The Magic of Markers
Michael Ralph, Fall 2018
Michael demoed an activity piloted in the Center for STEM Learning, which makes use of special markers (one end draws a color, and the other end looks white/clear but actually changes the color of the ink when applied on top of a colored-ink drawing).
After being wowed by the fact that the white marker tips were able to change red into yellow, or green into blue, etc., participants were asked to write a list of everything that we observed/knew about this color-changing phenomenon or a similar one that we had seen before in nature.
Then, participants were asked to generate a list of questions about the phenomenon. They were asked to write down questions as they came to mind, without trying to screen them, or without taking much time to think between questions. After some time, participants were told to stop thinking of questions and to circle the top three questions that they were most excited about finding out the answer to.
Michael explained the tendency for the most interesting questions to be at the bottom of the list, because these were generated once we had "worked out the kinks" and prepared our minds for thinking more creatively/out-of-the box about a topic. Participants then amended our original list of observations to include they questions (in a different color, so that new ideas would stand out); even if they did not know the answer to those questions, they tried to fit them in with what they did know about the markers.
To conclude the demo, Michael discussed that maybe the most important student learning happens when students are curious, but when they are right at the limitations of their knowledge. Here, he suggests that it is important to push students to keep thinking over that "hump," or the point where they might normally stop working and wait for further instruction/explanation.