Building Skills through Experience

Experiential Learning

 The Science, Technology and Society program encourages students to apply what they are learning in the classroom and engage in campus and community initiatives. Through independent research, internships, and specialized coursework, students have the opportunity to reflect upon the connections between their academic program and outside-the-classroom experiences. 

Examples of Experiential Learning within the STS Program: 

STS 400 (Spring Seminar): STEM, Society, and Justice

In this course, students learn about the current ‘big issues’ confronting the relationship between STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine) fields, Society, and Justice, while also learning about curriculum and lesson plan design. They design a complete teaching module on an issue of their choice concerning fairness and justice connected with a STEM discipline (to be implemented by the STS Program, in consultation with the students, in the Fall).  In doing so, students create and implement strategies for communicating themes, problems, and issues concerning the place of STEM in society and the influence of society on STEM knowledge, practices, and fields. This course provides an ideal ‘experiential learning’ opportunity as students engage in and reflect upon how to choose, frame, and discuss controversial issues by designing lesson plans and thinking carefully about science communication and pedagogy.

STS 495: Independent Study

In this student-designed study, students choose to undertake a substantial research project, often with an experiential learning component.

For example, in Spring 2014, students assisted in the design and creation of an exhibit on electrical science as an independent study project. The exhibit utilized key resources from the Collins Library, the Physics department’s collection of historical scientific apparatus, and Tacoma Public Utilities’ archives and special collections.

In Spring 2016, students put together an experiential learning course designed to produce a role-playing game, which used “The Wild West” as its key setting. Students analyzed both films and texts depicting “The Wild West” and examined the history of technology in the 19th century and the Western United States during the post-Civil War reconstruction period. They examined the cultural “memory” of the west and its fantastic portrayals. The goal of this course was to produce a tabletop roleplaying game set in a fictional world informed by their research (See their exciting results; check out: High Stakes Press!). 

In Summer and Fall 2017, a team of students studied hot water consumption on campus. Using a citizen science approach—in which students gathered and analyzed data about their own energy use—with community-based social marketing methods—in which our research team identified barriers to students’ energy conservation efforts, the team developed and piloted a program designed to help students overcome these obstacles to reduce their energy consumption. This project was generously supported by Puget Sound Energy and Independent Colleges of Washington. Read more about the project!

Learn more about Experiential Learning at Puget Sound!