40 days, 40 states: a college class takes to the road

Why couldn’t this class have been around when I was in college? Included in the syllabus: road-tripping and meeting the locals.

40 States in 40 Days” is a class offered at Belmont University in Nashville with the goal of touring the country and asking locals “What does it mean to be American?” Joining in on the 9,300+ mile, coast-to-coast trip are 10 students (and two faculty members) who are not only on the road trip of their lives, but are also earning six hours of class credit—three hours for writing and three hours for sociology.

Sociology professor Dr. Ken Spring, explains on the website: “In thinking about one’s culture, we needn’t explore foreign lands, as the United States offers its own exploratory opportunities…By understanding our own land, our own ideas, and how they come about, we better understand what it means when someone proudly proclaims themselves an American…”

They’ve been touring on their Wi-Fi-equipped bus since June 6th. Today, they’re in Montgomery, Alabama and they’ll end the trip tomorrow where they started—in Nashville, Tennessee.

Each day they’ve explored different natural or cultural or historical landmarks, from Glacier National Park (Montana) to Chicago (Illinois) to Charleston (South Carolina). Each student has been assigned three of the stops—researching and documenting the destination’s history and giving recommendations for the best sightseeing there. Wanting to give back at the same time, they’ve participated in community service projects, including a soup kitchen in New Orleans and a homeless shelter in San Francisco.

Over the course of the trip, students have been blogging, taking photos, and filming videos. Afterward, students will write up three eight-page essays for sociology, and two 10-12-page essays for writing. They hope to compile all of the destination essays (with an introduction and conclusion) into a book, “We the People: (Re)Discovering America in 40 Days.”

Check out their website for their itinerary, student bios and blogs, photos, and videos. And to anyone in Nashville: welcome them back home tomorrow!

Posted by | Comments (3)  | July 15, 2009
Category: General, Notes from the collective travel mind

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