Creative Final Exams – More than Just a Test

Ultimately, a student needs to show mastery of a subject to pass a college-level course, but students and professors are getting creative in how they demonstrate their knowledge. Final exams at the College of Charleston start Wednesday, December 5, 2012 and students will be doing everything identifying species in Trujillo, Spain to analyzing the James Island Connector Run.

Students in Professor Alison Welch’s biology class will be kickstarting their research careers. They will develop proposals for novel research on invasive or imperiled species, then present them, with one group earning funding. Presentation topics range from gopher tortoises, kudzu and gypsy moths to Chinese mitten crabs and brown tree snakes. Welch says, “I do this assignment to help students gain first hand experience in the process of doing science. It’s kind of a big deal for a sophomore to come up with a novel research idea, so many students have a great sense of achievement.” For more information, contact Welch at or 843.953.5451.

Students in the Master of Education in Teaching, Learning, and Advocacy program are currently certified classroom teachers who want to serve as change agents in the schools. For the final project in the “Identifying and Sustaining Effective Learning Communities” course with Dr. Courtney Howard, students created a position description for an educator who has the knowledge, skills, and dispositions discussed in class and then used their own resume and cover letter to apply for the position. Howard says, “This final gives each student an opportunity to articulate a descriptive image of an educator who can create effective learning communities and then juxtapose themselves onto that image for the purpose of reflecting on their own professional practice.” For more information, contact Howard at 843.953.7629 or

Possibly the most unique final exam this semester is being taken by students studying abroad in Trujillo, Spain. Students in the “Natural History of Spain” biology course will spend their exam time in the fields surrounding the Town of Trujillo where they will make observations of the Mediterranean birds and plants in an area that they have not yet visited. It will require the students to put into practice all their observational skills learned during the semester. Biology Professor Gorka Sancho says, “They will be graded on their abilities to quantify and identify species, as well the quality and accuracy of their field notes.” For more information, contact Sancho at

In Mary Beth Berry’s “Intro to Theatre” class, she teaches students to discover their creative power, then puts it into practice for the final project. At the beginning of the year, she asks “How many of you are artists?” with a few raising their hands. She then passes around a bag of random objects from spoons to beads and the students think about the object and write, over the semester creating a character and story. For the final project, students will share their stories in small groups and agree on one that will become a scripted scene. This script will be cast, rehearsed, staged and performed by the group for the class. Berry says, “They will have – together – created something from nothing, which I believe is the magic of theatre.  And they will have discovered that they do indeed have the ability to be artists.” For more information, contact Berry at or 843.425.6473.

Two students taking a Spanish internship for credit produced an orientation video – in Spanish- for the East Coast Migrant Head Start Program as their final exam. Arianna Megaro and Mary Emily (Mel) Lee, both Spanish majors, created, wrote, filmed and produced the video as well as a guide for future interns at ECMHS. Their advisor, Professor Joe Weyers, says, “It was a labor of love, and that enthusiasm for the work they did shines in the video. They used their Spanish in the community, contributed enthusiastically to the community, and improved their linguistic and cultural proficiency in an impressive way.” For more information, contact Weyers at or 843.953.6782.

Students in Geology Professor Tim Callahan’s “Water Resources” class are applying what they learned this semester to a project that will not only make the College’s campus more sustainable, but could also result in a prize from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The undergraduates are working with graduate student Sara Pachota on a portfolio design project to propose green infrastructure additions and renovations on campus. This essentially means “remapping” parts of campus to reduce storm water runoff by adding water loving plants and trees to intercept the water before it gets to city streets. Callahan says, “Students in the class have varied majors from geology to political science, religious studies, philosophy, and marine biology. We all recognize Charleston has a storm water flooding problem, and this is an incredible opportunity for students to have a chance to not only improve our campus but also get paid – if our proposal wins – at the end of the term.” For more information, contact Callahan at

Students in Geology Professor Norm Levine’s Geographical Information Systems (GIS) class are mapping issues they’ve identified in the Charleston region. Their presentations range in topic from the carbon sequestration of the Crosstown beautification project to accessibility of recreation activities for College of Charleston students. For more information, contact Stacey Yanagawa at or 843.953.5589.

English Professor Kathleen Beres Rogers and Psychology Professor Silvia Youssef Hanna’s “Healing Narratives” First Year Experience learning community will be making their final presentations about a senior citizen (either a nursing home or hospice resident) they have interviewed about his/her “illness narrative.” The presentations will highlight how this narrative intersected with both their psychology and English courses. Rogers says, “Students will not only talk about how the person’s story was both ‘healing’ and a ‘narrative,’ but also about what they gained from the experience.” For more information, contact Rogers at or 843.953.5925.

Theatre students will be creating instructional videos on “rigging for the stage.” Professor Charlie Calvert, teacher of the “Stagecraft” course, says, “The course is so rooted in practical projects, it is the perfect class for a final project rather than an exam.” The students have learned and demonstrated a whole series of knot-tying skills used by stagehands for decades to make the magic of the theatre happen, now they will instruct future students on these skills. “Although, the videos are primarily intended for instruction and demonstration, they are being approached with a great amount of creativity and humor.  For example, one video is a knock-off of an action movie trailer.  Another illustrates the hijinks of a group of roommates trying to move to a new apartment in their Honda Accord.” For more information, contact Calvert at or 843.953.8214.

Students in Dr. John Peters’ “Biodiversity, Ecology and Conservation Biology” course will engage in a debate for their final project. Using the problem-based learning approach, where students take a real-world problem they may encounter and try to solve it, the students are looking at “The Geritol Solution,” which refers to proposals to mitigate climate change by bioengineering oceans. Students write their opening statements, then written rebuttals. For more information, contact Peters at

Students in the “Business Skills, Campus Leadership” First Year Experience Seminar are making recommendations to improve an event hosted by a local non-profit. All students in Business Professor Carrie Messal’s class were required to participate in the James Island Connector Run, either as volunteers or runners. Then, in small groups, they analyzed the run from a business perspective, prepared recommendations for ways that the race could be better organized, and the best presentations will be given to the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation. For more information, contact Messal at