One of the words that kept popping up at CMK14 was “whimsy”, and ideas about why whimsy matters have been percolating in my mind. Today I was reminded of this, when I was showing a really amazing teacher I know what can be done with a Makey Makey. (I showed her this video, which I imagine everyone has seen, but in case you haven’t, there it is!) The first thing she said was, “Why would you want to do that?”
And, of course there are many answers like, because it is fun, because you can, because it will give you another idea for something else to try, because it is inspiring to others. That being said, it is perfectly natural to have the reaction she had (and don’t get me wrong — she enjoyed the video very much!). As educators we are so programmed to not “waste” time, and it is pretty reasonable to be terrified of doing so.
So, what about whimsy, and the fear of wasting precious minutes on doing something that might be perceived by others as whimsical, and therefore lightweight and not significant (like a crocheted interactive reading cave, for example?) Here are two reasons!
First of all, whimsy is a great motivator! It gets people’s attention, because we crave the delight that it produces. If kids make something that makes other kids smile and laugh, they are going to want to share it with as many other kids as possible. Those kids are going to want to try to make something just as splendid, and they will then come up with something slightly different and also whimsical and marvelous, and it will create some kind of an intrinsically motivating learning cycle. In fact, maybe it should have an education-y graphic and name, like the Whimsy Industriousness Complex:
Secondly, whimsy can help you bond with your students and create classroom identity. When a teacher and her/his students create something whimsical together, it brings them closer. The delight the whimsicality creates among the participants is like a captivating little secret that only that group shares. It doesn’t matter if it is something techy-amazing made with 3 arduinos, a toaster oven and a llama or a ridiculous new verse to a classroom song for Morning Meeting. If you create something together and laugh about it together, it will strengthen the ties you have with and among your students and there is no doubt that will make your job easier and more fun, and everyone will learn more.
So as an advocate for whimsy, here’s an update on the (achingly slow progress of) my Interactive Reading Cave (or, just to stay education-y, the “IRC”.) Last week, I spent a bunch of time testing materials, and found that contrary to my original thought that I’d have to 3-D print a giant crochet hook to pull it off, a size P hook and four balls of simultaneously crocheted plarn would do the trick. (Do I still WANT to print a giant crochet hook? YES! I hope I do! I could probably crochet an entire classroom, or a bridge or something with that giant hook. )
Then I went on vacation for 5 days, and didn’t do much, so here’s what the IRC looks like today:
The promise of the whimsy/delight I will have when my second graders are reading in this cave is keeping me motivated! And, I am piously proud of all the plastic bags I am recycling.
In a couple of weeks, I am going to share my CMK14 experiences with the rest of our faculty and pitch my ideas for Tinker Time and our Makerspace. Of course, we’re going to spend the day making and tinkering, and I can’t wait, even though I know it will be a hard sell for some. I am going to have to bring all the motivating whimsy to the day I can possibly muster! Wish me luck…
PS — Here’s the tutorial I used to make the plarn — I just used plastic bags instead of t-shirts, which would also work well, I think!
Also, here is a whimsical picture from my vacation in Cook Forest State Park. Enjoy!