Microgrants add experiential learning to Abington general education courses

Student and sand

The Venerable Losang Samten, an artist and former Buddhist monk, will return to Penn State Abington this month due to support from two microgrants.

Credit: Pam Brobst

ABINGTON, Pa. — A number of Penn State Abington faculty have each been awarded $500 microgrants from the University's Office for General Education to add engaging or innovative components to existing general education courses. 

The microgrants allow a faculty member to add a module, experiment, field trip, or project to enhance student learning. The microgrants are a way to impact a large number of courses and students and must be used for materials or activities to support the learning of course and general education objectives.

According to Friederike Baer, interim division head for arts and humanities, the microgrants have allowed faculty to enhance student learning with experiential opportunities. 

“Students are engaged in hands-on activities that enhance skills, expand knowledge, and inspire curiosity,” Baer said. “Students are learning by doing.” 

“Students are engaged in hands-on activities that enhance skills, expand knowledge, and inspire curiosity."

— Friederike Baer, interim division head for arts and sciences 

Vivian Hsu, assistant teaching professor of psychological and social sciences, was awarded a $500 microgrant to purchase Backyard Brains neuroscience kits for PSYCH 100: Introduction to Psychology.

"As a professor, one of my main objectives in teaching is to build relevancy and a 'book to life' application. Images, figures, and even videos are valuable, but having a real-life demonstration brings learning to another level," she said.

"By introducing Backyard Brains to my students, they will have an opportunity to understand and see how the neural networks of our brain interact and have hands-on experiences in manipulating the electrochemical processing in their own bodies to create sound, visualize thoughts, and perform 'mind' control," Hsu said.

Among the other microgrants awarded to Abington faculty:

  • Charles Archer, assistant teaching professor of English, will use the funds toward a student trip to the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia for ENGL 30: Honors Freshman Composition.
  • Chris Bonner, assistant teaching professor of art, to support a brief residency by artist the Venerable Losang Samten, who will have a private session with students enrolled in ART 80: Introduction to Ceramics.
  • Pierce Salguero, associate professor of Asian history and religious studies, to support a visit with the Venerable Losang Samten for HIST 174: East Asia to 1800.
  • Emily Steinberg, lecturer in art, to create and print a full-color zine of student visual narratives created during the semester for AA 193N: The Craft of Comics.
  • H. John Thompson, assistant teaching professor of art, to support a sculpture demonstration and workshop by artist Ryan Wilson Kelly for students enrolled in ART 30: Introduction to Sculpture

The Office for General Education is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State.

About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st century public higher education within a world-class research university. With about 3,700 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 21 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics, and more.