Stories from the Classroom
By Emily Johns
There is no better way to learn about the city our students have chosen to live in for the semester than to spend a few hours a week walking around their city and immersing in the history of it. Here at The American University of Florence (AUF), we offer an innovative style of teaching and learning, where the students step outside the classroom and step into the history of Florence they are learning about during class. Our Florentine Art Walk courses are given a theme or topic each week, from Medieval Florence to Baroque Florence to Contemporary Florence, the students witness what they are reading about firsthand and see how the city of Florence has both evolved and withstood the test of time. This approach to learning that AUF has adopted is called Walking Without a Classroom, or WWAC for short. It allows our students to engage with the local environment, while still being guided by the textbook.
The Florentine Art Walk classes took a trip to the archeological site in Fiesole. Settled by the Etruscans in 6th century BC, Fiesole officially became a proper town in 4th century BC, and eventually became a Municipium by the Roman Colony in the 1st century BC. Our students were able to see the original Etruscan temple, the additions added by the Roman colony, the Roman theater, and the Roman thermal baths. They got to see for their own eyes ancient Etruscan/ Roman ruins and were able to visualize what life would have been like so long ago. One of the professors that has been teaching our Florentine Art Walks course for almost 5 years, Cecilia Ricci, had this to say about WWAC courses; “our classroom becomes the city, with its churches, monuments, streets, squares, where the student correctly stimulated by the professor can listen rather than read—memorizing and learning through a direct observation of the site.” Professor Ricci is only one of our professors that feels WWAC courses are valuable tools for students to create effective learning, while also making deep connections and memories to the sites and monuments they are learning about.
Florence is steeped in the rich history of the Renaissance, it is not something that should be learnt by reading a textbook, rather should be experienced in-person, our Walk Without a Classroom courses allows the students to do just that. We at FUA-AUF are grateful our students can be active participants during their classes through this experience-oriented learning style, and we hope they leave our institution with a well-rounded understanding of the history of Florence, both academically and culturally.