"Laughing Matters" Course Engages Students of All Ages

August 25, 2020 Caitlin Burns

By Caitlin Joyce '20

What’s in a laugh? Celeste Walker, associate professor of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies, will virtually teach students about gelotology, the science of laughter, in her class “Laughing Matters” this upcoming fall semester. 

When held in-person, the course involves a five-week field study segment where Arcadia students collaborate with third, fourth, and fifth grade students from the School District of Philadelphia John S. Jenks School’s after school program. 

However, this semester students will collaborate with children of the Arcadia community to discover what they find hilarious. Walker invites students, faculty, and staff to enroll their children in the five-week “Laughing Matters” online afterschool program, held each Wednesday from Oct. 21 to Nov. 18 from 3:10 to 4:30 p.m. Arcadia students will conduct field work by creating original games and exercises with the children in Zoom breakout groups, and analyze what elements of their projects make children laugh the most. 

“I ask all of my students to 'step out of their comfort zones' in order to fully engage in all of the exercises and games that make us laugh,” said Walker. “By participating and contributing to the fieldwork, students will take on the role of teacher/mentor by immersing themselves in a cross-cultural experience with students coming from diverse cultures and socio-economic backgrounds."

During the rest of the semester, Arcadia students will learn about the political and sociological aspects of comedy, as well as the physiological and psychological processes that drive the act of laughing. 

Understanding the universality of laughter is one way to bridge gaps between people of all cultures, according to Walker.

“By understanding and analyzing humor theories, philosophies and practices we can begin to understand how laughter and humor plays a part in our identity both as individuals and subcultures,” said Walker. “Humor can be used as a framework for thinking about equality, inequality, and our ability to cross boundaries with society."

Arcadia community members interested in enrolling their children in “Laughing Matters” can contact Walker at walkerc@arcadia.edu.

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