Clowning Around on Campus

Unique classes offered at ASU

It’s 9 a.m. on a Monday. It’s time to get ready. A student puts on their rainbow-striped pants with a green patch on the right knee. He throws on his red and yellow long-sleeved top with polka dots on the sleeves. He slips on his large, shiny blue and yellow shoes and ties his red laces. Finally, he adds his rainbow curly-haired fro to complete his look. He leaves his house to begin the day “clowning around.”

Clown Performance Styles is a class offered on an intermittent basis at ASU, Faculty Associate and Professor of Theatre Performance and Production 294 Brian Foley says.

The class is primarily a studio class where students come and embody different techniques , Foley says. He says in physical performance they use their full bodies and are releasing tension as well as following their deepest impulses. Once that is achieved the class moves on to applying the physical performance to classic clown routines, he says.

There are only a handful of students currently enrolled in this class and he says they are only juniors and seniors. However, there are no enrollment requirements as of now, according to an ASU class search.

Despite only having upperclassmen, Foley says his students continually surprise him.

“I get to laugh so much,” he says. “They create things that are so beautiful and so funny that it’s always such a joy to be in that room.”

Typical classes are graded on how well one can read and write. However, this class does not use that grading scale.

“In this class you get graded on your ability to juggle,” Foley says. “You get graded on your ability to fall down and on your ability to fly.”

Foley says he developed the class because clowns have taken him all around the world and helped him make a living.

“I have been able to learn so much about theater, about myself, and about the world at large through the lens of clown performance,” Foley says of the motivation to develop this course.

And this is just the beginning of unconventional classes at ASU.

SES 106 – Habitable Worlds

Imagine a 5-year-old girl looking up at the night sky. She sees the stars and moon shining bright. She doesn’t question what she sees, but rather asks, “What’s beyond it?” That lingering childhood question could finally be answered.

Habitable Worlds explores the technologies behind discovering additional planets and even going further to figure out if this could be a place where life could be found one day, Habitable Worlds Professor Jason Raymond says.

“Now that we have improved technological capabilities…we can make unprecedented explorations of these planets,” he says. “We can begin to postulate about whether they might exist in the zones around stars where there’s liquid water for instance.”

This course has changed the usual way online courses are run because it is very interactive, Raymond says.

“Students carry out a whole series of simulations throughout the course where they’ll tackle some of the core concepts of habitable worlds,” he says.

This online course is open to all students, and there have been around 400 students per semester, he says. He has had students from Australia, Asia and the Middle East.

Raymond says this course fills ASU’s quantitative science requirement and it could be a non-science major’s hardest course to date.

“We like to think we keep the students really intrigued and interested throughout the semester, but it also requires a bit of work—typically, 20 to 25 hours per week,” Raymond says.

He says Habitable Worlds is strictly an online course, which can be a double-edged sword.

The course being available online only has made us think outside the box, Raymond says.

One way they have done that is through an active forum.

“There’s a big, very active forum…where students get to interact with one another and help each other through some of the simulations,” Raymond says.

He says usually they get around 5,000 posts a semester.

“It gives students an opportunity to have a real dialogue,” Raymond says.

Despite all the positives to this course, there is a downfall.

Raymond says students who are on-campus and need help are not allowed to visit the professors and TAs in person.

“The university sees it as getting an unfair boost compared to students who might be overseas for instance,” he says.

He enjoys getting students intrigued in the science behind making explorations.

“Get students excited about that—the endless possibilities for discovery and what the future is going to hold,” Raymond says. “That’s the real rewarding part for me for teaching this course.”

ABS 360 – Southwest Home Gardening

From gardening to landscaping, one ASU course seeks to teach students skills that could be applied in their daily lives.

Southwest Home Gardening is a course that essentially deals with everyday living and part of that living is the environment that we created,Professor and Head of Science and Mathematics in the College of Letters and Sciences Chris Martin says.

It deals with content and information that students could readily apply in their own lives whether it’s vegetable gardening, landscaping, learning how to fix an irrigation system or plant a tree,” Martin says.

