At Husson University in Bangor, Maine, Kathi Smith, Assistant Professor of Studio Arts & Art Appreciation, and Dr. Laurie Mouradian, Chair & Professor, School of Occupation Therapy, had to adjust their course as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Spring 2020 was the first semester for the FA199 general education course, Co-creating Across Generations, a collaboration between Fine Arts and Occupational Therapy. This semester brought together 14 students with majors such as nursing, psychology, science, english and others. Smith, Mouradian, and the students were able to meet in class for five weeks, and had only two in-person visits with their OMA partners before going virtual for the remainder of the semester.
Transition to Virtual Connections
The transition to a virtual course was difficult however the outcomes were wonderful and an overall success. Smith and Mouradian created an excellent educational experience for the students with projects such as art journals, studio projects, postcards, videos, and more.
Students kept a hand-written reflective art journal, integrating visual imagery, throughout the semester. It was expected that the students use the journal as a means of self-expression and to process experiences they had throughout the course. Certainly their experiences of online learning and virtual connections during this time of the pandemic had a great impact on the journaling.
Students created postcards using printmaking techniques. They sent these postcards to their OMA partners to stay connected and to bring cheer as visitors were not allowed to visit the elders.
Weekly videos to OMA partners helped develop empathy for older adults and unforeseen connection. These videos also seemed to be therapeutic for the students.
Reflections on the Virtual OMA Experience
“These last few weeks have been very hard and filled with negativity, but your class keeps giving me opportunities to look on the bright side of the situation and I really appreciate that. I hope you are doing well! Thank you for getting in touch, it really means a lot.” – Kylie, FA199 student, Spring 2020
“While we had educational goals to meet it was important to me to include a weekly reflection prompt for them that was part of their bigger experience. We used pictures with titles such as “Gratitude” and “Tenacity” and asked them to apply these concepts to their own lives. This was a space for the students to feel supported and heard. Hopefully it provided a way for them to focus on their own mental health during the early phases of the pandemic experience.” – Laurie Mouradian
“When I really think about what we were able to accomplish this semester, I’m amazed. To flip an experiential course online is one thing, but to have our students engage fully in the online transition and create meaningful, responsive, and reflective work was remarkable. But, in my opinion, what kept the class alive were the weekly videos that students made for the residents at our OMA site. They were heartfelt, empathetic, and real in all aspects. The students felt connected and that the work they were doing was meaningful and purposeful, and it was! While everyone agrees our time was cut too short, and the students wanted to be with the residents running OMA, many students reflected on the fact that they were doing real and meaningful work in the class.” – Kathi Smith