College is a time to explore new ideas and engage in critical thinking and exploration. This means that you don’t have to be confined to traditional classes like math, science and English. Even if you have to take a few standard classes, you might be surprised at some of the bizarre class titles that explore certain content areas, such as sociology, physical education, literature and philosophy.
College professors have academic freedom, which means that they can teach a subject in a creative way that suits their personal style. As you plan your next semester of college classes, consider branching out and trying a class that takes you in a unique and fun academic direction.
Tree Climbing Class
At Cornell University, students are not confined to standard physical education (PE) classes. In fact, some students choose to take tree climbing as their required PE class. Tree climbing explores the technical skills involved with using climbing gear and special ropes to move from tree to tree or even climb to the top of what may seem like an impossibly tall hardwood. There is even an overnight adventure included in the class experience. Additional fees are required for the course, but you will come away with Tarzan-like skills and a new appreciation for the outdoors.
Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame
If you are a big fan of Lady Gaga, you may want to consider enrolling in the class, “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame," at the University of South Carolina. Using Lady Gaga as a case study, students in this course explore the sociological aspects of popular culture and apply constructionist theory to her rise to stardom. Variables, such as the media, religion, politics and the music industry, are dissected and analyzed as a way to more fully understand the social construct of fame and fortune. In addition to academic readings, students view videos, read newspaper articles and listen to interviews by Lady Gaga.
How to Watch Television
You don’t have to be a broadcasting major to take a class about watching television at Montclair State University in New Jersey. The class “How to Watch Television” is open to everyone. Using critical thinking skills, along with media theory, this broadcasting elective examines the impact of television on society and how it drives cultural change. Using an analytical lens, students also study how television is perceived by watchers and the function of watching television from a psychological perspective. This 200 level elective is part of the broadcasting major but is sought after as an elective for students from other majors.
The Art of Walking
“The Art of Walking” is a class that is rooted in philosophy and taught by a professor of modern languages. You will find this bizarre class at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Students spend the bulk of the class time walking around, examining the world in which they live and pondering life from a unique lens. Taught over a three-week period between semesters, “The Art of Walking” walks students through historical landmarks and requires companion reading to enhance learning. Introducing students to the world – without a screen and with complete focus on their surroundings – is a different experience that moves the classroom into the real world.
"Game of Thrones"
If you roll your eyes at the prospect of taking English in college, you might want to take a look at the “Games of Thrones” class at the University of Virginia. This English class uses the original book and the show as a way to analyze character development, racialism, gender issues and fan fiction. Students will also consider how the show was developed to cultivate a fan following and an iconic media experience for series watchers. At the culmination of the class, students are required to work on a group project that illustrates their learning. Similar classes are offered at the University of California, Berkeley, Western University, the University of Tulsa and Harvard.
The Physics of "Star Trek"
Taking a physics class may seem like an overwhelming proposition, but imagine if you could apply physics principles to a science fiction television show. A professor at Santa Clara University did just that with a class entitled “The Physics of Star Trek." This class examines concepts, such as antimatter, atoms, positron and electrons, using episodic examples from Star Trek as an application mechanism. For example, Star Trek engineer Scotty posits a potential crisis with the ship to the captain. Students in this class provide context for his concern and a possible solution, all related to academic learning in physics. This course proves that learning physics can be fun and accessible to everyone.
The American Vacation
Imagine describing a college class as a vacation. At the University of Iowa, you can actually take a class titled “The American Vacation." Housed in the Department of American Studies, this class analyzes the relationship between family and cultural backgrounds and how this impacts the frequency and location of vacations. An introspective approach requires that students consider their family vacations in comparison to the literary adventures of Mark Twain, Colson Whitehead and Nathaniel Hawthorne. This class reinforces an American culture and provides insight into the lifestyle and behavior of American citizens.
Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse
This multimedia online learning experience is a class that teaches students about the psychological impact of disasters on human behavior. In an online format, the class, “Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse – Disasters, Catastrophes, and Human Behavior,” uses disaster simulations, virtual discussions and regular coursework to help students understand the sociological of catastrophes. Students even experience a zombie pandemic and react to it online. The simulation spans the length of the class and enables group work or survivor groups that must deal with progressive variables associated with the zombie invasion. This popular course is in demand at Michigan State University but is also utilized by emergency managers across the country.
