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Sign up for lifelong learning in the Learning Zone


Upstairs from the Work Zone at the Dome is the Learning Zone sponsored by Tesco to link with their schools for computers initiative and a new school-net project to record the aspirations of today’s young people. The entrance is an exaggerated replica of the traditional old school corridor, complete with doors, lockers, rubbish, noticeboards, graffiti and gowned teaching staff. This is everything you hated about school – except the Dettol smell which somehow seemed to be missing. The school corridor turns out to be a holding area for the cinema show taking within the Assembly Hall next door. The show lasts around 10 minutes and consequently you’re left waiting in this depressing reminder of our childhood. A large number of people seem to get fed up at this stage and leave the Zone: it’s too uncomfortable, unwelcoming and depressing. I suspect that reflects the success of the organisers in re-kindling people’s experience of traditional schooling, but the escape of vistors at this stage means that they miss the best part of the Zone.

Through in the Assembly Hall, you’re treated to a series of images and scenes of one girl’s life in school. It’s hugely realistic on the large screen, complete with appearances from actors. There is no dialogue so you have to work at interpreting the story line. The absence of dialogue makes it easier for the many non-English visitors expected to come to the Dome, but I wonder how many of them will identify with the very traditional St Luke’s school. Just when you’re becoming slightly bored with the story line, the seed of learning from the tree of knowledge starts to take effect. It’s full of symbolism and still requires some work, but do stay with it. As the story builds towards its conclusions, the result is strangely emotional; this part has been excellently scripted and filmed. The final climax to the film is both breathtaking and visually stunning. I’m reluctant to spoil the surprise; but there’s no way you could guess what happens next. It’s a powerful and moving invitation to engage yourself personally in a renewed quest for learning. For me, the final part of this Zone was one on the real highlights of the day at the Dome.

The Learning Zone is so much better than the Work Zone in achieving its goal. The message is clear and – eventually – well delivered. The opening sequence of the Zone is off-putting and the film itself is probably too long, but it’s worth trying to put up with these drawbacks in order to get the final sequence. Go see it for yourself if you want to be convinced about learning.


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