I’m lucky to be in a program at U of T that values hands-on learning. Theory is great and is useful in itself, but too much theory makes Lori an unhappy girl. The ratio has to be about 40:60 for me not to run out of class screaming with frustration or fall asleep mid class. I’m happy to say that I’ve never actually passed out in class. I think this great feat falls not on me, but on the participatory style of many of my classes.
Last week one one my classes went on a field trip. I know right! Field trips are great, they always worked in grade school, so why can’t they work at the University level to compliment course content. This field trip was for a class that I’m taking that focuses on the development of the Christian Bible as a book, a cross listed course for both the Book and Media Studies program and the Christianity and Culture program. Our field trip was an excursion the Fisher Rare Book Library to view the manuscripts that we would be studying in class.
I was really, really excited about the outing and it was the fourth time I have visited the library since I started at U of T. It might be that I am a ginormous geek or it might be the simple fact that old books are super cool! I’m not trying to be facetious, I really like old books. Now I’m not talking about a mere admiration for something old, the emotions I experience at this library are akin to the excited feeling you get waiting for a concert to start.
It’s rare in university level humanity courses to ever get to see or touch the objects of our studies. The last time I went to Fisher I had the opportunity to read “Peggy” Atwood’s childhood diary and stories. This time I was able to carefully leaf through the Codex Torontonensis. This book dates back to ca. 1100! That’s almost one thousand years old. If you want to see it for yourself click on the link to view this book digitally.
Although old books are one of my favourite things, I’m not writing this post to share my love of old stuff. Instead, I wanted to share with you how important it is for me to experience what I learn. I realize this isn’t always possible, but if you have the opportunity to pair what you’ve learned in class with an actual tangible experience, I highly recommend it. When I can match a theory to a lived experience, my understanding of the theory is so much more enriched. In the case of historical studies, sometimes just viewing a high quality photo of the object of study can elevate your learning experience. Last year I was lucky enough to take a course with a prof. who a fan of object history, which enabled me to write a research paper on Victorian Dog Photography. I was able to access some great digital images of examples from the British Museum online.
Getting out your head out of the classroom and into the world is mandated by many my courses that require internships, placements, and a fair number of outings, but if you are struggling to find a way to pair what you’ve learned in class to a practical experience check out the Service Learning with the Centre for Community partnerships at U of T.
Get out of the classroom and learn something to remember!