Posts by tonyst2016

Indoor Landscape Lighting Class

Several years ago we started a Landscape Lighting class in the J-term. It is a 1 credit class with 16 hours of lecture and 16 hours of hands on lab time. It meets 4 hours per day the first four days of the week, Monday through Thursday, of the first two weeks of the J-term. There were a couple of issues to overcome. How do we supply the hands on experience in the middle of winter with no leaves on the plants and in the daylight. The answer was quite simple and was supplied by the students. We use the shed, cover the windows, and get some fake plants and use our imagination. The results have been amazing and the overall response to this class has been great. We have been able to come up with some wonderful landscape lighting and lighting effects by using our ingenuity and the facilities and materials at hand.

Reversing Direction

For some of the classes we teach in our program we take the students out into the Green Bay Botanical Garden to observe various plants, soils, pest issues, etc. We are extremely fortunate to have this facility to do these things in. The one thing you notice is that there are always several students that tend to fall to the back of the pack. I have noticed that it always seems to be the same ones which are also the same ones that tend to have lower grades than the others. Over the last couple of years I have been reversing direction quite a bit. What I mean is I will go past the intended destination and double back into the group of students to get to the spot that I was originally going to stop at which by now is right in front of the students that were at the end of the line. It always creates a little confusion among the group but I have noticed those particular students paying more attention to the subject we are talking about. I have also noticed that if I do this on a fairly regular basis, some of those that were straggling behind are now starting to walk toward the front of the group. This is when I will stop at the exact point I need to, at which time the stragglers will be right in front of me. It does seem to leave the group guessing as to what I might do next and they do stay much closer together as a group.
I have also started employing a similar technique in the classroom. Most of the students that tend to sit in the back of the classroom are the ones that pay the least attention, text more often, ask the fewest questions and are the first out the door at the end. Their grades also tend to be a bit lower than the students that sit in the front of the room. In the last couple semesters I have starting conducting class from the back of the room, if the content of the lessons allows this. For example, if I have a PowerPoint presentation. I have noticed the students, (these creatures of habit), moving to other locations in the room to be less conspicuous. I also notice less texting, greater participation of those that normally don’t and more paying attention the content of the lesson.
The Reversing Direction technique seems to work well for me in the right situations. I know it’s not a cure all, but it does seem to help and at the same time adds a little subtle variety to the material being taught. Have fun.

Memorization Made Easy

One class I teach in our program is the Woody Ornamental Plant Identification class. This class is run in the fall semester and requires a large amount of memorized information which has been an issue for students in the past. Since we require the students to learn 125 different plants in one semester it can sometimes be an overwhelming task for them to remember all of the common names, Latin names, (both Genus and species names), identification characteristics and pest problems for each plant. One of the biggest issues is the memorization of the Latin names for the plants. In the last two class sessions I have started relating the Latin names to what they mean in Latin along with the meanings of the name and even a short story of the origin or history of the name. Some of the names are obvious as they are just the Latin name translation to English those the just have to learn. Others have stories or easy meanings of the names that help to remember them. For example the Genus of all Maples is Acer which means Maple or Maple-like or sharp which is a reference to the hardness of the wood of which Romans used for spear hafts. So Sugar Maple is Acer saccharum. Saccharum is the Latin word for sugar or a sweet juice, also the name of an artificial sweetener we use for coffee or tea. These relationships and stories have seemingly increased the retention rate quite substantially. The success rate of the students in the last wo class has risen tremendously to the point that there are now twice as many A’s and B’s as in the past.