Picture This

The first term seminar helps students find their place at the college. This is partly knowing about programs and offices that can help them succeed, but it’s also about seeing themselves as college students, as writers, and as curious and thoughtful new members of the Gustavus community.

Sometimes, because getting physically familiar with the library seems to help break the ice, we’ve asked students to explore the building and take photos they send by mail to the course alias with a common subject line using prompts like these:

  • Look up a book on [the course topic], find it, and take a picture of the shelf it’s on.
  • Take a picture of a cozy place to study by yourself.
  • Take a picture of a place where a group could work together on a project.
  • Take a mystery photo of something in the library to see if students can guess what it is.
  • Take a picture of something that surprised or puzzled you.

This task simply encouraged students to explore the building and think about how it could be used while also having some visuals to compare and discuss.

You could do something a bit more demanding.

Have students reflect on their own approaches to writing or doing homework by giving them a prompt to “take a photo of a place you like to study” or “your favorite writing spot” and write a paragraph about it. The idea is to help students be thoughtful about their choices and be exposed to choices other students’ make as they study and write. These reflections could be shared in a Google Drive folder or uploaded to Moodle if you want them shared among class members. Or you could do a bit of revision and post them to a Google site.

If your goal is to have students explore the campus or the Saint Peter community you could adapt this assignment to ask students to visit various places and write about them. A group project could send students to “hidden gems” – the art museum, the arb, the Big Hill Farm – and share them with the class.