Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries Tagged as '2010 Sarah'

Let’s Torque about Norwich Castle

May 8th, 2011 · No Comments

Image taken from http://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/Learning/Norwich_Learning/Teacher_Resources/KS2_Egyptians_and_Romans/index.htm

There was a new addition to the Norwich Castle Museum Education Department’s office when Holly and I arrived that morning – a Will and Kate paper doll set. A cheery note was left next to some blank paper, scissors and a pencil: “Feel free to create your own outfit!” So naturally, Holly and I spent our lunch break dressing up Will and Kate for their big day. We even built them a little castle of their own out of cardboard. Too bad I did not think to take a picture.

Other than that exciting tidbit, my second day at the Norwich Castle was spent in much the same fashion as my first. I did some more photocopying, and get this – they ask ME for computer help. Me, the woman who has a computer that breaks down every time she tries to turn it on. Apparently, the staff in the Education Department are not too computer savvy, and so they asked me to copy several CDs for them. The disks were filled mostly with pictures from activity days, but there were other documents as well. Much to my surprise, I was actually able to copy all of the files with no problem at all. It was quite the empowering moment. I was also asked to type up some of Daniel’s (my supervisor) text for the Norwich Castle Museum’s website. I do not think it has been posted yet, but maybe someday soon.

What time was not spent on office tasks was again spent on craft preparations. We made more torques and what look to be mini torques, but I haven’t been told their real use yet, so I cannot be certain what they actually are.

So far I have been back once already since completing my hours, but I plan to continue volunteering until I head home for New York in June.

If you are interested in learning more about the Education Department or just the Norwich Castle in general click on the link provided: http://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/index.htm

Date: 29/4/2011

Supervisor: Daniel Pounds

Time: 9:30-3:30, 6

Total Hours: 21.5

Tags: 2010 Sarah

All Access Pass to the Norwich Castle

May 8th, 2011 · No Comments

Image taken from norfolk4families.co.uk

My first day at Norwich Castle began with a tour (led by our own Holly Bowers who also volunteers there) of the museum. We walked through several art exhibits, a section on wildlife and natural history, the torture chamber, and of course the castle keep. The museum has attractions for every generation, but its focus is primarily on young children. I found as I walked through that with the exception of the art exhibits, every room took a hands on approach. There were things for the children to touch and move around, making the experience fun and educational. The museum has a classroom for visiting schools and their own museum club programs. There is even a “picnic room” for the kids to eat their lunch in.

Image taken from myfinepix.co.uk

The rest of the day was filled with run of the mill office tasks like photocopying and preparations for the craft activities. The photocopies I made were put together in pamphlets to educate instructors about the museum club activities. They talked different approaches to teaching and learning and how the museum activities strives to foster that learning. They also provided several examples of sample lessons an instructor might try to incorporate into their activities.

The crafts were more fun to do – they reminded me of things I used to do in school and camp when I was a young child. One is an origami project, so Holly and I spent a lot of time folding paper. The other project we worked on was creating torques for their “Iron Age Day” out of wire.

Of course the coolest part of the entire experience was getting my own, all access, backstage pass, swipey card to the museum. We entered the museum through the employee only entrance and the security team fitted us out with identification badges and a key card that allows you entrance to all of the staff only doors. As you can imagine, I felt very important.

Date: 23/3/2011

Supervisor: Daniel Pounds

Time: 9:30-4, 6.5 hrs

Total Hours: 15.5

Tags: 2010 Sarah

Easter at the Norwich Cathedral

May 7th, 2011 · No Comments

On my second day of volunteering at the Norwich Cathedral egg hunt, I was signed up to work with Susanne, another volunteer. She turned out to be a lovely woman, and while we went around delivering Cadbury’s finest chocolate eggs, we chatted about an assortment of things. I learned that she has two daughters, both of whom studied abroad in the States while they were getting their degrees. It was nice to talk to a British “soccer/football mom”. Working with her made me realize that although I have gotten to meet British students and teachers, I haven’t interacted very much with adults outside of academia. There is an entire generation of people we are missing out on. I wonder if that would have been different had the program involved a home stay family.

