APPLETON, Wis. - On a cold November afternoon in Appleton, dozens of Lawrence University students silently sat on the floor to take in poetry. One girl knitted, another stared out the window, a boy closed his eyes while wrapped in a blanket.
It's part of a newly-launched weekly course designed to teach college students how to unplug and be fully present. In its first semester, the course called Doing Nothing, became one of the most popular courses at the university. It is one credit, once a week, and no cellphones are allowed in the class.
Constance Kassor, associate professor of religious studies, introduced the course. She brings in rotating speakers each week.
"What we’re actually doing in this course is we’re offering skills. We’re teaching skills to students, so they can intentionally de-stress and unplug and do things other than constantly feel that pressure to perform," Kassor said.
During the first semester, students learned the importance of healthy sleep habits, deep thinking, tai chi, and meditation. The class gives students permission to sit still.
"There’s not homework, no reading, there’s no final exam. Students have to show up, participate in the best of their abilities, and not look at their phones," Kassor said.
Following the poetry session, Diego Leon shared his thoughts.
"I don’t remember the last time someone read poetry to me or the last time I read poetry," Leon said. "Something I’m going to walk away with from this class is prioritizing my well-being and realizing I need space for myself to really show up."
Students and professors say the course is giving space and attention to the mental health of students.
A lot is happening in a class labeled 'Doing Nothing.'
"If students take away any one of these ten different skills that we have offered to them, if they take any part of any of that away with them and apply it on their own, outside the context of this class, I think that would be a success" Kassor said.