Professor Estelle Blair

June 16, 2020, 10:57 p.m.

Cultural Studies, All Years: Let's Get Crafty!

Ever since she finished her studies at the New Zealand Academy of Magic, too many years ago to think about, Estelle had received yearly invitations to join crafting challenges. ‘Crafty Hands, Crafty Wands’ was a non-profit organization driven by - as the name suggested - both manual labour and wandwork to connect magical residents with their Muggle neighbours. She had joined their student chapter during her time at NZAM, which apparently meant she was forever stuck on the mailing list.

She often threw some money at their fundraisers, but the timing had never worked for her to participate in their annual themed challenges. Either she had been a university student metaphorically over her head in papers, or working on her Egypt-based research literally over her head in sand, or in the middle of the school year and preoccupied with teaching, or extremely pregnant and preoccupied with lugging around a womb parasite. But this year, she was neither a student nor actively researching; the invitation had come over Midterm when things were slow enough that she could plan to fit it in; and she was only suspicious of being pregnant, not worth mentioning to anyone beyond her husband (she’d give it another month to be sure).

In other words, it was the perfect time to not only participate herself but get the students involved, too. Fostering Muggle relations and community responsibility while also not having to lesson-plan beyond the initial setup? It was a win all around, really.

“Stick close,” the short brunette called over her shoulder to the first, second, and third-years as she led them down Pearl Street. The first and second-years were barred from crossing the elevator’s Age Line by themselves, and the third-years she broadly mistrusted, so Estelle had elected to herd the entire group herself, with support from a couple older student volunteers. Each of the younger students had been given a wristband that would grow uncomfortably warm and vibrate if they wandered out of range. Meanwhile, the rest of the older students had been told to make their own way up and meet the group at exactly nine o’clock inside the foyer of the Foothills Ice Rink & Community Center, with a vague but ominous warning of what might happen if they misplaced themselves.

Upon arrival at the community center, Estelle waited until her watch turned nine and then clapped to get the attention of the gathered students. “G’day, all! Today’s class is in collaboration with ‘Crafty Hands, Crafty Wands’.” They might have already figured that out from on the colourful banner hanging overhead. Below the organization’s logo (a complicated symbol including two moons, a Hippogriff, and a willow tree) there was listed the Three E’s:

Encouraging a positive, philanthropic attitude towards Wizard-Muggle relations
Educating wizardkind on the value of working by hand to supplement magical skills
Empowering youth to take responsibility and ownership in their local communities

“Every year, they host a crafting challenge. This year it’s called ‘Keep Calm and Keep Active’, and RMI was invited to join.” They didn’t need to know exactly how that invitation had come about. “Some of you-” she made eye contact with a few students “-might be wondering why I’m having you do crafts for Cultural Studies. It’s actually a relevant overlap. Cultural Studies is, at its core, an analysis of different aspects of the relationship between magical and mundane communities. This is a chance for you to use some of the knowledge you’ve gained, both in terms of practical skills handling Muggle items as well as interacting with Muggle passersby; they might not know about RMI exactly, but they know there’s a lot of students in this area, and it’s important to build positive connections with those who live here. We’ll spend about an hour-and-a-half working and close with a brief discussion. For those of you worried about grades-” here she made eye contact with a few others “-you will be marked on participation and a written reflection, due at the end of this week. It can be any length, as long as you write thoughtfully about one thing you experienced today and tie it back to a previous class topic.”

From there, she launched into an explanation of what, exactly, the ‘Keep Calm and Keep Active’ challenge meant. Inside the community center, students could help make repairs to the well-used toys, books, and furniture found in the various small rooms that served alternatively as lounges, playrooms, and meeting spaces. Outside at the skating rink, similar repairs were needed for the benches, communal equipment, storage lockers, and outdoor lighting. Whether they used magic or hands plus available tools would depend on the presence of nearby Muggles - the Halfblood who managed the community center had advertised it as a community clean-up day to explain their presence, and while Estelle didn’t expect a huge public turnout on a brisk February morning, there was a good chance of stragglers wandering over throughout.

Having outlined both the general purpose and given examples of specific tasks, Estelle instructed the students to split into groups of twos or threes and head either further into the community center or back outside to the skating rink. She watched for a moment to ensure they did so before covertly flicking her fingers and vanishing the banner, just in case a Muggle popped their nose in early. She was about to do a lap of the community center when it occurred to her that the toolbox outside might include something more dangerous than a basic hammer and thus, Keeping Calm in appearance, she hurried out to make sure none of the more unpredictable students had staged a mutiny with a handsaw. (As it turned out, there were no blades, but she still wouldn’t put a mutiny past some of them, so spent the rest of the hour-and-a-half jogging laps to check on everyone. Maybe she should have recruited some extra help… Eh, nothing could go too wrong. They had made it this far already.)

[OOC: Have fun! Be creative! Mutinies get bonus points!]

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Cultural Studies, All Years: Let's Get Crafty! - Estelle Blair || June 16
Relations, you say? - Georgina Philpott || July 25