On a different note, this day was very exciting because our supervisor, Juliet, took us on a tour of the upper level of the Cathedral. This section is not open to the public or even to most members of the church, so it was a great privilege to be invited. We got to walk right underneath the big stain glass windows, so close that I could touch it. We also walked right onto the organ.

As we walked along each wall of the Cathedral, Stephenie and Juliet explained the significance of a lot of the architecture and some of the more intricate designs. There were carvings in the wall, most of them dated, and we made a game of trying to find the earliest ones. It’s rather mind boggling to think of all that history wrapped up in one building.

Date: 13/4

Supervisor: Juliet Corbett

Hours:10-3 (5)

Total Hours: 9

Tags: 2010 Sarah

A Jew running an Easter egg hunt?

April 28th, 2011 · No Comments

Picture taken by Stephenie McGucken

A few weeks ago I received an email from Stephenie McGucken asking if I was interested in volunteering for the Norwich Cathedral’s Easter activities. I immediately replied YES. Who turns down an opportunity involving candy? Even though I myself am Jewish, a good portion of my family is Christian and we have an Easter egg hunt every year. I always had fun and I enjoy working with kids so I thought it would be a nice way to earn my volunteer hours. Although the experience turned out to be a little different than I expected, it was a positive one nonetheless.

We began by setting up the crafts table for the kids (and by we I mean Stephenie, Jess, Jamie and I). They were given Easter bunnies to color in and were able to build and decorate their own little paper Easter baskets for collecting eggs. My next job was to guide guests from the entrance of the Cathedral to story time which was the first activity station. This got a little tricky when the woman who was supposed to be working the station went missing for a few minutes. This meant that I had to be the fill in story teller.

As can be imagined, I felt more than a little uncomfortable reading a story about the resurrection of Jesus. It felt wrong to be telling a story which I don’t believe in. It seemed to me a lot like brainwashing. I realize that every religion, even my own, has its own collection of stories that it teaches to young children, but I still felt uncomfortable reading to the children. So I made the decision to politely decline to read should the situation come up again, and I moved on to the egg hunt.

Later on in the day, I mentioned to the priest that I had felt a bit awkward about being Jewish and volunteering to help with the Easter festivities. We had a really interesting discussion on the benefits of participating in other religion’s traditions. For while I had some difficulty reading the Easter book, it did help me to gain a better understanding of Christian beliefs. I know it sounds corny, but understanding really is the first step towards tolerance.

Date: 12/04/11

Time: 10-2

Hours: 4 Total: 4

Supervisor: Juliet Corbett

Tags: 2010 Sarah

One flop to tip the scales

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

I’ve been trying very hard not to compare London with New York, and failing miserably. But I think that this is one topic on which I may be excused – Broadway vs. West End. As a native New Yorker, and someone fortunate enough to have seen a number of Broadway shows, I must admit to a certain bias. However, almost all of the shows that I have seen in London have been wonderful productions. The Merry Wives of Windsor at Shakespeare’s Globe, though painful due to standing for two hours, was definitely a unique experience. You can’t get quite the same feel in the states – it doesn’t feel as genuine. Les Misérables and 39 Steps were also very well done, offering two of my favorite things – music and comedy. I even enjoyed The Habit of Art, a more serious drama than I am usually partial to. Not only were each of the productions well executed technically, but I thought the actual acting, the conveying of emotion was phenomenal.

However, not every performance I attended left me with the same impression, and I’m afraid that one really bad experience has tipped the scale in Broadway’s favor. I think almost everyone in our program has heard of the great theatre debacle by now. If you haven’t, here’s a quick rundown: Mel, Dan and I went to see a show in the West End. I cannot reveal which show because we all decided that it was just too horrible to mention by name ever again. However, I can describe what was so terribly bad about it. Perhaps what I found most frustrating was that the show had such potential. The plotline allowed for many opportunities of real dance numbers. Instead we got the same exact choreography again and again, song after song. Usually in a musical, dance numbers also have singing. Again we were disappointed. Most, if not all of the songs were played from a soundtrack with the performers occasionally singing some obnoxiously loud misplaced note. And now we discuss the acting. To be fair, they really didn’t have much to work with, but even a high school student could have done a better job of conveying emotion. I suppose there was attempted humor, but the jokes were not funny and even if they had been, the lines were delivered without much enthusiasm.

