Friday, January 9, 2009

The Aesthetics Game

Earlier this week I was the sub in Bill Ivey's Humanities 7 class. The first thing we did was march to the school store to pick up their new book, Romeo and Juliet. As I walked through the hallways with the last girl out the door, she turned and asked me, "Is this your most favorite job you've ever had?" I asked why she was asking me that question, and she came back, "Because you always seem happy." I love middle schoolers! Of course, she's a perceptive young woman; I do love my job.

When back in the classroom, one of the activities in this extended period was to try out a game a few of the girls had invented. Based on "Apples to Apples," the Aesthetics Game was designed to identify degrees of different aesthetic qualities in a variety of categories. The game requires three teams - one to "go" and "be the judge"; the other two teams receive equally divided cards in a particular aesthetic category identified by the throw of a die. Each team chooses the card representing the most "whatever the aesthetic is" and hands it to the judging team to decide which of the two "mosts" wins and gets the next turn. Card topics range from animals to nature scenes to weather patterns, and so on. The girls had designed and made the board, the die (made of taped together paper), and the cards.

What was wonderful about this game was its value for girls. They appreciate meaningful connection and collaborative work, and the small teams of this game afforded each girl the chance to use her own mind and share ideas. As each group made its decision about the best choice it would present to the "judges," the sharing of ideas was admirable. I was impressed by the eloquence of argument as they went back and forth about the relative value of any one card's representation. They were having fun while thinking critically; in this case, the girls really did know what was best for them. Would that all adults would listen to each other as well and come to as well-considered collaborative decisions! I had a wonderful time being in the classroom again. Thanks seventh graders!

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