Archives aLive: “What is Sociology?”

Belén continues to write about her experience assisting with the widening participation project, Archives aLive at the MRC. In the third session, the students take over and ask “What is Sociology?”…

Throughout the first two sessions, as you can read on my other blog posts, we’ve focused mainly on the understanding and analysis of archives. Two sessions were more than enough to kick-start their experience with them and for the third session we changed things a little bit. The main theme of the third session was, “what is sociology?”. After the brilliant first couple of sessions organised and led by Nuala, it was now time for us, the helpers, to take over. Claire, Adam and I study sociology, at least as part of our degree, so with the help of Cath Lambert, who’s part of the department, we arranged the third sessions for the students. Cath was incredibly proactive and before we had finished our second session she already had come up with a rough plan for the third one! She had selected some material and come up with some activities, and we sat down with her to finalise the plan. This was one of the things I enjoyed the most about the third session, because it gave us the opportunity to use all we had learned in the previous ones about what worked and what didn’t with the students.

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Taking note from last week, the session started with a brainstorming activity, once again about unemployment. This time around we were discussing the question of who was to blame for unemployment; the individual or the state. It was then time for what I consider, one of the crucial parts of the session. We had put together a short presentation answering the questions “what is sociology?”, and it was definitely not an easy task to be able to explain the concept thoroughly enough in just around ten minutes! Nevertheless, by using relevant examples that the students could engage with I think we could say it was a success! Sociology is such a broad discipline, it can be difficult to define, but it was a good first contact for the students.P1020732For the rest of the session, we organised some activities that could help them grasp the role of a sociologist. First of all, we handed out some contemporary newspaper articles about unemployment, most of them published over the past year. They were doing a similar activity to the ones with archives, but with an emphasis on the contemporary aspect of it, and linking it to the practice of sociology. This was followed by the students creating their own archives by interviewing each other. This was the activity both groups enjoyed the most as, apart from thinking it was fun, they told us they got to know each other better!

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Overall, I am very glad we got the opportunity to lead a session, and it certainly was very fulfilling. Watching the students enjoy the activities and learn from them was the best thing without doubt. Although, if I have to choose my favourite moment of the session with both of the schools, it would be chatting with them about university and higher education hands down. Archives aLive is a project that has widening participation at the centre of it. So, naturally, being able to talk to them about their future in higher education felt like we were doing a good job. I study History and Sociology, so one of the students asked me about my course, as he loves history, especially all things medieval. Another student even told me she wanted to study at Warwick! We talked about the different courses they offered here, and especially about the extra-curricular activities and how they are a big part of university life. So far, this has been my favourite session, especially as it feels we know the students a bit more every week. I‘m really looking forward to the last session, where an artist is going to come to help them put on an exhibition. I’ll tell you all about it on my last blog post!

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Check back in next week for Belén’s last blog post.

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