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SoC First Year Seminar: Interdisciplinary Topics in Communication Arts & Sciences (101-0-1)


Serious Play: From the Sandbox to the Stage


Elizabeth Spencer Norton

Roxane H Heinze-Bradshaw
1949 Campus Drive Office 224

Meeting Info

Frances Searle Building 2378: Tues 12:30PM - 1:50PM

Overview of class

"Play" is often directly contrasted with "work," and is often seen as childish, frivolous, and fanciful. However, play is an important context in which children, and adults, learn and communicate, and is a topic of rigorous academic study across disciplines. This seminar brings together two threads of study related to the art and science of play. In the first half of the course, they are traced in parallel. The first thread, the art of play, focuses on the history and development of Viola Spolin's foundational and ubiquitous theatre games, and their surprising grounding in the early academic studies of play by Neva Boyd, NU Faculty from 1927-1941, who was an early proponent of the importance of play and its academic study, and Spolin's mentor. The second thread, the science of play, is a look at the child's ontological development of play skills, informed by Piagetian and modern insights, with a focus on how play drives communication development. In the second half of the course, we bring the two threads together, as students collaboratively engage in and reflect on the art and science of Spolin's games. For example, students learn and play the Mirror game, exploring it within the context of the study of acting and performance, as well as how it depends on the brain's mirror neuron system and how parents of Autistic children are taught to match turns with their child's communication.

Registration Requirements

Enrollment is restricted to SoC undergraduate first year students.

Learning Objectives

1.To deepen understanding about, and encourage enthusiasm for, research related to diversity. 2.To learn about how scholars from different disciplines examine scientific questions, including the varied methods they use in the process. 3.To engage with scholars from across SoC, including through thoughtful in-class questions and discussion. 4.To consider the many different aspects of the field for communication could be examined and understood and even what cross-disciplinary collaboration might look like.

Class Attributes

SOC First-Year Seminar

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Reserved for School of Communication Freshmen & Sophomores only.