Hamline News

December 06, 2011

Specialized Hamline Courses Encourage Students to Take the Lead and Make Their Own Discoveries.

Rather than simply read about scientific principles, students in physics professor Andy Rundquist’s Mythbusters class develop their own experiments to answer questions they’ve always had.

The class is one of several at Hamline in which what the students study is largely dependent on their own discoveries and interests, and pairs important interdisciplinary skills with hands-on learning.

“The students get to choose their own myth to bust,” Rundquist said. “I want them to develop their own method of independent inquiry and fan the flames of passion for whatever part of science they’re interested in.”

Some of the myths that have been investigated so far this semester include whether magnetic levitation is feasible, if temperature affects how far you can hit a golf ball, and if it is possible to beat Professor Rundquist in a game of SocCourt. You can see if the students were able to achieve levitation by watching the video below, or find out if the other myths held up to the students’ scientific testing on the Hamline Physics’ YouTube channel.

While Rundquist’s class is hard at work with experiments in Robbins Science Center, anthropology professor Brian Hoffman’s students can be found at dig sites near Hamline’s historic Old Main building and around the Hamline Midway area.

“We’re performing what’s called public archaeology,” Hoffman said. “Our dig sites and the artifacts we uncover will help shape the history and identity of the neighborhood.”

It’s not just anthropology majors who get their hands dirty, the class attracts students from across the university. Because of the diversity in the students’ academic backgrounds, the archaeological projects have what Hoffman calls “multiple voices”—varied perspectives and modes of communicating them.

The class has centered around several dig sites including University Hall, which burned down in 1883 and was reconstructed as Old Main, and Territorial Road, a 17th century transportation corridor which was unearthed just a few blocks from campus.

Partnering with the Hamline Midway History Corps, the students have helped build the identity and chronicle the neighborhood’s early history. They have also hosted open digs at the site by inviting members of the local community to participate in the excavation.

“Public service is the future of archaeology, and this class is among the first wave receiving experience in it. It’s a great model for investigation and community involvement,” Hoffman said.

An important skill that both courses strive to instill is collaboration between vocational fields in working towards a common goal.

“They’re using teamwork through the entire timeline of projects, from conceptualization to their report,” Rundquist said.

Hoffman agrees, explaining that multidisciplinary teams are the norm in the modern workplace.

“One of Hamline’s goals is to train future leaders, and the issues we face in society need collaboration,” Hoffman said. “The students in these courses are being prepared to do precisely this.”

You can find out more about the archaeology course by reading Professor Hoffman’s blog: Old Dirt--New Thoughts