Sunday, August 28, 2016

Welcome Students!

I am excited to have all of you in my special First Year Experience course. This will be the third semester for "Beyond the Grave: What Old Cemeteries Tell and Teach the Living."
Simonds Sarcophagus at Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery

This course is varied in its content, studies and activities, so get ready! You will also be blogging throughout the semester so I hope you will embrace and enjoy that part of the class. And that you will keep blogging after this semester too! It's a neat way to share your views, experiences, photographs and videos.

I've been blogging since 2010 with what I call a "hobby" blog, BirdsEyeViews. I also use the site to promote and market the books I have written, two of which have been about Charleston's grand Victorian Magnolia Cemetery.

I am, in fact, close to publishing a third book about my passion for nature and bird photography. I started the project in May, writing and laying it in Adobe inDesign.

The cover, spine and back cover are show, as they look in inDesign.

Along with photography, I also enjoy tennis, running, history and traveling. I will be asking you to share some of your interests in the information sheet to be given today.

Thank you for signing up for my class. I hope you enjoy it and learn lots!

I use different ways to present information to you. One is via Prezi presentations. You will be doing your own Prezi later in the semester. Here's is one to introduce you to this course.

Monday, May 9, 2016

"Beyond the Grave" Course "Eulogy"

Wow, where did the school year go?

Teaching my first-time First Year Experience class at the College of Charleston has been educational and eventful for me as well as the students, I hope.

The course I designed is called "Beyond the Grave: What Old Cemeteries Tell and Teach the Living." I drew upon my experiences writing two books about Charleston's venerable Victorian necropolis Magnolia Cemetery to craft a multi-disciplinary curriculum.

The "Holy City" of Charleston with its many churches and adjacent graveyards (many within walking distance of campus) was an ideal place to study death and all it involves from numerous perspectives: history, religion, sociology, psychology, anthropology, art, art history, medicine and more.

(Above: My Spring 2016 students at Magnolia Cemeteries iconic Gibbes Mausoleum. Left: My Fall 2015 class at the Parker exedra monument, also at Magnolia Cemetery).

I am excited to again be going "Beyond the Grave" with CofC freshmen next school year.

The final question I put on my final exams is to ask the students what they learned in this class that asks"what old cemeteries tell and teach the living." Here are some of their responses (names withheld).

Student explore St. Patrick's church graveyard
"The idea of death and what we do with our dead is common knowledge, but this class made me investigate further...This class made me appreciate the centuries-old traditions and understand why they are still in use today."

"Graves and cemeteries teach the living so many things but overall it's the history of life that can be expressed through the art of graves."

"Life and death are very complex, convoluted and confusing topics to cover, but the sheer gist of it is the realization that we seemingly only have one chance at being remembered whether it be on a headstone or a heart."

Fun can be had even at cemeteries! 
"The research I was doing on 'the dead' taught me information about my family's origins and influence on the Newberry (S.C.) community. This class taught me that in Charleston it is possible to look at a grave and be able to find a plethora of historical information. Learning about the past also showed me living conditions and medical practices, which was imperative to understanding why death was treated the way it was throughout history. I also got to experience Magnolia Cemetery which was beautiful."

"I learned to blog all my explorations!"

"Gravesites show people in the present how people in the past grieved their lost loved ones. We can learn who the people were by the epitaph left behind for their legacy...Also that ghosts are probably real!"

Tour of Charleston's Old City Jail 
"We don't treat death today as we did in the past. During the Victorian Era, death was almost trendy. Families put work and energy into designing and maintaining their family members' graves. We do not see this today. Today, grave sites are not physically eye catching and family members don't maintain the deceased's grave sites. We could learn to respect the dead and become more comfortable with death and dying from the old grave sites and practices."

"Maybe the students who have taken this course can walk away with this lesson:  Death doesn't have to be avoided. Instead, cherish the remembrance of your loved one by carrying on the 'old' tradition. Visit your loved ones after they pass and use it as a sacred time to bring the living together."

More on my course "Beyond the Grave: What Old Cemeteries Tell and Teach the Living" can be found on the class blog