By Joseph Hughes
Walking through the halls of Grover Center in early December, wonderful smells fill the air. They lead you to the test kitchen, where you find students busily preparing tasty dishes using health-conscious ingredients.
Shouldn't these students be just waking up, enjoying a relaxed winter break at home with their families? For those taking Assistant Professor of Food and Nutrition Melani Duffrin's Introduction to Nutrition class and many others like them at Ohio University, the winter intersession is also a time to learn -- often with a twist.
Ohio University has been offering winter intersession courses since 1997. Administered by Ohio University Without Boundaries, the courses offer students the opportunity to complete requirements during the long holiday break brought about by the quarter system.
Classes this year include such topics as screenwriting, women in management, transformational leadership, sport aesthetics and music and health, among others. More than half of the courses offered are Tier III classes, which are open only to seniors, and allow students to synthesize their knowledge while moving beyond their academic backgrounds, just like they'll have to do after graduation.
Duffrin feels winter intersession allows her to use unique learning strategies.
"Because of the workshop format and smaller class size, I feel like I can do more manageable, hands-on activities with the students," Duffrin says. "It also allows me to experiment with different active learning project ideas."
One project had Duffrin's students preparing such healthy snacks as cookies made with flax, soy flour brownies and blueberry muffins. After a morning spent in Grover Center's test kitchen, groups told the class about the benefits of their ingredients.
"Obviously, 120 people in a class would not make this project manageable because of limited time and space in the test kitchens," says Duffrin. "However, some concepts may give me some ideas for larger class size activities."
Taking classes during the intersession can also provide a more relaxed atmosphere.
"It's definitely a lot easier since I'm not taking anything else," says junior Liz Evans, mixing ingredients for a batch of applesauce raisin bread. "I've been watching what I'm eating and I know I'm eating healthier."
Interaction, as evidenced by the well-prepared presentations and students devouring each others' fare, is at a premium during the intersession.
"I like it because the classes are smaller, so we have more time with each other," says Shiela Bolin, a senior, as she prepares oat bran chocolate chip cookies. "The class is so hands-on, Melani's an awesome professor."
Her favorite part of the class?
"You're looking at it!"
Joseph Hughes is a writer for University Communications and Marketing.