Block Scheduling and Political Cartoons in Chile

Alzar School | 05.03.16

Greetings from Chosuenco, Chile! The weather is warm and it is real treat to be enjoying summertime in early March. We just finished our first set of classes with half the group in Chosuenco, where they participated in math, science, and history classes. Our first group has just departed to the town of Neltume (fifteen minutes up the road), and the group in Neltume will be joining us for this next week and a half. The students in Neltume have been attending English and Spanish classes as well as working on conversational challenges with their newly honed Spanish skills.

For the first time in the school’s history, Alzar has incorporated block scheduling, making each class about one and a half hours long. This system has been positively received by both students and the faculty. For my honors US history course, this has been a fantastic development. My classes have begun to resemble a college seminar-style class, in which we have been able to engage more deeply with the material. In particular, discussions on difficult topics such as cultural relativism and the illusory objectivity that history textbooks often attempt to propagate have been highly engaging. I have been impressed with each students ability to rise to the added of challenge of more readings and a higher degree of discussion in this new system.

From a teaching perspective, here in Chosuenco I lack many of the resources I rely upon in Idaho. Among these obstacles are limited wifi, no access to an electronic display of information (powerpoint and videos), an inability to email back and forth between students, and the typical distractions of teaching in a busy little town. However, with these obstacles comes a new degree of resourcefulness and creativity in designing a curriculum. We have had debates, student-driven harkness discussions, student presentations, discussions on current events, as well as numerous other engaging classroom activities.

A particular highlight for both the students and myself was the opportunity to draw and present a political cartoon. As political cartoons and satire featured prominently throughout the era we are focusing (American Imperialism and Progressive Movement), I thought it would be appropriate have the students immerse themselves in the political, social, and economic discussions of that time as well as share their knowledge in a creative and hilarious way. The results had us dying with laughter. Some highlights included Katie Milligan portraying Teddy Roosevelt as a therapist, acting as the mediator between a miner’s union and mine owners in the 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike, and Daniella Admundson comically depicting the disturbing conditions of the meatpacking industry that inspired the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1904. I felt the activity was highly engaging and I look forward to incorporating similar activities going forward. Ultimately, what makes these activities so successful are the incredibly intelligent and curious students I have the privilege of working with everyday!

Colin Hull
History Teaching Fellow
Spring 2016