The other night the kids arrived to find jungle animals marooned on a mountain top with their relatives safely nestled on an island far away. How were the animals to get to the other side? What obstacles lay in their way?
To introduce the challenge we had set up our own “story” and demonstrated all aspects of the activity. We wanted to make the expectations of the tasks clear so as to free up all mental effort on the content itself.
The participants were told to a) consider why the animals were running away b) think of what 2 obstacles may be waiting for them and c) plan the trek/ways around the obstacles. All three steps required a foot be placed in fantasy, while the other be grounded in what they knew. Think of what else each of these steps exercise -- counterfactual thinking, perspective-taking, retrieving and building upon knowledge of animals and jungles/mountains, considering contraptions/escapes and so much more.
The kids were divided into two groups - with two stories to play out. They were given a large piece of paper on which they noted why their animals were trying to escape (rabid mountain lions of course) and what obstacles might be awaiting. Once they settled on these story elements it was time to plan - to draw up the blueprints of what needed to be built to aid the journey to the island. Bridges were built over the river, parachute elevators and ziplines to make it off the mountain and of course a hooked cage to trap the fire-throwing octopus. After building and testing the groups took turns ‘acting out’ their stories to each other. It was thrilling to see some take such an interest in each other’s work as they very seriously asked questions about completely absurd scenarios.
‘What if a fireball goes through the cage?!” to which Max replied, “Well, that’s what the tentacle hooks are for!”