Monday, October 24, 2011

Inventory Time

My kids and I decided that yesterday should be a day we spend in Manhattan.  We were already set to meet a terrific former student of mine/good friend and her daughter to go shopping on the lower east side (Canal Street) but we decided to go for the entire day. We started at the Museum of Natural History where the regular exhibits as well as the special exhibits always fascinate.  I have been a fan of Natural History all my life.  The dinosaurs have always fascinated me and so has the planetarium.  Even as a kid, when the dinosaurs hadn’t been extinct nearly as long as they are now, I was captivated by what the Museum brought to life.

We followed the Museum by buying lunch at Shake Shack (a popular local hamburger place) and eating it, sitting on the Times Square steps.  Times Square was crowded and within a few minutes of sitting down, a crowd began flash dancing right next to the steps.  Next we walked from Times Square to the High Line, which was also very crowded.  The High Line is an abandoned elevated railroad track that has been turned into an elevated park.  The plantings in the park are sustainable and views of the Hudson River and the ambiance is great.  What a great vision and demonstration of creativity to turn an eyesore railroad track into a park.

Back in the subway, this time for a ride to Canal Street.   On Canal Street, which similar to the Museum and Times Square and the subway, was also very crowded, the kids each bought a school bag as well as a $2.00 “bling” ring. A great in-person lesson for each of them into how barter works because on the lower east side the posted or asking price is merely an opening bid and the final sales price is always significantly lower.

Now here we were on Canal Street having just ventured into Chinatown for a snack and wanting to get back to the Museum of Natural History where my car was parked.  For so many of us, in areas with inadequate mass transit systems and an overreliance on automobiles, we never really experience an alternative that can efficiently move people from point A to point B, even if they aren’t going in a straight line. The NYC subways are that efficient alternative. To get from Chinatown to the Museum we took three trains—the “6” line to Grand Central, the shuttle to Times Square and the “1” train to 79th street. Every subway came relatively quickly and in short order we were on 79th street.

More and more colleges and universities realize that resources off campus can substantially increase the learning experience, and there are more and more organized opportunities to take advantage of those resources.  Often this happens because a faculty member or an administrator is familiar with the resource and how it fits well into his or her course or the broader curriculum. What would help even more is for each college and university to prepare a comprehensive inventory of what resources are readily accessible (including the costs involved) and see if and how going to these resources would enhance the educational experience.  Part of a transformative education is to have the students open their eyes to what is around them.  We all need to do our part to make that happen.

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