Building Opportunities for Investigation with Passive Media

The first sign is easy to see, but not particularly exciting: a plain old brown arrow on an off-white sign, about 8″x12″.  It stands halfway up the upper cabin trail and, by all appearances, points randomly into the woods.

If you take the time to look carefully into those woods, though, you’ll see the next sign.

"Rotate"

"Enhance"

The next sign has an arrow on it that points in a new direction, where, if you walk a little ways, there’s a third arrow waiting.  There are six arrows in total; the seventh sign is a cute little thing with a message about curiosity and a place for people who find it to write or carve their names.  It takes about ten minutes to get from the beginning to the end.  It takes you past some old ruins and an old low ropes course that’s fallen into disrepair and been forgotten.

It’s awesome.

This is one of the tools I use to teach my campers (students) to be curious, and I love it because both the initiative and the payoff come from the student.  No parent or teacher tells the intrepid explorer that he did a good job or a bad job – the kid feels great from within himself, and gets practice setting his own values (and working for them!).  If he doesn’t want to follow the arrow, or only wants to follow a few… fine!  There’s not the suggestion of pressure to complete the task that comes built in to explicit instructions.  In fact, the utter lack of instructions increases the mystery of the thing: “what is this arrow for?”  The arrow itself is inherently interesting, somehow.  Why?  And how can we get more of this magic in our text books and our classrooms?

PS: A new presentation is up in the convention center!

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