A noteworthy January

Temperatures are dropping, students are running around on ice brandishing sticks, assassins roam the campus looking for their targets: Winter Study is here. With all the great stuff going on outside of class, we sometimes forget about all the equally interesting things happening inside the classroom. Winter Study courses are anything but average, and often the results are much more interesting than just a final paper at the end of the term. Here’s a look at just a few of the many fascinating courses and their unusual final projects.

The Zen of Bicycle Maintenance at Mt. Greylock
With all the rows of bicycles in use across campus, there is no class more practical than this one. Students in this class must disassemble and reassemble a bicycle as their Winter Study project. “The bikes are donated, or we use spare bikes I have around the shop,” said the instructor, Paul Rinehart, who owns The Spoke, the bikeshop on Route 2. If the reassembled bikes come out well enough, they are donated to people in need of transportation. Apart from working on their bikes, students also spend class time discussing the history of the bicycle. So if you have some squeaky brakes and rusty spokes after leaving your bike chained up too long in the elements, or if you’re a little curious about the beloved contraption’s history, hit up one of these soon-to-be expert bike mechanics.

Investigative Tips for the Incurably Curious

Taught by reporter and graduate of the College Willy Stern’83, this class focuses on tricks for gleaning information from others. The class is hands-on, with students going out into the community in search of the facts they need. One daunting assignment involved convincing a complete stranger to tell a secret using methods talked about in class. The final project? A 24-hour scavenger hunt in which the participants, working in groups, must collect information online, over the telephone, through documents and in person. The scavenger hunt contains roughly 35 questions, but the specific topics are kept secret until the day of the final. “If they’re having fun, they’ll learn more – and they learn a lot,” Stern said, adding that the point of the scavenger hunt is not so much the answers themselves, but the ways the students go about finding them. All of the tricks taught in class for eking out information are methods used by real reporters.

The Art and Science of Baking

As we all know, no one can resist baked goods. So why not spend Winter Study indulging your sweet tooth? Unfortunately, only ten of the many baker wanna-bes who asked themselves that question when choosing their Winter Study classwere admitted into Math Professor Allison Pacelli’s intro baking course. After meeting in the College Bakeshop to create a wide variety of cakes and other treats, the students post their concoctions on a blog, along with how-to instructions for re-creating these culinary masterpieces. “The final project is a baking project that’s a little more complicated than some of the things we’ve been doing in class,” Pacelli said. So what exactly will the students be whipping up in lieu of a final paper? “Baked alaska, Pierre Herme’s plaisir sucre, a chocolate mousse dome, petit fours, a French yule log and a charlotte with homemade lady fingers.” Yum! Check out these creations at http://zuccherodolce.blogspot.com/. But be warned: the scrumptious photos will make you hungry.

Pictures and Words: Documentary Storytelling

Armed with cameras and curious minds, the students in Eve Morgenstern’s class discuss documentary works and eventually create their own as final projects. The final documentaries are presented either in book form with print and photographs or as slideshows with audio interviews. “Student projects range from the personal exploration of family or friends to projects about a certain community, theme or story,” said Morgenstern, who is a successful documentary filmmaker herself. Project topics vary from among other ideas, Muslim campus life to female athletics and body image to “a study of Stop & Shop customers and their thoughts on love.” Whatever the documentary topic, students draw inspiration not only from class discussions and museum trips out of the Purple Bubble, but also from real stories directly related to their lives.