11:11 AM

Pragmatic Studies Students on Fire for Trip to Firehouse

UST extinguishes the obstacles of learning differences

Emily Mannikko, UST Pragmatic Studies studentAn all-day class for Pragmatic Studies students from the University of St. Thomas-Houston happened on June 6 and saw them working full 8-hour shifts in the role of cadets at 10 fire stations in the Greater Houston Area.

During the “class,” 10 students received fire house tours, learned how it feels to don the heavy protective gear, and how each piece of equipment is designed to save lives. They also got a real taste of firefighter life. Throughout the day, multiple fire alarms and ambulance calls blared, and students rode along each time to witness responders in action.

Student Emily Manniko, who manages anxiety, went on a total of eight medic and fire calls and felt her adrenaline pumping. The experience also corrected a mistaken belief she had had about firefighters.

“I think people have an impression that when firefighters are not responding to the occasional alarm, they’re just hanging out at the fire house watching TV,” the well-spoken Manniko said. “But that’s a misconception. This fire house responded to 15 alarms while we were there, and when the alarms were quiet, the firefighters were in constant motion, maintaining and cleaning their equipment and making sure everything was prepared and ready to go. The firefighters I worked with were happy to have me there, and I can’t wait to go back on June 14 for round two!”

The Beauty of Pragmatic Studies

The students are part of UST’s innovative Associate of Applied Science in Pragmatic Studies degree program. Pragmatic Studies is designed for students who are too high functioning for community college vocational programs but need more support than traditional college provides. The two-year program for students with learning differences prepares and influences students to be socially responsible citizens.

UST’s Kolbe School Pragmatic Studies Program Chair Dr. Tera Torres explained, “Pragmatic Studies aims to remove obstacles to success. We offer more personalized and varied types of instruction, so each student’s learning is maximized. We also encourage students to demonstrate their knowledge acquisition through whatever means works best for them. Some might create a storyboard. Some might produce an audio-visual report. Some might write a paper.”

Emily Mannikko, UST Pragmatic Studies studentHands-on Learning Through Universal Design

The program uses an instructional methodology called Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which reduces barriers to learning. Students and educators using this method create meaningful experiences so that the design of the curricular goals, assessments, methods and materials is accessible and attainable for all. The program also targets project-based, experiential learning. So, when two of the students expressed a desire to attend the Houston Fire Academy, Dr. Torres organized the fire station outing.

“When our students engage in experiences like this one, they learn about themselves and may even determine some future goals,” Torres said.

Another experience on the students’ course schedule was a treasure-hunt-style geocaching activity using a global positioning system receiver to teach mapping skills and perseverance. And coming soon will be a grill master competition led by a professional chef.

More on the Associate of Applied Science in Pragmatic Studies degree program can be found here.