Tags: 2010 Sarah

What to write about pubs?

September 21st, 2010 · No Comments

Perhaps I should begin by writing about how different they are from what I expected. First of all, London is supposed to be this big hoppin’ city with a fantastic nightlife. Wrong. Almost every pub we tried the first two weeks we were here closes at eleven o’clock – weekends included. When the first bartender told us, I didn’t believe it was true. I thought they were just trying to get rid of the annoying American kids that don’t know how to order a pint. But then I started to realize that everyone in the pub was leaving and it was the same for each of the pubs we visited after that, so it couldn’t be simply a conspiracy against obnoxious students. My next reaction was annoyance and frustration. What kind of city closes at eleven?

I also expected that the music selection would be a little bit different. My assumption was that a British establishment would play British or at least European music. Wrong again. As Mel’s post pointed out, pubs here play mostly American music. During the course of an evening one may hear Justin Timberlake, R. Kelly, Journey, Lady Gaga….and the occasional Beatles song (but let’s face it, we have Americanized the Beatles to the point where we have adopted them as our own). I am really disappointed that I haven’t heard any new songs yet. Has American pop music become a British norm? Hopefully once we get up to Norwich and out of such a touristy area we will encounter a more diverse and authentic British sound.

One of the things we learned from Kate Fox is that pubs are one of those bizarre exception places where British people are allowed to be friendly if they want to. This is perhaps the only one where my expectations have held true. I assumed both from reading Kate Fox and from my own social instincts that although no one would approach me, if I instigated a conversation people would generally respond warmly. My first experiment: the bartenders. Almost every one of them has been friendly. No one has made fun of my accent, or my inability to sort through the ridiculous multitude of coins which any British child of five could handle. My next victims were the actual pub goers, and it seems that the same rules apply. One night at The Court, a couple of us wanted to play pool but we weren’t sure what the etiquette was for queuing or why table seemed to have different dimensions than the ones we are used to back home. The group of British kids that were already playing were happy enough to explain to us that the table is smaller because it wasn’t actually meant for billiards but a different type of game. While we waited for our turn a few of them continued to talk to us providing us with little helpful tips and tidbits of information.

All in all, I’d say that the pubs have been a mixed experience. I think that after I get over the initial shock of early closings, I could really learn to enjoy them.

Tags: 2010 Sarah

Victoria & Albert Museum: Chaos, Mystery, and Chihuly

September 21st, 2010 · 1 Comment

It seems like everyone I talked to in our program strongly disliked the Victoria and Albert Museum. I don’t know what they were thinking, because I thought it was one of the most amazing places I have ever been. I loved how random it was – it really epitomized British eccentricity. The V & A seemed to be completely lacking in order from one room to the next, whereas other museums that we have been to, like the British Museum or the London Museum seem to be arranged more logically. But I really like how chaotic it was. It added the element of surprise which made me laugh aloud. I think the key is to go in with a game plan. Know which exhibits you want to see beforehand, that way you organize your visit accordingly. Any interesting sites you find along the way can just be a fun little bonus.

So what was the most interesting part of such a fascinatingly bizarre place? No, not the jewelry, although my eyes were glued to several dazzling tiaras, but what I found most intriguing was being able to watch the museum staff put together an exhibit. I felt like I was backstage at a play, watching the people who work behind the scenes. I never realized how much work it would take to create even just one exhibit. There were at least ten or fifteen people working on the room. Some were doing physical work, lifting and moving planks of wood, while others looked over papers on clipboards and directed traffic. However, I was a bit mystified because I didn’t know what it was exactly that they were building and I still don’t know what it had to do with that particular room of the museum. It just looked like they were plonking down a big ol’ wall in the middle of the room. And as far as I could tell there were no signs posted anywhere with “coming soon” information, so I’ll just have to make another trip back to London in a few months to see what it looks like.

