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String Games for Connected Learning: Ambidexterity, Collaboration, and the Power of Personal Repertoire

Author: Fred Mindlin

Learning string games in a group provides an opportunity to model self-directed, collaborative learning, following the CCSS and good pedagogy/mathetics. This is an interactive, participatory session. All participants get a loop of string and will learn activities to enable string learning with any group in almost any subject area.

What makes this topic generative?

(i.e., compelling, intersects with other ideas)

Learning string games in a group inevitably reveals our differences in facility at the process, so if the early learners are recruited as teachers for the later ones, a naturally collaborative group dynamic ensues. At the same time, there is such a rich variety of extensions and possibilities that each person soon has a unique set of skills and accomplishments, so the model for assembling a personal repertoire of skills arises organically. These two fundamental aspects of learning – self-direction and collaboration – can then be readily transferred to apply to any area of knowledge acquisition. The sequential nature of the string manipulations and the payoff at the conclusion of the process help develop memory and executive function. The ambidextrous and fine-motor demands of the process create new pathways across the two hemispheres of the brain, enabling the development of logical thinking and creativity as complementary processes.

Tie-ins to curricular areas include writing, math, history, social studies, art, and performance. The possibilities, like the strings used to make the figures, are endless... This framework for learning string games also provides a liberating opening to social justice issues. Almost every culture worldwide has a form of string play, and appreciating this commonality of human experience and the role of play in childhood helps us transcend other differences as we advance our communication skills.

What are your Understanding Goals?

1) Lasting learning requires self-direction, and once we appreciate the importance of this perspective, we better appreciate the utility of curating a portfolio which reflects one's personal repertoire

2) Collaboration requires patience, kindness, and the communication skills to turn failure into a learning opportunity

3) Delving into the subtle and detailed differences among human cultures paradoxically enables us to appreciate the common elements they share

What hands on activities or experiences

will you have participants engage in?

We will learn string games by doing them, and also by teaching them to others once we have learned. We will also learn and practice a neurologically derived series of finger and hand exercises to enhance ambidexterity, fine motor control, and linkages across the two of hemispheres of the brain. We will share family stories about play and its role in childhood development. We will hear and observe stories told with string, and practice developing a story of our own. We will explore curricular connections to string figures and gather our own resources to use in incorporating string learning into our professional practice.

What will you expect participants to take away from your workshop?

The three Understanding Goals outlined above,

1) Lasting learning requires self-direction, and once we appreciate the importance of this perspective, we better appreciate the utility of curating a portfolio which reflects one's personal repertoire

2) Collaboration requires patience, kindness, and the communication skills to turn failure into a learning opportunity

3) Delving into the subtle and detailed differences among human cultures paradoxically enables us to appreciate the common elements they share

each reflect a different level of transformation to our teaching practice. For each individual, coming to self-direction is a choppy process, and experiencing new and challenging learning tasks ourselves can help us appreciate the struggles each of our students engages in daily. Sharing these experiences in a group setting gives us opportunities to practice the communication skills essential to collaboration and the kindness needed to allow for failure as a key ingredient to learning. Recognizing the universality of many aspects of human culture deepens our commitment to social justice and mutual respect.

How will you determine the effectiveness of your course?

(i.e., feedback, rubric)

String figure mastery is easy to demonstrate: can you show us the figure? Writing about the collaborative learning activities in which we engage helps to deepen our understanding, and sharing our epiphanies as we practice new and challenging activities amplifies those understandings. Group interaction directly manifests its effectiveness through mutual appreciations and the sharing of stories. I will also invite participants to continue the multilogue we begin through online connections in a Google Plus Community.

How does your mini course align with one of the three strands?

Strand 1: To prepare young people to take care of themselves, Strand 2: To prepare young people to take care of each other, Strand 3: To prepare young people to take care of the planet

As I discuss in the sections on Understanding Goals and what participants will take away from the session, aspects of string game learning align with each of the three strands. As each participant – and each of their subsequent students – begin to recognize the importance of self-direction in learning, they naturally organize and catalog their learning. The role of a portfolio to reflect the development of a personal repertoire can then be transferred to any area of learning. As learners attempt to teach others, they practice communication and kindness with each other. And as we all recognize the universality of so many aspects of human culture, we gradually transcend the differences which have heretofore created conflict.

Audience for your Mini Course (please check all that apply below)

K-5 Classroom Teachers, 6-8 Classroom Teachers, 9-12 Classroom Teachers, K-12 Classroom Teachers, Teaching Artists/Arts Educators, Museum Educators

Fred Mindlin is a teaching artist, an arts integration advocate, and a social justice activist

with a passion for string games, writing, and digital storytelling.

DMU Timestamp: April 29, 2015 20:40





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