Monday, May 14, 2012

Experiental Journal: Finding a Useful Experience

By Diana Stanczak

When it comes to Ramapo College’s Curriculum Enhancement Component (CEC), it’s the same drill every semester: most students wait until the last possible moment before scrambling to either watch a movie, attend a lecture, or read a book that will count for the five hours of required learning outside the classroom. I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of this in the past.

But this semester, two of my classes overlapped, making the CEC less of a hassle and more of an actual, valuable learning experience.

I’m going to be honest: I’ve reached the point in my college career where I’m taking classes that I’m not particularly interested in, but I have to take to fulfill requirements. My anthropology class, World Cultures, was completely out of my scope of interest—but it fulfilled a General Education requirement, another one of Ramapo’s gems, so I signed up for it. I thought that maybe I could show up, do the reading, do the homework, and pass the class. If only I knew what I was in for. I’ll elaborate on this later.

The second class I took because it fulfilled a requirement was Environmental Writing. Don’t get me wrong—I like the environment. I like writing. But I am not an environmental activist. Still, I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult.

Well, was I in for a surprise. World Cultures opened my eyes to so many issues regarding the way indigenous people were mistreated, some right in Ramapo’s backyard, in Mahwah, NJ. I learned so much about a gas pipeline that was threatening to destroy nearby land. I was also learning about some of these issues in Environmental Writing, forcing me to think about the subject matters twice as much.

The issue of the gas pipeline really began to eat away at me. Besides ruining the land by running straight through the Ramapo Reservation, dangerous side effects of fracking were also a risk. So I decided to use my skills to help the protest against the pipeline, using the writing techniques I learned in Environmental Writing, along with the information from World Cultures. I wrote an article for the Ramapo News to inform the student body about the pipeline, and what faculty members and students were doing to protest it.

Writing the article took a few steps: I interviewed Chief Mann of the Ramapough Lenape Indian tribe, as well as a few students. Then, using local newspapers as resources, I researched facts about the pipeline. Finally, I combined it all together into an article about 500 words long. If  I had to make any changes to my CEC project, I would probably try to add a picture to my article.

Overall, I felt like my CEC project actually was useful, not just work to be done for the sake of work. It combined two of my classes, taught me a lot about an issue affecting my community, and allowed me to relay that information to my fellow students.

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