April 23, 2019 | 61° F

Rutgers introduces underwater basket weaving class

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Underwater basket weaving was offered more than a decade ago but was not widely taken. It is being offered again this semester as a non-credited course.

Weaving a basket may seem like a straightforward task, but doing so while scuba diving underwater is another story.

Underwater basket making is a non-credit course under the Department of Recreation Services offered by Student Affairs at Rutgers, said scuba coordinator Debby Miller. Participants have the opportunity to get in the water and practice their basket making skills.

“In order to make baskets, the reeds and the basket weaving materials have to be wet,” Miller said. “And so we figured what better way to do that, rather than sitting on a pool deck or on a lawn with a bucket of water at your feet.

It gives people a chance to share a fun activity with their friends, to get into the water and work on their coordination and their creativity, give them a fun break from studying and an opportunity to try something new, she said.

The class had initially been offered about 12 years ago, she said, but it took a break before University officials began plans last fall to offer the class this spring. More than 60 people have participated throughout the semester so far.

Micah Lebowitz, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said he learned about the class through his friend and was determined to get involved from the get-go.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I could not pass up,” Lebowitz said, “I loved the class — it was the perfect combination of underwater recreation and arts and crafts.”

He did not experience any downsides or difficulties with the class. While some students would say the same, others had difficulties managing basket making underwater when first starting out, he said.

“Some catch on very quickly and have more elaborate baskets, (while) others do tend to struggle a little bit, and that’s where we have our instructors and our aquatic staff both in the water and on the deck helping people,” Miller said. “It takes a little bit of hand-eye coordination to be able to work with the weaving processes.”

People have made all different shapes of baskets and decorated them with different patterns, Miller said. So far this semester, there have been no problems, and the program will likely be offered again in the fall.

“It’s purely a recreational class just like any of the yoga or fitness classes that recreation services offers,” she said. “Our fun advertising is that if you get in the water and you attempt to make a basket, at the end of the night we give you a free t-shirt.”

Lebowitz said he would recommend this class to other students, and the class “took ‘underwater basket weaving’ as a fictional collegiate course, and made it a reality.”

The class is a single session course and is offered for about three hours from 7 to 10 p.m. in the evenings, Miller said. So far, it has been offered on a variety of weeknights on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

Students do not need any prior scuba diving, basket weaving or swimming skills to participate, but rather just the skills of being able to come in and have fun and share with others, Miller said.

The class participates in shallow waters of about four feet, so even those who do not swim can still participate, she said.

Miller said it has been really surprising and fun how the class has been attracting undergraduate students and graduate students at all levels at Rutgers and even faculty members.

“You could imagine taking your underwater basket class alongside someone who also helped you do some personal training or taught you biology that morning,” she said.


Samantha Karas is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and English. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @samanthakaras for more.

Samantha Karas

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