For the past ten years I have been on a peaceful mission. After studying engineering and
anthropology at Vanderbilt University and fulfilling a commitment the United States Navy the result of this scholarship, my life goal became clear: To be a part of the solution as opposed to being a part of the problem. The problems we experience in education today and more significantly the problems we have as a global family are mostly about resource distribution and human relations. The road between where we are today and where we want to be tomorrow goes in two directions. One way is in the direction of growth. The other is in the direction of history repeating itself.
As far as educating children goes, understanding communication and cooperation is essential. I say communication and cooperation as if they are the same thing, they are not. One can however be the by-product of the other. Communication is not always easy however we are all capable of transmitting and receiving information in one way or another. Experts tell us that almost 90% of all communication is non verbal. Without a proper reception, broadcasted information goes nowhere. Cooperation is often times the result of successful communication.
How do you inspire your children or your students to learn? I have spent the past ten years trying to answer this question and what I’m going to try do today is give you a summary of my work. A child that is interested in learning is easy to teach. After working with a lot of school groups, what I’ve noticed is that when children are in play mode they often have a hard time receiving information. Yet, if you try to teach a child how to climb a chain ladder hanging in a playground, they will listen and learn because it is important to them to make it to the top safely. How does this translate to teaching science for example in the class room?
What we know is that hands on learning works best. If we can give our students physical
examples to crash around the learning curve on, they will come out the other end knowing the material. Using playful activities to teach important lessons is a key to learning. As an educator if you can wow your students, you can inspire them to learn. Applying the information by demonstrating first hand how something works is the first step towards cooperation. The Original Egg Game is one way to make this happen. We have over 2000 sites using this activity with their children. Not only are we teaching science but by teaching the science of communication and cooperation we are sharing the science of life.
With the planet being a spinning egg shaped object there is considerable evidence that there has never been a better time to get groups of students working together to figure out just what it takes to keep an egg spinning. Often times people ask me how I came up with this idea. One thing I realized as a child growing up in Boston during the early 1970’s was that getting a solid education is not a guarantee. I was one of five inner city youth bused to an all black neighborhood. Although the teachers and students benefited enormously from this enrichment, a lot of Bostonians were upset by this program. When protesters started throwing stones at our bus and at the school breaking windows, the teachers went on strike to protect their students.
It was all a bit confusing. As an adult, I went on to study anthropology and discovered that pan-geographically there is one thing we all share in common, ethnocentricities. Fortunately another thing we all have in common is the love of play! We gain joy the result of the latter and we go to war the result of the former. It’s a seemingly never ending cycle. Let me again remind you of my goal stated above — to be a part of the solution as opposed to being a part of the problem. I believe if we would have had the egg game in Boston schools during the early 70’s people could have been cooperatively spinning stones rather than throwing them.
Today, we have three hundred egg games in the San Bernardino, CA after school programs where coordinators struggle because their students do not speak the same language. Again, 90% of all communication is non verbal. Participants do not need to speak the same language to play this egg game. This game is a peace keeping tool. In fact, several counselors are using it with their mediations.
Another interesting application is with special ed. One group in Lagunitas, CA kept an egg spinning for four hours. Students with autism, ADHD and other physical limitations are able to achieve success with this cooperative media. At a conference recently I had one teacher visit my exhibit who said, “Thanks so much for providing this curriculum, I have one autistic child in my classroom who tends to distract the other children. If I stop and give him the small board with an egg, he will sit and play for up to an hour which gives me the chance to get on with my lesson plan.”
The Original Egg Game has come a long way since 1995. Not only have our materials changed, our applications and user base have expanded considerably. We now have a written curriculum with video links on our web site. Clearly, the next 25 years are going to be about our global village learning to communicate and cooperate or we are going to have chaos. Let me assure you, bridging the gap between people and culture with play is a wild card that families and educators can use successfully to achieve their goals. My purpose with the Original Egg Game is to support each of you with your work. Thank you for such a warm reception.
-Erich Jonas works from his home in northwest Montana. He travels from city to city sharing the egg game with people at fairs and school conferences. His work can be reviewed on line @ http://www.egggame.com