Amy Milne-Smith, is using an unorthodox teaching practice in her Victorian Crime, Sex and Scandal course for Wilfrid Laurier University. Milne-Smith has students learn about Victorian crimes using Peeps marshmallows to create dioramas. The popular bunny and chick shaped treats serve as a way to present Milne-Smith’s class materials beyond a research paper.
“"I wanted to get them to engage with these sources in a very concrete way, but with the end result being a little bit more interesting and interactive than just a research essay might be,” she told CBC News Kitchener-Waterloo.
Students are being graded on the positioning and setting of the dioramas. The main point, Milne-Smith explains, is not artistry but rather demonstrating knowledge of how the crimes took place. The dioramas are recreation of Victorian crime scenes focused on the setting and how the crimes happened. Milne-Smith remarks that the Peeps keep the project focused on the positioning and how the crime occurred rather than creating an artistic masterpiece.
The work and research of Milne-Smith’s students can be found here. Titled “Peep Shows” the dioramas cover everything from assassinations to Victorian scandals. According to the site, the goal of the project is, “examine shifting definitions of crime, new theories of sexuality, and spectacular representations of violence through both current scholarship and a range of primary sources. Site visitors can also view student research as well as a series of blog posts covering specific topics such as, “The Great Dock Strike” and “The Prison Cell of Mary Ann Cotton
"These dioramas are absolutely grounded in the material culture of the past and students realize how hard it is to find out what would a working class house look like, what would a farm look like, what are these interior spaces like. And they spend as much research time doing that as on the particular crime scene details,” Milne-Smith told CBC.
Milne-Smith’s students examine how crimes occurred and in what context. Wilfrid Laurier University’s online bachelor of arts in criminology and policing focuses on why crimes are committed. Students are given the chance to delve into the criminal mind through psychology courses and learn how to protect public interests through policing courses. The program is 100% online and allows individuals to pursue a career public safety while maintaining their personal and professional lives.
Source: CBC News Kitchener-Waterloo