Maple Syrup: The Real Thing
Students at Alfred University in New York learn how to tap maple trees and more in a sweet class called “Maple Syrup: The Real Thing." In addition to learning the intricacies of making maple syrup, this class reveals a historical timeline of syrup making, along with the business and environmental side of the craft. An outdoor environment serves as the classroom for this course, but students also tour local syrup operations and learn about the significant role that maple syrup plays in the culture of the local community. Students eat sweet treats made with the syrup and gain a new insight into how sugaring operations influence their community's economy.
The Ivy League school Brown University is home to a creative approach to introductory English. This course uses the works from Shakespeare, Marlowe, Crashaw, Donne and others to illustrate literary concepts and explore the broader meaning of literature. Somewhat provocative, the class delves into concepts of ecstasy, mysticism, rapture and eroticism by using novels, poems and drama as literary examples. Entitled “Altered States," this is not your typical approach to general education English, and is usually taken by students that are majoring in English. The course is limited to 100 students each semester and is in hot demand.
Philosophy with a Twist
The Ivy League Harvard University has an edgy approach to teaching philosophy with a class called, "Trying Socrates in the Age of Trump." Diving deeper into the philosophical questions that surround the death of Socrates, this class looks at how the power and desire are balanced with human needs and interests. Searching for rationale about the intense dislike for this leader, a comparative analysis and enriching dialogue is used to make connections to the present day. This class uses economic class differences, humanistic understanding and political analogies to prompt critical thinking and urge the development of the philosophical ponderings that evoke strong emotion and personal growth.
Tacos, Tamales and Tequila
Harvard University teaches anthropology with a creative twist in a course called "Tacos, Tamales and Tequila: Eating and Drinking in Ancient Mexico." Focused on exploring the origin of Mexican food, this class goes back in time to look at what happened when the Spanish people came to Mexico. Archaeological history depicts the connection between various segments of the population and the food types that they consumed. Students engage in active learning that includes tasting different foods. They also study museum artifacts and engage in lively class dialogue that centers on how food played a role in Mexican society.
Leaning In, Hooking Up
A Harvard class centered on feminism is uniquely titled “Leaning in, Hooking Up: Visions of Feminism and Femininity in the 21st Century." Taking a page from modern times, this class explores the role of women and how feminism is integrated into motherhood, career paths and political frameworks. Defining success from a feminist lens is central to the mission of this class. Emotionally charged subjects include sexual violence, self-preservation, reproduction and serving as a working parent. Theoretical models rooted in ethnic and gender studies serve as the framework for class discussion.
Rednecks, Queers and Country Music
Using country music as a contextual example, this class examines music through a lens that uncovers homophobia and racism. Housed in the Department of American Culture, “Rednecks, Queers and Country Music,” is based upon a book written by Nadine Hubbs. She teaches the class at the University of Michigan, too. Content focuses on queer history, country music and the relationship of class with these ideologies. Often, the lyrics of country music perpetuate stereotypes and anti-inclusive rhetoric. Students explore how class and race are often juxtaposed in society. The impact of the working class, in both white and African American populations, are also examined.
The Study of Vampires
Using Slavic folklore and European literature, this University of Kentucky course, titled “Vampires: Evolution of a Sexy Monster,” studies the origin and fascination of vampires. Connections are even made between vampire compulsion and modern-day monster interests, such as the walking dead. Rituals and religious connotations are examined to gain a broader understanding of how people integrate vampires into disciplines like anthropology, literature and psychology. A historical perspective brings the totality of the vampire phenomenon into perspective as students glean a broader understanding of the history of the craze.
Race, Religion and Donald J. Trump
Using the 2016 presidential election as a case study, a class entitled “Race, Religion and Donald J. Trump” at Davidson College looks at religious and racial issues that impacted the election of President Trump. Listed as a sociology course, students investigate institutionalized racism and how religious subgroups impacted the political movement during the election. Designed to veer away from individual political motivations, this class focuses on the sociological impact of socioeconomics and corporate interests that can move the dial on political outcomes. A deeper understanding of intersectionality, related to politics and society, is an outcome of this class.