The Blog of Justin Loutsch

I don't know the question, but the answer is 42!


I'm Justin, and I live in Boston. I'm a huge geek into process automation and work reduction, and am also an editor at Eat Your Serial. Thanks for dropping by!

Hands-On Creativity

Imaging being handed a printout of this wikipedia page and being told you get to teach a bunch of kids about that part of Germany.  Never mind that it’s all in German, let’s pretend you can read that stuff.  You only have 30 minutes to get through the whole thing.  How do you decide what’s important enough to mention to the kids, and what should be left out?  More importantly, how do you keep them engaged the whole time and interested in the material when they may only be able to understand half of it (and some times much less) to begin with?  This was my challenge.

To start with, I found the area of the Ruhr region and found a state in the USA of approximately the same size (Rhode Island).  I made 2 squares of the same size out of duct tape on the floor, and told them one square was Rhode Island and the other was the Ruhr region.  I had one or 2 people stand in Rhode Island, while all the others stood together in the Ruhr square, which was quite cramped.  A person from Rhode Island would then spin around with their arms out.  I asked one from the Ruhr square to do the same, but this was not possible due to the number of people surrounding them.  I did this to illustrate the difference in population density between the 2 areas of approximately the same size.

Next, we discussed the rivers of the region (Ruhr, Emscher, and Lippe) and why so many cities might have been built around them (transportation).  Then we discussed industry (coal mining, car manufacturing) and split off into 3 groups, where I designated one job for each group.  Coal miners, car manufacturers, and boat drivers.  I even got some coal from a coal-fired pizza shop in Minneapolis, so they could see what coal looks like since so few modern young people need to use coal.  While the miners mined, the car builders made cars, and when each group was done they called the boat, which came over to pick up the goods from each station and take them down the river to Munich.

After a hard day of work, I mimed wanting to relax or have fun, and asked the kids what they do in their free time (to encourage them to use newly learned vocabulary from class).  We then talked about the favorite sport of Germany, soccer, and how there are lots of teams from that area because there are so many people (just like Chicago and NYC have more than 1 baseball team) and after this the groups were divided into teams to play foosball for the last 10 minutes.

This setup kept the kids engaged, instead of sitting and zoning out since they were not all able to understand everything I said, and then let them have fun by moving around, pretending to build things, and play foosball.  Overall I was very happy with the setup, but it came a long way from a wikipedia entry.