In Part 1 of our Anatomy of a Superlative Big Brain Adventure, we looked at how we determined that our recent BBS field trip to Carkeek Park was a success. As challenging and ambiguous as it may be to make such a determination, understanding and articulating the tools that were employed to facilitate the event’s success is an infinitely more challenging and ambiguous task. For starters, it all begins with Big Brains—Who are they? What inspires and motivates them, individually and collectively? What are their strengths and concerns?—etc. For instance, you wouldn’t take just any random set of kids off the street and set them loose in an oceanside forest with $$$ worth of technology for half a day (well, maybe you would, but we wouldn’t). So, let’s stipulate that not all our actual inputs will be enumerated in this one catalog and instead try to capture the overall gist of what we consider to be our known inputs.
Input #1: Trust
- Seattle Parks staff and volunteers and their substantive commitment to facilitating a field trip that maximizes positive Big Brain development;
- Big-Brained Superhero Buddies and volunteers and our collective commitment to try hard, be kind, and have fun.
As ambiguous as it seems, we know trust when we deploy and experience it, and for this adventure to be a success, we definitely needed it.
Input #2: Space and freedom to explore
Carkeek Park and all the diverse environments and experiences it offers combined with 3+ hours for Big Brains to explore those offerings made for an invaluable and incomparable Big Brain adventure. We could go on about the relative freedom Big Brains had to explore this place in their own time in their own way, but then we may be circling back to trust already. So, let’s keep fixated on the environment, which was fully stocked with curiosity stimulants, as evident in the 700+ photos and videos Big Brains captured, such as:
Because these are just some of the many many things they took pictures of, we have to assume that these are just some of many many things that interested Big Brains on this field trip. And because not all of the Big Brains photographed these same objects, we have to assume that a wide diversity of potential curiosity stimulants mattered as did the freedom for Big Brains to observe them.
Input #3: Care
Being hugely resource-intensive for us, field trips are never simply a box-checking exercise in The Big-Brained Superheroes Club. So, if we’re going to do them, we’re going to do everything we can to give ourselves the highest probability that we’ll feel a sense of success afterward. Care facilitates our success in so many ways because it’s fundamentally based in knowing who Big-Brained Superheroes are, as individuals and as a group. For our Big-Brained Superheroes on this particular trip, care came in several forms:
- Rubber boots: Our Big Brains don’t have them, and luckily for us, Seattle Parks employee, Anne, thought of that and brought them. These boots also contributed to the freedom for Big Brains to explore. We also had ponchos ready just in case. On our next outdoor adventure, we’ll probably also add spare socks and fleece jackets to our care package, just in case.
- An abundance of Brain food: As they frequently acknowledge, Big Brains are highly susceptible to feeling competitive for resources. We’ve seen such competitiveness diminish all areas of a Big Brain’s capacity, including openness to new ideas and experiences, enough to know that food is one area on which we do not skimp. Ever. No stale solitary PB&Js for our Big Brains.
- Rewards: There must be a sense of adventure center of the brain because when a reward—no matter how vague or undefined or inconsequential—is on the table, it captures Big Brain interest. As long as there is no competition involved in the process, we use small rewards to help Big Brains feel validated in their superpower-development work.
Mom makes everything better, and we were insanely lucky that Mama Rahima joined in on this adventure. May we always be so lucky!
Input #4: Enhanced Reality
Big Brains love creative adventure and exploration as much as anyone, but enhancing that foundation with profoundly diverse elective opportunities for more in-depth thinking and understanding is really what helps nerd up this and all BBS field trips. In this case, reality was enhanced in two significant ways:
- Knowledgeable Seattle Parks employees and volunteers were not only part of the Big Brain field trip entourage, but Parks naturalists were also actively working throughout the park counting, measuring, and dissecting salmon right before our eyes. Great in itself, what was more important was that, while they were working, naturalists were always open to being interrupted by questions from Big Brains. For Big Brains, Parks naturalists were like Siri in blue jackets.
- Big Brains carried iPod cameras in waterproof cases, enabling them to capture and frame their unique experiences in their own ways. Not only do those tools enhance the ability of Big Brains to own their experiences in the moment, they provide another way to build on those experiences in the future.
So, there we go. Our outputs and inputs for a superlative Big Brain adventure. If we had more time, we’d also talk about the process, but we’ll leave that for another day. In the meantime, we’re thrilled to thank:
- Seattle Parks and Recreation
- Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
- Seattle University
- Mama Rahima and all the other Big Brain guardians who made it possible.