Dr. Georges Gnakpa, History Professor, and Ms. Darlene Kilian, IUGB resident English Language Fellow, brought international recognition to the University as they presented their pilot project-based learning (PBL) collaboration between the African & African American History class (Spring Semester 2022) and the National Costume Museum of Grand Bassam at the international conference “Higher Education’s Role in Nurturing Sustainable Communities” in Albion, Michigan, USA, in June 2022. The PBL collaborative project involved researching and creating bilingual exhibition boards covering colonial Grand Bassam and its associated UNESCO world heritage site of Quartier France and the N’Zima Village of Grand Bassam.
Students worked with museum and UNESCO mentors, interviewed N’Zima leadership, documented the current condition of the historical UNESCO world heritage sites in a photo safari and integrated the oral history of Grand Bassam with the little written information they could find to gain a better understanding of colonial Grand Bassam and its significance in the time of African colonization. A particular challenge was finding original historic documentation, as much of it is scattered throughout various libraries in France, making it difficult to access. The students met the challenge though, gathering and presenting their cumulative knowledge on exhibition boards that have now become a permanent part of the National Costume Museum’s exhibitions and serve to tell the unique history of colonial Grand Bassam to all museum visitors. PBL collaborations with community outreach, such as the above-mentioned project, enable universities to act as catalysts for community development. They offer WIN-WIN partnerships in which the university, the students, and their community partners gain valuable experience, knowledge, and content that goes beyond the four walls of the classroom. This PBL pilot project and others at IUGB are paving the way as a more modern and interactive pedagogical practice that can be integrated in all fields of study. We look forward to continuing this innovation at IUGB.