I also got really excited when I saw the piece by Dale Chihuly. The artist is known for his work with glass, creating huge and intricate structures. I was fortunate enough to be able to see his exhibit back home at the Botanical Gardens in New York with my family, and so when I recognized his work in the V&A, it was like seeing a little piece of home.

This is a piece at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Here’s one from home:

Tags: 2010 Sarah

“Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!” — J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan)

September 20th, 2010 · 2 Comments

The thing that strikes me most about the parks here in London, aside from the astonishing size and quantity of them, is how kid focused they are. A couple of the girls and I paid a visit to Kensington Gardens last week and discovered this first hand. Before we even entered the park, we could hear the squeals of kids playing on the Diana Memorial Playground. Its design is actually based on the story of Peter Pan. Children can climb aboard Captain Hook’s pirate ship or play in Tiger Lily’s teepee. We wanted to go inside and get some pictures, but the sign on the gate states that if you do not have a child with you, you are not permitted in. I hadn’t ever encountered a child only park, and was honestly a little bit jealous that I couldn’t climb onto the pirate ship.

As a New Yorker, I’m partial to Central Park, but even I have to admit that the Brits seem to be beating us in this department. Although Central Park has many things to offer children, it doesn’t have anything that is kids only. I think its really admirable that London’s parks are so devoted to providing kids with a fun and safe environment. The State’s should seriously think about adopting this attitude.

Other locations in the park that seemed geared towards children were the Peter Pan statue, the Round Pond and (spreading into Hyde Park) the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Although these places were not created specifically for children, it seemed like it was mostly families that were visiting.

Tags: 2010 Sarah

Missing Queues

September 9th, 2010 · 2 Comments

Today I decided I would run my own Kate Fox type experiment while shopping on Oxford Street. Knowing how obsessed the British are reputed to be about their queuing, I intentionally stood out of place. I was the only person waiting in line for the cash register, so instead of standing in what was obviously the entrance to the queue path, I stood awkwardly to the side and began my own line. I even made sure to angle myself so that I was not directly facing the register, attempting to further the confusion. The results were quite amusing. One man it seemed had decided he was better of mumbling to himself and walking in circles rather than try to get behind me. Another shopper kept walking back and forth between where he knew the real queue should start and where I was standing. However I noticed that no one actually asked me if I was on the line. In the States, I would simply ask the person in front of me if they were waiting to be helped, they would give me an answer, and that would be the end of it. (Image taken from )
I definitely understand what Fox was talking about now, when she said that the British will harrumph and complain, but won’t actually take any action to solve their problem. A few simple words to me would have easily resolved the issue and we all would have felt a lot less awkward.

Tags: 2010 Sarah


September 9th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Most places of worship, be they churches, cathedrals, synagogues or mosques make me feel intimidated and slightly targeted. I find that churches in particular seem dark and gloomy. The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir however, was quite the opposite. I had never been to a Hindu temple, never really knew much about the religion except for a few basic facts I retained from high school, and so I didn’t quite know what to expect. But the mandir with its intricately carved marble and limestone walls was breathtaking. The white stones have a brightening effect, creating an atmosphere optimism and light that I hadn’t found, at least not to the same degree, in any of the churches we have visited so far. The ritual that we observed (feeding the god-statues there afternoon meal) was also different from any religious experienced I had participated in before. I have always felt that in Judaism and Christianity (the religions I am most familiar with) that the music is more chant-like and dreary. The music we heard in the mandir however, was loud and lively and colorful. It was unashamedly celebratory, and I really responded to that.

(Picture taken from http://www.mandir.org/photogallery/mandirmood_day.htm)
I’m willing to bet that most of Western culture has no real concept of what Hinduism is, what its origins are, or how it is practiced. I was shocked when I learned how the statues are tended. They are fed, tucked in for a nap, and have their clothing changed just as one might a child. This is completely different from my own religious experience where idolatry is prohibited, based on the idea that one should only worship “The God” and that there is only one God.

Tags: 2010 Sarah