Last week I had an opportunity to participate in Discovery Center of Idaho’s Bricks exhibit. I offered a two hour LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® workshop for families with kids 10 years old and up. The big question we explored was “What challenges must we solve before our ten year olds have ten year olds?” This proved to be a perfect context, and several key insights were uncovered.
Before I jump into the debrief though, I must plug the awesome work that went into the Bricks exhibit. It is really well thought out, and goes way beyond what I anticipated. It is great for kids and adults, and if you haven’t been yet, make it a priority. Find out more about Bricks.
As with any LEGO SERIOUS PLAY workshop, the first hour is skill building; guiding participants through why and how LEGO SERIOUS PLAY works, exploring the core process, and demonstrating the difference between building from instructions versus building from your imagination. It was a little bit slow to start, but we eventually “got of the ground”, and by the time we built the final model in skill building we had all sorts of towers that generated energy, ranging from solar to wind to nuclear power.
Identifying challenges faced by ten year olds today
The first individual models that I asked participants to build were to represent one challenge that ten year olds face currently. This was where the power of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY really shone through, as the answers were very big problems indeed. We had some models that you might expect; global warming, gun violence and lack of access to quality education. There were a few models that spoke to the gravity of the situation that ten year olds face today; bullying due to appearance, anxiety from crowds, and lack of social skills.
The second round of individual model building resulted in another round of challenges, including: sexism and racism, food health and security, bad educational foundations, lack of clean water, inability to acquire wealth, pollution from fossil fuels, and parental incarceration. Keep in mind that most of these answers came from kids ages 10 – 12.
The challenge landscape
Once we had individual models on the table, we created a landscape model, where each participant negotiated the placement of their model on the table, relative to others. The closer the two things were to one another in space, the closer they were related. The fact that all of these models had some relationship with other models on the table was obvious, and the realization was a somewhat stark moment. The sharing and reflection that happened in response to the landscape was a very intense moment. Within less than 90 minutes, we had got to the realization of just how serious these challenges were. I almost felt the mood of the room turning to a pretty dark place, so I quickly got to the final prompt, which was intended to leave everyone on a positive note, and feeling empowered.
What can I do about it?
Feeling the weight of these challenges, I asked participants to build a model that represented one thing that they could do right now, to address one or more of these problems. Some of the solutions were incredible. One model for example, was that they could work with their school to help identify and prevent bullying. Another, was to help fundraise for organizations that provide scholarships for under privileged youth. Another was to support companies that are innovating in the green energy space.
At the end of the day, participants left with a clear understanding of the challenges that are facing ten year olds today, and actionable steps that they could take to improve the situation. We didn’t solve all of the worlds problems, but I feel like we made a dent.
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