” and Elly’s was based off of a conversation from “Adaption” about whether evolution would be easier if we were plants, and did not have to deal with the “shame” in running from our own evolution.

            After placing themselves on the barometer, we asked that our classmates have a conversation about where they were standing and why they felt the way they did. While we didn’t have time to play out the entire exercise, we had planned to let them move again based on the opinions of their classmates in the hope that some had learned something new that might have affected their prior beliefs. Even without this portion of the process, we got to the heart of a really important challenge since being asked to defend your beliefs is one of the most informative exercises there is: it forces you to reconsider the way you feel, and to stand by a point that is not necessarily one that you consciously made/came to by yourself. For example, my freshman year roommate challenged my liberal beliefs and for the first time, I had to really think about the reasons why I felt the way I did. I hope that my classmates were forced to figure out what their opinions were in light of the works we studied this semester.

In addition, this project forced everyone in the class to participate—not necessarily by speaking, but by ‘standing’ by their beliefs. It was great to watch as people I had never heard speak conversed with those nearby and chose their placement on the barometer carefully. I think that this exercise gave a voice to those who don’t normally vocalize their opinions.

Overall, I was really pleased with the project, and decided to expand on it for my final project (also completed with Devanshi). Given the time restraint, we couldn’t watch the evolution of our classmates’ opinions on our prompts, I hope that we cultivated a good conversation and asked our classmates to think a little bit harder about where they stand in terms of their beliefs.


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