Literature by Women Writers of the African Diaspora Students Complete Service Learning Projects

December 11, 2013

Undergraduate students in Literature by Women Writers of the African Diaspora have been working on various service learning projects this semester under the guidance of Professor Zita Nunes.


Zita proposed the service-learning project so that students would engage in learning outside of the classroom. According to Marguerite Santos, a senior English major, Zita explained to the class that women writers of color often times do not receive adequate attention and do not have sufficient scholarship produced on their writing. The type of service the class was involved in was not necessarily community service, but a service of education to the writers.

Students worked in groups and had four options available to them.

In the first, students were asked to create or update a Wikipedia page for a writer on the syllabus. The students were required to research the writer and were encouraged to conduct a written or Skype interview with her. After feedback from Zita, the students uploaded the text to their Wikipedia page.

Jasmine Marcelo, John DeOrnellas, Adam Gutekunst, and Ileana Miranda created a Wikipedia page for the author Marilene Felinto. Each member of the group wrote summaries of their research, composed a draft of the article, and sent it to Jasmine who is familiar with programming and web design. With this background, Jasmine was able to easily edit the Wikipedia space and submit the article for review. Currently, the group is waiting for Wikipedia to approve the article which is available to view here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_talk:Articles_for_creation/Marilene_Felinto

The second option entailed annotating a scene from “Daughters of the Dust,” directed by Julie Dash. For this project, students chose a scene from the film and annotated it using bubbles, voice-over, and/or imbedded video. The students were required to research the film and issues related to the scene and after receiving feedback, upload the project to YouTube.

Lora Kinikin and Tanaye White chose to annoate a scene from the film. They found the most difficult part of the project to be the process of creating the film. Lora and Tanaye focused on the importance of food in a specific scene in which three characters converse around an Igbo tree. According to Lora and Tanaye, food is a significant motif in "Daughters of the Dust" because it continuously aligns or misaligns the Peazant family with the new world by alluding to the conflicts the family will confront as a black family on the mainland, the family traits that may be lost by living there, and new cultures the family will encounter while living on the mainland. 

In the third option, students made a film related to one of the works on the syllabus. For this assignment, students created a storyboard for their film and uploaded it to YouTube once completed.

Kat Debevoise, Stacy Hammond, and Heather Salzano created a WordPress blog that allows users to discuss their thoughts on the importance and significance of child narrators in "Daughters of the Dust" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Initially, the group decided to make a video, but ultimately chose to develop a blog. Kat watched both movies and selected a scene from each that had a child narrator on voice-over. Then, the group organized them by film on the blog and included a summary of the plot, significance, and cinematic technique. Kat noted that the best aspect of the blog is its interactive nature and she hopes to see it continue to develop in the future. View the blog here: http://engl448b.wordpress.com

The fourth option allowed students to create a teaching module on one of the works on the syllabus for a high school English class. Zita plans to submit the final teaching projects to the Center for Teaching Excellence. Marguerite, along with Patricia A. Sullivan, Taylor Kleiner, and Chardai Stokes, chose this project and created a nine-page syllabus teaching Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid.

The group noted that Zita was receptive to different possible methods of execution for the project. Ultimately, the group decided to create a three-day lesson plan for AP English literature students, structured in a way that would be suitable to present to instructors for use in their classes.

Marguerite found her experience in the class invaluable.

"As a graduating senior English major, I am enrolling in an Education Masters Program at Notre Dame University of Maryland upon graduation. The opportunity at spearheading a unique lesson plan that will be reviewed by the Center for Teaching Excellence is an experience unlike any other that I’ve had at UMD," she said.