The brief lull in a semester populated by early tutorials, lengthy assignments, and waning lecture attendance, has gained a plethora of new nicknames over the years and has now been christened ‘the Festival of Creative Learning’. From administrative appellations like ‘Consolidation Week’ to monikers like ‘Flexible Learning Week,’ this small hiatus is actually far more important than is suggested by these less-than-riveting names this week has been given in the past. A good thing too, that the name has been changed, for although ‘Reading Week’ is meant to inspire students to prepare for the second half of a long semester, it does sound like a librarian’s attempt at Spring Break/Half-Term, and usually doesn’t live up to its name. And, honestly, that’s perfectly okay, because it is now truly an enrichment period tailored to your wishes!
The week of ‘the Festival of Creative Learning’ can be a time to travel home and update Mum and Dad on the new/ex-boyfriend you made on Valentines. It can be a time to pack a bag and travel across the Alps to avoid that mid-term paper plaguing your subconscious. It can even be a time to stay back in the semi-deserted uni and explore those parts of the city that have always been too crowded. Either way, it’s a time to de-stress from any worries, recharge your brain before the next half of the semester, and maybe even be a little dumb before you have to be smart again.
But, whether your week of relaxation implements a strict no-stress policy and bans all textbooks from sight, or if you’re the most productive in this quiet, mid-semester interval and are trying to get ahead of your workload, Reading Week, or whatever you like to call it, is your open book… or, I guess, your closed one (if you’re still banning those textbooks).
This semester, however, the Festival of Creative Learning fell on the same seven days that combine both the scholarly ambitions of some students, with the entertaining social refreshers that some others seek for their break. Although it might sound like I am marketing a fun-educational app to a group of six-year-olds, this week was truly a perfect opportunity to try something new (student-tested, university-approved). In an attempt to recognise intellectual inclusivity, Flexible Learning Week succeeded in celebrating the progressive integration of different studies, from the sciences to maths, to arts, to humanities. To equally activate the left-brain and the right, events on ‘3D Structures with Bioplastic,’ introductions on ‘ How to Code,’ and even a ‘Mathematical Bake-off’ were hosted throughout the week for science-fanatics and art-geeks alike. Indeed, due to high interest, the week’s classes booked up quickly, many being filled up before the week even began!
I decided to do some event-hopping myself this past Reading Week, including a fascinating workshop in partnership with the Lothian Health Services Archive called ‘Creative Writing and the Archive: Finding Inspiration in Asylum Records.’ As I stepped onto the sixth floor of the Main Library, a floor I thought was reserved for spiderwebs and dusty, historical tomes, I was relieved to find that I wasn’t the only one without an art degree in the works at the workshop. In fact, there was a diverse group of about a dozen students, each studying a unique subject, from medical sciences to creative writing. The dozen of us spent four hours learning about the true history of mental health treatment in Edinburgh during the 19th and 20th centuries, poring over authentic, centuries-old patient records, photographs, and letters, and finally filtering all that newly-acquired knowledge into our own, unique pieces of creative writing. The opportunity to get some enlightening (if a little morose) insight into the management and daily operation of real mental asylums was all thanks to the fantastic event planning by the team behind the Festival of Creative Learning.
This event was truly a highlight of my week since I was introduced to a new source of inspiration and research, as well as a variety of students, each on different courses, yet each as excited as I am about creative writing. The Festival of Creative Learning truly offered a generous range of events to introduce anyone and everyone to a new branch of studies. Some of which, incidentally, did include reading.
Image credits: Mark Longair via Flickr