Creating Safe Space in a Multidisciplinary Classroom

In today’s political environment, making our classes a safe space for everyone, while at the same time allowing for all voices to be heard, can sometimes be a challenge. This paper will examine the benefits and challenges of creating such a classroom around a course that uses place-based pedagogy, along with feminist pedagogy and community engagement. While at first these three perspectives might seem counter to one another, or take up too much space singularly to allow proper exploration of each perspective within the confines of a sixteen week course, my recent experience teaching a cross-listed course called “Appalachian Women: Activists for Change,” shows that the connections between place, gender, community, and activism are deepened when explored in an inter-disciplinary course where discussion meets action as service. I found that utilizing an intersectional approach within the Appalachian Studies classroom allows students who do not identify themselves as Appalachian, but might identify with other intersectional issues such as race, gender, and class, to see a space for themselves within the discipline. Moreover, the additional service component of the course widened students’ ideas about activism and assisted them in deeply connecting with the community beyond the confines of the physical classroom space.