In looking at my semester’s class schedule, it would seem that I have little variation as to where I study. According to Bear Tracks, all my seminars meet in the Humanities Centre; however, Bear Tracks is simply an electronic system. If it followed me to class, it would know the places I study are anything but static.
In my “ tphoery/poethry” class, a mix of theory and poetry, we meet at the Edmonton Public Library’s Highlands branch, since the class consists of graduate students and community scholars. We make up this year’s Writing Revolution in Place (WRiP) program. Highlands presents a learning space that isn’t a classroom in the traditional sense. The room where we study is lined with windows, which allow us to see inside and outside the library. Unlike many university classrooms, ours isn’t enclosed; it’s open.
I think this openness is helpful, since it provides a comfortable space to step out of if anyone needs a break, and shows that learning is as important inside the classroom as outside of it. The knowledge we gain in class should help make change and establish community outside the walls rather than simply remaining contained within them.
Other amenities also help the class. Having movable tables means we can sit in a circle when having discussions and create open space to learn Métis jigging when the time arises. And the sink means that we can eat food and drink tea and coffee together and have means of cleaning up afterwards.
Learning is as important inside the classroom as outside of it.
The practice of having food and tea in class has also occurred in my graduate seminar, “Canada, Nature, and Space.” Each week, someone brings snacks and our professor brings tea. While we do spend time in the Humanities Centre, we’re not restricted to the building. In accordance with the subject matter, we’ve gone outside nearly every week: we’ve read poems about moons in the light of the supermoon; wandered in the River Valley and discussed our wandering in relation to our readings; examined plants surrounding the Humanities pond and talked about what they can tell us about nature writing; and held class around a bonfire. Again, being outside the classroom’s walls has opened up learning. We’re not simply writing and talking about nature and space; we’re also physically engaging with it, not simply reducing it to a metaphor — something that is perhaps easy to do when inside.
While I’ve had, and continue to have, many interesting classes within the university’s walls, I think it’s important that we sometimes burst through them, moving outside what we know to realize knowledge doesn’t only come from within. In doing so, I think we’re better suited to acknowledge that we won’t be silenced by our walls, but that we will share what we learn and become influenced by, and influence other, spaces.
Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and viewpoints of current Arts students. Through their posts, you’ll experience the creativity and passion of our students as they present glimpses into student life. The views and opinions expressed within these posts are solely those of the authors.