2011 Seminars

“The Playful Response to Stories”
Mark West, Professor of English/Children’s Literature, UNC Charlotte

This CTI Seminar will focus on the relationship between play and reading.

Among the topics that will be explored during this seminar are the playful response to literature, the incorporation of play activities in the teaching of literature, the playful dimensions of organized fandom, and the rise of literary playgrounds, such as the recently opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida.  Participants will discuss the role of imaginative play in children’s psychological development as well as the connection between play and reader response theory.

“Sports and Physics”
Patrick Moyer
, Associate Professor of Physics and Optical Science, UNC Charlotte
What is the best playground on which to learn physics?  Well…..the playground!!  Sports (such as baseball, football, racing, etc.) provide a fun yet rigorous way to learn about kinetic energy, potential energy, forces, collisions, projectile motion, Newton’s Laws, rotational motion, and so on.  In this seminar, we will discuss well over 50% of the concepts presented in any physics course (from elementary level up to the AP level), we will study them qualitatively and quantitatively, and the participants will leave with a variety of demos and formal lab exercises.  Additionally, the seminar will include discussions on concussions, biomechanics, vision, and other biological and anatomical topics. The objective of the seminar is to be as interactive as possible so that we can all take tools and ideas back to our classrooms regardless of the level – and we’ll do it by having a great time!

“Math through Popular Culture”
Tim Chartier, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Davidson College

“”Why study math?” can be a common question in a mathematical classroom. While a variety of answers are possible, helping students see how math is used or relates to the world around them can be inspiring, motivating and eye opening. Mathematics helps create the landscapes on distant planets in the movies. The web pages listed by a search engine are possible through mathematical computation. Solving equations helps select college football teams for bowl games. The fonts we use in word processors result from graphs of functions. Sometimes, teaching students the math behind such processes can energize a lesson. Other times, contextualizing a lesson within popular culture can help students learn to connect math with topics of their interest.

In this seminar, we will learn the mathematical ideas that apply to a variety of topics in popular culture. Topics will be selected from, but not restricted to, those presented in a draft of Tim Chartier’s coming book for general audiences. For example, we will “Obama-ize” our faces, determine what celebrity looks most like us (at least mathematically), and learn to rank web pages with the roll of a pair of dice. We will also discuss relating mathematical problems to popular culture. Story problems can be connected to movies, music or celebrities

Teachers at all grade levels are welcome to explore uses of mathematics in the world through this seminar. Content will be adapted based on the composition of the group. Many of the topics will result from mathematical computations with computers but knowledge of programming is not a prerequisite.

“States and Nations”
Shelley Rigger, Brown Professor of Political Science, Davidson College

Over time, human societies have organized themselves in many different ways. We have lived in clans, kingdoms, tribes, empires and many other types of communities. In the past few hundred years, we increasingly have organized ourselves into nation-states; today, almost no one lives beyond the reach of one or another national government. This seminar will look at both sides of the “nation-state” concept – the nation, by which we mean the people and territory that are being governed, and the state, by which we mean the institutions of government.

What makes a nation?  Is it a matter of territory? Identity? Government? Is nationhood rooted in primordial identities, or is it constructed by societies in the process of living together? If a shared identity constitutes a nation, that works for some countries (Japan, France), but what about the U.S.? What makes the United States a “nation”? We will read theories of nationhood and nationalism and look at specific examples from around the world to explore these questions. The seminar leader will provide theoretical readings for the early sessions, but the decision about what countries we want to look at as examples of nation-state formation will be made by the Fellows, based on their interests and the content of their curriculum units.

What options exist for organizing states? How do different state structures work? Why do different nations use different state institutions? For example, what’s the difference between the British parliamentary system and the American system, and why didn’t our founders follow the British example when they set up our institutions? What were they trying to achieve, and did they achieve it? Here again, the seminar leader will provide some introductory materials to help crack open these questions, but the Fellows will determine what countries and systems we focus on in detail.

This seminar will explore theories of nationhood, nationalism and state formation as well as specific examples from around the world to gain a more complete understanding of how the nation-state has become the dominant form of social organization in the modern world.

 “Exploring Big Questions”
Joanne Robinson, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, UNC Charlotte

Students in K-12 are encouraged to answer “but why?” and “what if?” from many disciplinary standpoints, but structured philosophical inquiry is rarely expected before college.  Research shows that engaging with complex thought experiments and wrestling with answers to “big questions” markedly improves students’ critical thinking skills as well as their understanding of history and culture.  This seminar will focus on historical content as well as on conducting our own philosophical discussions based on excerpts from classical and contemporary authors such as Epictetus, Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Descartes, Hume, Sartre, Singer, Nussbaum and others.

Questions we explore might include: What makes something true? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is time? Are numbers and people real in the same way?  Would it be good to live forever? Are humans and animals fundamentally different or the same?

This seminar is suited to all teachers who want to empower students to think their way to solutions through multiple (and sometimes conflicting) points of view.

“The Chemistry That Surrounds Us”
Banita Brown, Associate Professor of Chemistry, UNC Charlotte

This seminar will focus on how chemistry and chemical discoveries impact us daily.  From household products to nutrition, as well as from medicine to the environment, Fellows will discover that chemistry plays a vital role in their everyday lives.  Through group discussions, hands-on activities, and an occasional invited speaker, a variety of applications of chemistry will be emphasized.  The syllabus for the seminar will mainly reflect topics that are of primary interest to the Fellows.  Some traditional and new chemical discoveries that relate to these topics will be uncovered.

“The Body and Identity as Portrayed in the Collections of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art”
Ann Fox, Associate Professor of English, Davidson College

Art is a powerful vehicle for asking important questions about who we are, no matter what our identity. And so in this seminar, we will use the collections of the Bechtler Museum of Modern art to ask: How can we read artworks as an invitation to contemplate complex and elusive ideas about the body and identity? Each week, we’ll consider a different question about the body and identity, using a work or collection of works from the Bechtler as the starting point for our discussion, in concert with readings from literature and/or cultural criticism. Art allows us to ask questions about the body and identity that are relevant to teachers of literature, art, history and social science; making and reading art is also a powerful way our students can begin to answer those same questions for themselves. Finally, please note that this seminar does not presuppose familiarity on your part with either art history or interpreting art. Much of our early discussion in seminar will be about how to read artworks as “texts.” All that’s required is an adventurous spirit, an openness to intellectual inquiry, and a readiness to challenge received ideas about the body and identity.

“The Art and Life of Romare Bearden”
Shaw Smith, Professor of Art History and Humanities, Davidson College

Charlotte and other cities have begun a year-long celebration of the art and life of artist Romare Bearden, arguably one of the most famous of all Charlotteans, to commemorate the centennial of his birth here in Mecklenburg County.  Exhibitions, panels, lectures, and other community events will all be offered for this occasion along with this seminar.  We will look at Bearden’s multi-faceted work as it relates to the American South, Modernism, African-American Art, the Harlem Renaissance, French Art, Jazz, and the Caribbean, in conjunction with an exhibition to be held at the Mint Museum.  His art and life is a virtual collage of interdisciplinary interests as a social activist, artist (visual arts, music, dance and theatre), writer (including children’s books), athlete, citizen of the world and celebrating poet of Mecklenburg County. His work attests to his witness of the changing times in America and the changing view of Modernism in the world, offering a rich new understanding of humanity to all perspectives, ages and disciplines from painting to geometry.