Sunshine 85 deg F, Humidity 73%
Day 2 of the Divergent Thinking seminar went as well as Day 1. The students are eager to learn and try to cooperate, even when the language issues make it difficult at times.
I started by allowing students to share something from the journals they were assigned yesterday. Many were willing to share and I was impressed with what they wrote. Much of the material we worked with yesterday was reported by at least one student to lead to an important insight by one or more students. The following are a few of the insights that came up:
This class is not stressful, we are learning by thinking and not by rote, which is stressful.
I learned that different people see different things in the same image.
I learned that a problem can have multiple solutions and that different solutions can be right for different people.
I learned that when we work in groups I can learn ideas from other people.
I learned that thinking outside the box allows you to learn things that can help not only you, but others as well.
We must take time to think to find mutiple solutions to a problem and to study which is the best one.
I am looking forward to seeing how the journals change as the seminar progresses.
The students were introduce to the Tricky Q’s with Q1: What is the color of the bus driver’s eyes? They started out puzzled by it, but made up some interesting scenarios before one student figured it out. I expected difficulty with this – probably none of them had ever encountered this type of question before. I will keep popping them up and see if they get better with practice.
What’s in a School Bag went easily at first. Their ability to make the lists was better than I anticipated. They found the request to add a non-school-related item to their list more difficult. It took some coaching for many of them to move away from seeing the only utility of the bag as carrying items to school. I collected their lists, but can’t get much information from them, since most of the information is written in Creole. I think this exercise may be modified or deleted from future seminars.
After the break, the group was introduced to: What Happpens Next: Renel buys an airplane ticket to a place outside Haiti. Where is he going? Why? What happens next? This last question is repeated each time it is answered. At first some students were puzzled. Then one made up an answer: New York City. From there they quickly got the idea and created a long list of things that happened to Renel in his life. When I told them that it was time to go and asked how it should end, one student promptly replied: “He dies”! They thought it was great fun – even Renel, who is in the group.
The educational experience of most Hatian students is of a classroom where the learning is by rote, the discipline is rigid and questioning the teacher, who is very often poorly prepared, will get you thrown out of the class. I see them laughing and joking with their friends, but in the classroom the do not feel comfortable with humor. It is hard for me to tell, when I crack a joke, whether they do not understand or are afraid to laugh. I am trying to convince them that learning can be fun and that it is OK to make outrageous suggestion when trying to solve a problem. I think today was start – they had great fun having Renel get married and have 12 children.
Haiti has very few textbooks that are written in Creole and often classes have no text or written materials. While Haiti has a rich heritage of internationally known and respected poets and writers, the students have little exposure to their writings. Their is almost no children’s literature available to introduce them to story-telling. A second goal of these exercises is to introduce them to making up tales, even crazy ones. I hope those skills and the freedom to express offbeat ideas that goes with it can be transferred to solving problems as well as making life more fun.
The Tower Building exercise I borrowed from Dr. Mercedes McGowen. She used it to build math skills in underachieving high school students. I used the first part, which is to build towers (stacks) of blocks 4 blocks high using two colors of blocks. The objective is to build as many unique towers as possible and explain how you could be sure that it was the maximum. The students worked in 4 groups. All 4 got the correct number, 16, but used different ways to make their argument. Two groups arrived by seeing a pattern that they could build and knew they were finished when the pattern was complete, but they used different patterns. A student in the third group recognized that they were looking for all the Combinations of 4 items taken 2 at a time. The fourth group had the sixteen towers built and made the wrong guess that it is because 4 is the square root of 16.
It was another example of a problem that can be solved in multiple ways and required some analytical thing in the process.
I stopped at this point with Dr. McGowen’s exercise and add a different tower building problem. The blocks are small, 1 cm, cubes that interlock. The assignment is to build the tallest tower you can with the 200 blocks available. A tower built with a single stack of blocks more than 12-15 high will not stand on its own.
This exercise went better than expected. All 4 groups huddled around their blocks, trying various ways to stack them and failing frequently. The had intense discussions and then proceeded to make some structures that worked. By the end of the half hour we had left in class, the had built 4 towers ranging in height from 43 cm to 59 cm. There was some good engineering in them and I could see some of what they had planned. They complained that they could have gone higher, so I promised to try to find them a full hour on another day.
The students were tired by the end of the day. Perhaps its a sign that their brains are burning a lot of calories.
I have more goodies planned for tommorow. Stop in again for next installment.
I would be happy to get your comments.