With books in one hand and cans of corn, beans and soup in the other, 25-year-old Eun Kang was ready for class.
Bringing canned goods to feed poor county residents will mean an open book final exam for Kang and her 37 Western Civilization classmates at Anne Arundel CountyCommunity College.
With class discussions yesterday focusing on the 14th-century bubonic plague in Europe, teacher RitaVictoria Gomez has repeatedly tried to make classwork relevant. Students at the college are encouraged to extend their classroom to the community.
"I try to stress to them that as a community college, we are part of the larger community,"Gomez said. "Our very name says that. I like them to feel that they have to be aware of what's happening around them. This is a chance for them to participate. I've gotten no objections. I always make it optional."
Instead of complaints about Gomez's urgings to look beyond textbooks and to consider their part in history, students seem eager to see what she will come up with next.
Eighteen-year-old Stan Herman brought four cans of soup to ensure improved odds on passing the final exam that will be given the week of Dec. 16.
Jennifer Whitman took Gomez's class last year, and is still talking about it.
"It's a good idea to get the students involved," Whitman said. "It's areally a good class."
And this year, Herman sees it as a double opportunity to improve his grade and help the poor.
"It's extra motivation," he said. "I would have done something, but this just makes me more prompt. I definitely will do better having an open book test."
Students have until Friday to bring in their donations. If past performance means anything, procrastinators will wait until the last day. At least two canned donations from about 480 students enrolled in two sections of Western Civilization I and II classes will be distributed to local charities by student groups on campus.
In addition, the 43-year-old Cape St. Claire resident also teaches Russian History and Women in America.
Since 1969, Gomez has been trying to excite students about history.
Her career began as a high school teacher in New York City public schools. She has also taught at the ContraCosta Community College near Oakland, Calif., and served as a consultant for San Francisco public schools before leaving for Washington to work on her Ph.D. at George Washington University. Gomez moved to the county a year ago.
With only her dissertation to complete, Gomez spends her time teaching full time at the Arnold campus and devising ways tokeep students interested in history and the community.
Other classes have donated blood to alleviate shortages, conducted telephone interviews for the campus Center for the Study of Local Issues,and participated in Handicapped Awareness Day.
"I believe historyis more than dry facts," Gomez said. "I try to impart the idea that these were people living at a different time. One of the things that history teaches us is that we are part of the larger community."