Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Month Long Journey that Took Ten Years

Odysseus's Journey
Did you ever wonder why it took Odysseus ten years to complete a journey that should have taken a month? Did you ever wonder why Odysseus after fighting a ten-year war, doesn't just jump in his ship and paddle back to Ithaca (and Penelope) as fast as he can? Well, those are questions that could be argued forever, and probably will be, but now there is an interactive map of Odyssesus's Journey to help readers keep track of the wandering hero. Something to notice about the map is that Odysseus could not have taken a longer route if he planned it that way.

Click on the link and you'll see. He starts out in Troy then heads right across the straight to Ismara which he plunders - oops, bad move. Before he and his men can get back on the ships many are killed. They then run into fierce storms that carry them all the way across the Mediterranean to northern Africa where they reach the land of the lotus eaters. The crew imbibes of the lotus and ends up not caring whether they ever leave? Hmm, sounds like some kind of drug problem.

If you look at the map the furthest port they reach from Ithaca, or Troy for that matter, is Calypso. The map puts the island of Circe somewhere in Spain and Odysseus ends up living with the nymph for seven years (it's a long story). If you're reading the story, the interactive map created by Gisèle Mounzer is a great way to keep track of Odysseus' tacking back and forth across the ancient seas.

When I read books, I like the ones where there is a map on the inside front cover so that I can follow along with the characters and see where they are headed. This map is helpful because it shows the breadth of the ancient world and makes the reader wonder what Odysseus was thinking?

Why do you think it took Odysseus twenty years to get home? He constantly talks about getting home to his wife and son, but then wanders all over the Mediterranean. Could it be fate? Did he tempt the gods too much? Did he just have a rambling soul? Can you picture yourself on a ten-year odyssey?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

School Projects - Let's Peep a Good Thing Goin'

Gian Delos Santos, DVC
I have a love/hate relationship with projects--and then I get something like this, a two-foot tall diorama featuring one of my favorite subjects. I mean who doesn't love the Avengepeeps in all their gooey glory.

What do I mean when I say I have a love/hate relationship with projects? Sometimes I feel like students spend more time on their projects than on their papers, but hey, what are projects for anyway?

One thing, is to help students explore subjects from a new and different angle, to look creatively at a subject with a relatively low barrier of entry. In the case of Peep dioramas, students adapted a nation-wide Spring contest featuring the marshmallowy confections to come up with a fun way to look at the Avengers - this from a class that just finished reading Watchmen. I mean who doesn't love Bruce Peeper, the incredible Pulp, or Captain Ameripeep. Students analyze character motivation, personality, and setting to design appropriate subject peeps. How creative is this for someone that is studying architecture and literature?

Another thing projects are good for is to decompress and de-stress from the rigors of writing another 1,500-word English essay with at least four outside sources, properly cited in MLA format with enough analysis to make the instructor happy. Argh!

But most of all these things make me so darn excited when I see one coming through the door. I keep them in my various offices and every time I look at one it just makes me SMILE.

Even though many students do spend more time on their projects than on their papers they do help to reexamine a subject in a different and creative way. It also lets students (and instructors) take themselves a little less seriously and gives everybody a chance to just say "Whew."

What was your favorite project in school? Would you like to see more projects in college? What would those projects look like?