Connecting through silence
Published: Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Updated: Monday, August 9, 2010 14:08
The only sound the staff of Camp Utaba heard last weekend was laughter, and lots of it.
Friday and Saturday, the Deaf Education Student Association (DESA) sponsored its 13th annual Silent Weekend at Camp Utaba, near Ogden. Jan Kelley-King, a professor in Utah State University's deaf education department, said Silent Weekend began as a way to encourage sign language students' contact with Deaf Culture.
More than 60 people from all across northern Utah gathered for this voiceless event to practice their sign language skills, associate with deaf students and participate in games and workshops. Sign language students from USU, Salt Lake Community College and Weber State University attended.
Everyone who attended took an oath of silence. Punishment for speaking consisted of pushups for first-time offenders and "community service" for repeat mistakes. DESA leaders threatened punishment as severe as cleaning the bathrooms.
Oddly enough, the deaf students were among the first to "drop and give me 10."
Ellen O'Hara, a deaf student at USU, was caught calling out to a student to get his attention.
O'Hara said she has been trained to be bilingual - signing with her deaf friends and speaking with other people. She said it was hard for her to restrain herself to strictly signing with everyone, deaf or not.
As part of a series of workshops, Jonathan Roberts, another USU deaf student presented important aspects of American Sign Language (ASL), which included facial expression, body language, classifiers and sign vocabulary.
Roberts said he had the group practice expressing emotions through facial expressions and body language. Participants mimed walking on hot coals, a fistfight and falling in love with a mouse.
Silent Weekend culminated with impromptu skits, among which included pirates, beach parties and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Jaci Croxford, a sophomore in USU's special education department, said she has been learning sign language since high school.
She is the Residential Assistant for the ASL floor in Moen Hall. Croxford said she enjoyed Silent Weekend because even on the themed floor there are few opportunities to practice ASL when no one is talking.
Croxford said she has attended Silent Weekend for the past two years. She said she enjoyed this year more because she knows more sign and was less worried about being corrected.
"[Signing] just becomes more natural," Croxford said about the weekend. "It's about confidence - just being used to it."