Learning during lockdown hasn’t been without its fun side. Flinders University’s Dr Lisa Bennett has been encouraging her creative writing students who are working online to enjoy their time in isolation by dressing in costume to suit the theme of their weekly writing tasks – and has been leading by example.
Since her classes went online in March, Dr Bennett has joined her third-year Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) students in dressing for the part as they engage in innovative weekly workshop themes, including “fantasy” or “funny hats” or “dress like you’re going to the prom”.
As a result, students have prepared for their online class discussions by fashioning costumes to look like characters from books they are studying – including Little Women, Howl’s Moving Castle and various fantasy novels.
The latest theme was “book character”, for which Dr Bennett went to great lengths, dressing up like “The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair” from Susanna Clarke’s historical fantasy novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. “That hair? Well, it’s not a wig! I nearly destroyed my hair, teasing and powdering it for this costume, but it was worth it. The students loved it,” says Dr Bennett.
“I’ve been trying to make the most of this less-than-ideal situation. Rather than being sad that we couldn’t see each other face-to-face, we all looked forward to our weekly online sessions. Everyone got into the spirit of it, even though we might be too shy or self-conscious to dress up in costumes like that if we were coming into campus (especially on public transport). “It may seem silly, but it made studying in isolation so much more enjoyable.”
Dr Bennett says that being at home gave students a chance to be really creative and brought a flurry of ideas into their workshops, triggered by them sharing photographs of their costumes via Collaborate, and adding the spark of fun to each week’s work.
“We all felt less isolated as a result of our weekly dress-ups,” she says. “It was marvellous!”