He says the course is structured into four modules and each module has three topics relative to home gardening. Martin adds that students take quizzes and do “creative assignments.”

“They’re meant for students to have fun with it and also learn and apply the information they learned in the content portion of the course,” Martin says.

This online course is open to all students; typical enrollment ranges from 350 to 515 students a semester, and this semester there are 420 students, he says. Martin adds that this course is designed for those who are not majoring in biology and it is meant for those who are looking for a science elective credit.

Southwest Home Gardening is not a new course at ASU. It has been around since the 1970’s. Originally, the course was designed around 30-minute films that students had to go watch on the Tempe campus, Martin says.

Martin says he came along in 1990 and in the mid-1990s he redid the videos. The course was presented as fourteen 30-minute television episodes and these episodes were shown on KAET Channel Eight, he says. Students would then have to go in and watch the episodes he adds.

“It was kind of a precursor to what we now call online learning,” Martin says.

Martin says when “blackboard” came along they transitioned away from television and they’ve been slowly developing the course as well as introducing new media.

“My creative part of it is every year we’re trying to upgrade and improve the course as media changes,” he says.

MUS 231 – Laughing to Music

As students go about their days, they often encounter something funny. It could be a tweet, a Facebook post or a meme. Although they may laugh, there’s a slim chance the students can actually explain why it’s funny.

However, there is a fall class that may help determine why something is considered to be funny.

Laughing to Music is a humanities general studies course that looks at great works from the western culture including classic films and operas, Laughing to Music, Professor David Schildkret says.

“The focus of the class is on humor, how humor works and how specifically that might work in music,” he says.

Schildkret says the class has seven units and each one deals with a major work such as Night at the Opera and Frankenstein.

The class is open to all students and there are currently over 50 students enrolled.

Schildkret says this class addresses the task of being a critical thinker, but it does so while watching funny movies and listening to delightful music.

“My point is that we can deal with this really central question of being a critical thinker but we don’t have to be deadly serious about it all the time,” he says. “It can be fun at the same time.”

SOC 394 – Soccer: The Global Game

Twenty-two players take the field for their respective countries.Fans are decked out in the teams’ gear while waving flags and holding up handmade signs. People all around the world have gathered to watch this sport played.

Soccer: The Global Game is an online course offered by ASU for the second time.

“It’s designed really to be a social science course where you look at soccer from the perspective of sociocultural issues,” course professor Jeffrey Kassing says. “It’s not a coaching course.”

The class started last fall and has been taught following after two summers, which featured world cups.

“This fall we had the Women’s World Cup so there’s still kind of high interest,” Kassing says. “I have yet to teach a course where there’s not been a world cup the summer before.”

Kassing enjoys when students start to realize what the class is all about.

“They just start to realize the entire global impact of the game that is arguably the single most important sport on the planet,” he says.

This course builds on a theme rather than a discipline.

“It is truly an interdisciplinary course and soccer drives the content,” Kassing says. “It plugs into politics. It plugs into race. It plugs into culture. It plugs into identity.”

FMP 294 – From Lucy to Lost: Intro to Series Television

Television series may have changed throughout the decades. However, one must ask how well did they actually portray the time period and the issues occurring at that time. One ASU course looks at this in depth.

From Lucy to Lost: Intro to Series Television is an online course that contains six sections and takes students from the 50s to present day television, Professor Philip Taylor says.

“I place each decade in its context of what was going on in America and the world at that time and how that was reflected in the television of that period because there was usually a definite correlation between what we are watching and what’s happening out there in the world,” Taylor says.

He says the 50s is interesting because we were in the middle of the Cold War and were terrified of communism, but none of this was reflected on television.

“It was like the TV networks did not want to get into anything controversial and so you had shows like ‘I Love Lucy’,” Taylor says.

He says he gets much feedback from his students as they move through the decades.

“The thing that I find really cool is that the students are beginning to realize that television didn’t start with the Sopranos,” he says. “There was a lot going on over the last half a century.”

This course familiarizes students with television series from past decades in order to develop new shows.

“In order to write good television you must be familiar with the actual series that have gone before because your series will evolve out of those,” Taylor says.  


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