Hands-on humanities

July 22, 2015
Alisson Clark
photographer: Robert Landry

They might have arrived thinking of the humanities as something that happens in a classroom, but they left knowing that these fields – from history to philosophy to archaeology and beyond – touch every aspect of their lives.

During the University of Florida’s Humanities and the Sunshine State program, 24 high-school students visited a secluded spring, an archaeological site, an organic farm and more to see the humanities in action. As they canoed and swam at Silver Glen Springs, they learned about thousands of years of interaction between people and their environment. At Forage Farm, they tasted locally grown organic food and considered how eating can be a political act. A trip to Native American shell mounds in Cedar Key touched on the ancient past and its significance for our future, while a visit to Rosewood – an African-American community destroyed in a 1923 massacre – sparked discussions about race relations. The week wrapped up with student teams proposing crowdfunded campaigns to address issues they learned about during the program.

The six-day program was intended to open eyes and minds not only to the issues presented, but to possible majors and careers, said Sophia Acord, associate director of UF’s Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere.

“We wanted them to see cutting-edge research in the humanities and give them a taste of all the disciplines, tying it all together with focus on Florida,” she said.

Acord hopes to discover if the program can spark interest in the humanities by showing students the disciplines at work. For Luly Hernandez, a participant from Miami, the answer was yes. After a farm-to-table lunch showcasing local produce, cheese, eggs and bread, she found herself thinking about food choices – and plenty of other topics – in a new way.

“I’ve learned so much,” Hernandez said. “I feel like I'm more well-rounded now.”

She’s also thinking about majoring in women’s studies.

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