― Jeanne M. Slattery (with Melissa K. Downes, ghostwriter)
Right now, I am buried under exams and papers; however, Friday night Mark Mitchell and I stayed at Harvey Hall until 9:30pm with a bunch of vampires, witches, and wild animals. Why?
This time of the semester, when papers and exams come due, is rife with tension for many students (and faculty). Although it took considerable time and energy to plan an autopsy room, Count Dracula’s den, an optical illusion room, and a ghastly story room, Psychology Club and Psi Chi had a great time and so did the people young and old who came to be scared (and fed).
In giving to others, making scary things new and fresh and fun, and considering how to best scare people of all ages, our students were actually building skills that are very consistent with our curricular goals and that will be useful in their future careers.
And, they ate “eyeballs” while doing it.
Our presence, while completely unnecessary from a material point of view, recognized that the practice of learning does not just happen with books, PowerPoints, and exams, and that important learning takes place both in and out of the classroom. Being there allowed us to ask our students to actively reflect on their experience, as many will be working on this project next year ― and planning other major events over the course of their careers. What is too scary for five-year-olds? Were there enough events for the little ones? How do you (safely) scare college students?
Perhaps most importantly, Mark and I were able to see our students do great work on a project that was important to them, and do work well beyond our wildest expectations.
Those of us at Hand in Hand join with Psychology Club and Psi Chi in wishing all of you a very Happy and Haunted Halloween!
Thanks to Melissa K. Downes for suggesting that we write this piece. Many of the words and ideas here are hers. Thanks to Psychology Club and Psi Chi for their work on this project and for their members’ willingness to let us share these photos.
Jeanne M. Slattery is a professor of psychology at Clarion University. She is interested in thinking about what makes teaching and learning successful, and generally describes herself as a learner-centered teacher. She has written two books, Counseling diverse clients: Bringing context into therapy, and Empathic counseling: Meaning, context, ethics, and skill (with C. Park), and is writing Trauma, meaning, and spirituality: Research and clinical perspectives. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org