Discovery Project: Exploring Space and Mobility

Students in this assignment explored and reflected on campus and local Italian spaces, enhancing vocabulary learning through movement and environmental interaction, culminating in film analysis and a project on historically significant, dynamic locations.

Author: Cristina Farronato, Lecturer and Language Program Coordinator in Italian Studies
Course Number & Title: Elementary Italian I and II
Grant Type: Berkeley Discover Departmental Innovation Award Program (Discovery Trailblazers)

This work is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Italy 2
Assignment Title
Exploring Space and Mobility
Delivery Format In-person

High Impact Practices (HIPs)

(Review definitions for each category.)

  • Capstone Courses and Projects
  • Collaborative Assignments and Projects
  • ePortfolios & Multimedia Storytelling
  • Community-Based Learning
  • Diversity/Global Learning
Learning Objectives
  • Create a deeper bond among students and promote collaborative learning
  • Make language learning more authentic and tied to the real world
  • Establish a link between the Italian language and culture students are learning, the campus/Berkeley community, and Italian-American history.
Brief Summary of Assignment

Throughout the semester, students were asked to step outside the classroom multiple times to discover and reflect on spaces both inside and outside the UC Berkeley campus. This was to experience their vocabulary learning in space and through movement, mirroring the way our brains learn and remember best. Initially reflecting on their classroom space as a learning environment and their favorite study spots, they then explored campus spaces that either facilitated or obstructed their learning. Subsequently, they analyzed Italian spaces through film, and for their capstone project, ventured to areas outside the campus within the Bay Area, rich in Italian history. These places are dynamic, continually reshaped by the movements of people, capital, objects, signs, and information.

Innovative Teaching Reflection

The students were able to transform spatial contexts into individualized language learning environments by engaging with both physical and non-physical resources in their daily lives. Most importantly, they formulated questions about their learning in general and their language learning in particular: How does what we learn outside become a part of me and my language? How do environments influence our minds, bodies, mobility, and behavior? How does living in a Californian city make us different from what we would be if we were living in an Italian city? This project challenges traditional pedagogies, as the students’ learning experience becomes rooted in exploration and discovery.

Assignment Length

These activities were scaffolded throughout the course, so students worked on them over several weeks.

Impact & Feedback

Many students commented that those specific activities made vocabulary not only more memorable, but also tied to the different learning experiences. Specifically in their final project the vocabulary was entangled with community life and Italian American history. Two students commented that, while struggling to learn a language in the past, this was the first time they felt they belonged in a language classroom.