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The Global Classroom - Goes Local!

GLOBAL CLASSROOM BLOG:  Be sure to check out the Global Classroom Blog written by the students about their experiences during the visit.

The invasion occurred in Tempe around mid-September. Under cloudy and rainy skies, a small contingent of Germans, the second cohort of students from Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany, arrived in Sun Devil territory. The 20 students and their American counterparts are part of a three semesters long course which uses videoconferencing to bring together two classrooms, worlds apart, into one collaborative learning environment known as the Global Classroom

The ASU-Leuphana classroom experiment seeks to revolutionize the way large universities deliver a quality liberal arts education emphasizing intercultural collaboration, interdisciplinarity, team and research-based learning. September marked the first occasion where the German students could interact with their ASU counterparts in person and form up their transnational research teams to develop and start their “green” research projects.

 Over the next two weeks, the teams of students developed a research prospectus or plan, as they traveled across Arizona to see how urbanists, philosophers and sustainability sciences defined structural environments. Visits ranged from green communities to the aesthetics of Frank Lloyd Wright, each designed to help guide their activities and research. 

Staging a classroom across an ocean and time zones presented unique challenges for both students and faculty. The first order of business, organizers felt, should be to give the visiting students a sense of what a desert city and Arizona State University have to offer. The German Students arrived on the day of one of the biggest post-tropical storms in the history of Arizona. When they woke up, part of the campus was out of power and the rain was still falling heavily over Phoenix.

 After a short tour of the campus led by Jenna Wolfenson, a student in the Global Classroom, all the students met for lunch at the at the University Club. They were cheered by President Professor Manfred Laubichler and Sander van der Leeuve, former dean of the  School of Sustainability.

Classroom activities offered a broad range of intellectual experiences as well. Leuphana and ASU student teams met twice a week at the School of Life Sciences new Active Learning Classroom. There, teams worked to focus their not-yet-defined project on one driving research question and to put into place a process for working effectively as a trans-national research group.

Leuphana students also attended an ASU Biology and Society course developed by President’s Professor, Manfred Laubichler and Professor Sharon Hall from the School of Life Sciences. The Lectures for the two weeks focused on concepts surrounding cities to fuel conversation and project development.

Travel to a series of urban communities, past and present, was central to expanding students’ understandings about what cities and sustainable approaches can be. Students journeyed to Northern Arizona with guest lecturer and ASsociate Reserach faculty, Dr. Matthew Chew who hosted the tour and gave valuable insight. The first stop was Arcosanti, an idealized community envisioned and erected by Paolo Soleri in the 1970s. 

This visit helped students appreciate Soleri’s struggle to design a sustainable community on the northern edge of Phoenix. The group then spent an the afternoon doing team work at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and spent the evening in downtown Flagstaff, which offered a contrast to the big city sprawl and heat of Phoenix, as well proffering new views on cultures and lifestyles in the West.

On Sunday afternoon the group ventured north to the Wupatki National Monument. The adobe ruins of the pueblos of the ancient inhabitants, who lived in the barren rocky terrain for thousands of years, were scattered across an arid landscape punctuated by gusts of wind at tropical storm force, including a land-based geological blowhole. On the way back to Tempe, instructors and students sat down for a nice dinner in Sedona and enjoyed the featured redrock.

Instructors hoped students would come away with a balanced perspective of what defines Phoenix and the West, so also included the Gateway District; a site of both abandonment and hope for researchers interested in sustainable development. Students additionally toured the Tempe Transportation Center where Urban Planner Bonnie Richardson presented challenges and solutions facing urban planning in a desert city.

After two weeks of intensive planning together, the ASU-Leuphana student teams presented a draft of their research prospectus to instructors and fellow students in the Memorial Union.

The final day of the visit was spent touring Southern Arizona: first, flora and fauna in the Desert Sonoran Museum and then the ecological experiment of the Biosphere2 outside of Tucson.

After one final gathering together, the students then bid farewell until May 2014, when ASU students would rejoin their research teams in-person in Lüneburg, Germany to present their finished research results.

GLOBAL CLASSROOM BLOG:  Be sure to check out the Global Classroom Blog written by the students about their experiences during the visit.