Theme and Variations: Understanding Musical Style

This activity took place as part of an ongoing study of the various conventional forms in Classical music (sonata, concerto, etc.), and also contributed to a larger, semester-long conversation about the ways in which we deal with the nebulous concept of "style" in music. Coming into the class itself, students possessed a basic knowledge of musical rudiments such as melody and harmony. For this particular activity, students had already been introduced to the idea of a "Theme and Variations" form, and had listened to several examples.

Bring a Goddess to a Party

Students were expected to have researched one goddess from the ancient Near East as described in several primary and secondary sources. The description of the activity on the syllabus is as follows: Choose a female deity or demon from the ancient Near East that you find captivating. Now imagine you have just invited her to a party at Smith College. Describe what she looks like and what she will wear to the party. How will you introduce her to your friends? Tell them where she is from, what her interest are, and explain her special talents, as well as any personality traits that might make for awkward social interactions.

Understanding Diaspora

Benjamin Weber created an activity that spans across the entire class to help students understand the concept of “diaspora” through constant reiteration of concepts from some excerpts given to the class by the instructor. Students learned how to close-read excerpts, write reflections, and create their own ideas about the theme of the class.

Wave Dispersion and Mathematica

Elizabeth Petrik, a graduate teaching fellow for Physics 15c, created this Mathematica activity to help students build physical and quantitative intuition about wave dispersion. The usage of Mathematica in this activity allows for students to not only solidify the concepts they learned in class, but also create a working program that helps them understand wave dispersion in another medium.

Name Five

Kellie Carter Jackson, a Harvard College Fellow, created the game “Name Five” for her AAAS118 class. In the beginning of the class, she goes around the room and asks students to list five notable people of different ethnicities to help students understand the world and the power dynamics within it.

Archive Analysis

Students were asked to produce a multimedia and historical analysis of the archives of Saudi Aramco World. It aimed to bring historical and secondary sources alive by putting students directly in contact with primary, archival sources and asking them to critically engage with those materials.

Red Light, Green Light: Cell Division and Angelina Jolie

Created by Paul Ogg, Melissa Krebs, Vida Melvin, Amanda Charlesworth, and Melanie Badtke, this lesson teaches how cells regulate cell division using some lecture interspersed with interactive activities including clicker questions, pair/share, and class discussion, applying concepts to Angelina Jolie's BRCA1 mutation.

Shakespeare on Acid: To ionize or not to ionize?

This lesson, created by Graciela Unguez, Erika Abel, Vanessa Castleberry, Rizalia Klausmeyer, Aaron Snead, Martina Rosenberg, William S. Garver, and Marcy Osgood for the National Academies Summer Institute for Undergraduate Education in Biology uses clickers, pair and share, and other exercises to help students "understand the effect of environmental pH on the ionization status of weak acids and weak bases."

Open Review Discussion

Students used a platform called Open Review (, developed by the members of the Harvard physics department, which is a PDF annotation tool that is tailored to discuss scientific publications openly. Every week, students read two publications related to research in the Harvard Physics Department and used Open Review to discuss them online and learn about the academic research.

Daily ER18 Immersion

Guanchang Qian made every section and every day an active learning experience for her ER18 students to enhance not only students’ learning experiences, but also the students’ relations with their instructor. She exposed students to ER18 material every day through daily emails and supplementary readings.

Costa Rican Specimen Scavenger Hunt

Students embarked on this lab-based activity to help understand the species of Costa Rica. Graduate Student Teaching Fellow Alexis Harrison created this activity for her OEB 167 class to allow students to see and interact with preserved specimens from the Museum of Comparative Zoology, so they can further understand the types of animals they will see on their spring break trip to Costa Rica.

Minute Physics Videos

Emily Russell designed this for Physics 95: Topics in Current Research aimed towards junior and senior concentrators in Physics.  Students were encouraged to develop their skills in explaining complicated physics topics in layman’s terms through a short video presentation. This project incorporates public speaking skills and video technology like Final Cut Pro. 

Presenting Primary Papers

In OEB 191: Physiological and Biochemical Adaptation, students present one or two papers in primary literature to the class and lead the discussion. After retrieving the papers from online sources or the library and reading them, the presenters prepare a PowerPoint show to explain and summarize the findings.