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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2012

Hartley Jafine's class in the winter semester of 2012

Learning and play mix in the classroom

Hartley Jafine
Hartley Jafine

Step into Hartley Jafine's Theatre for Development Class and you get to play for three hours.

On any given day, the Bachelor of Health Sciences (B.H.Sc.) instructor and facilitator will come to class with toys, clothes, a cane, a faux fur hat and a lab coat and ask students to assume a personality using the objects they select.

Student Melissa XP Koh said she was initially skeptical of the relevancy of Jafine's class since it was an arts-based course, offered as an option in the B.H.Sc. program.

"Hartley showed me though that arts-based research and skills often goes hand-in-hand with science," said the 20-year-old. "And, I learned the importance of having role play in my life."

Jafine won the 2011-2012 McMaster Students Union's Excellence in Teaching Award.

In his class capped at 15 students, Jafine teaches students to use creativity through scene work and drama exercises, designed to develop transferable skills, such as communication and collaboration.

"Theatre skills are life skills," he said. "People think play is frivolous, but it can be very useful and in the class, we play, and through the play, the learning happens."

For this fall, Jafine and assistant professor of clinical epidemiology and biostatistics Steven Hoffman developed extra-curricular workshops, which are a pilot project for the students. The workshops will touch on presentation skills and communicating with others in different fields.