On Friday, February 24th, in the final block before students and staff left for February Break, Project Vine participated in a whole-program game designed to build our memories, enhance our learning strategies, and have a good time together!
Students were broken into pairs, with one student sent as the “scout” and the other left behind as the “student.” Scouts went into Fletch’s room where, on the table, they found an intricate, multicolor design. Scouts could take as long as they wanted to study the design, provided they did not touch or reorder it, and that once they left the room they could not reenter. When they were ready, Scouts had to return to their “students” and try to describe to the student the design, well enough that their students could draw the design being described. Scouts kept their hands behind their backs so as to avoid doing the drawing themselves.
In the first round, scouts were quickly out of the room, and then irked to find they could not return. Some managed to make some progress toward a drawing of the design, but most pairs of students broke down into arguments: the student did not feel the scout was being clear enough and the scout was frustrated that they could not effectively communicate the design to their students.
After the first round, we debriefed: what worked or what strategies might have worked? Some students suggested that scouts should try to imagine the shape as something else they recognize, or make up a poem or acronym to remember the order of the colors, and still others said they should try to remember the shape with their eyes closed then check themselves to see if they had it right before leaving the room.
With these strategies in mind, the pairs switched roles. The second-round scouts spent considerably longer in the room with their different design, each applying some strategy or multiple strategies to memorize the design they were given. Students quizzed themselves by turning away from the design and trying to remember it. Some made up mnemonic devices on the spot to remember the order of colors and shape of each piece of the design.
Sophomore Colby Balboni said that when fist confronted with the task he “didn’t start out with any kind of plan. I just tried to memorize what I saw.” When that strategy proved difficult, he and his partner worked to make the next round based on some type of strategy for memorization, like using acronyms to memorize color order or associations to other things they already knew well.
Senior Chris Vought had success comparing the color combinations in the designs to NBA team colors. Still another student, freshman Josh Sampaio, found success visualizing the design in the air and then “quizzing” himself (checking to see if he was right) before leaving the room to work with his partner.
The results were awesome: students in the second round were better able to both memorize a pattern and explain it to their students, who created far more exact representations of the designs than the previous group.
The Project Vine Staff designs activities like this on a regular basis to strengthen targeted skills we have identified as lacking or needing improvement based on student survey and day-to-day work. This activity was designed to strengthen students’ understanding of different learning and memorization strategies and what methods might work best for them. Our hope is that students consider using the strategies that work best for them in these game formats to help them in their academic and personal lives moving forward.