_ESQ3997.JPGNorthwestern students looking for an alternative spring break can now immerse themselves in the riches of the Chicago area during a new for-credit, five-day crash course in the arts and humanities.

Students of all majors can attend a closed rehearsal of the new mariachi opera at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, take a drawing class at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe and learn improv techniques at The Second City before a performance.

Funded by Northwestern’s Kaplan Institute for the Humanities in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, “The Humanities Plunge” will be held March 23 to 27.

The course essentially covers a humanities “bucket list,” including movies, theater, dance, architectural tours, museum visits and culinary adventures.


For sustenance during the five-day course, students will sample a variety of ethnic restaurants around the city.


At the same time, faculty members will provide a structured framework to help students critically assess the experience. To earn half a credit, students need to write three blog posts during the week, and a short reflective paper is due during the spring term.


“It’s not only about having fun and going on interesting field trips, but also about giving the students a lens through which they can view the different events,” said Thomas Burke, assistant director for the Kaplan Institute.


During a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden, for example, Sheila Wille, the Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Humanities at the Kaplan Institute, will talk about the history of botanical and entomological illustration, primarily in Europe during the Age of Exploration. After the lecture, the students will take a botanical drawing class with one of the art teachers at the Botanic Garden.


“The great thing about this part of the ‘plunge’ is that they will get to learn the history of art and science ‘armchair’ knowledge and then they will actually try to practice that art and science,” Wille said. “These are complementary ways of learning history that also will give them a sense of where scientific illustration is today.”


Event tickets, transportation and some meals are free for the students.


For more information, including a tentative schedule of events, visit the Humanities Plunge website. To read the original version of this story, visit the Northwestern News Center.

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