We often meet children who are very stubborn, but given the right environment they are quite willing to give up ownership of what they want. For example: last week we ran a Thinkshop for a group of students in grades 5/6. We invited them to wrap sticks with yarn to help make connections to the content they were learning. We work almost exclusively with reusable materials and encourage our students to dismantle their creations when done, so we rarely send anything home at the end of the day. We know it takes time for people to adjust to this concept but we also know that when a child is deeply engaged in meaningful learning, the experience is enough to fill them up. Sometimes a photo, video, or drawing is all they need to bring their memories home at the end of the day. One of the wonderful benefits of this transient approach is that sometimes the children create things that can be added to our collection of re-usable materials. They take pride in knowing that other groups of children will one day use what they’ve created in new and meaningful ways.
At last week’s Thinkshop, several students became so attached to their yarn-wrapped “personality sticks”, they asked if they could take them home. I didn’t see the harm in parting with a few sticks we had rescued from ice storm debris. The students had taken so much time to infuse their sticks with personality that my first instinct was to let them keep the ones that spoke to them. But Aviva was determined to send them home empty handed. Or so I thought. After repeated requests from the students, she decided to challenge their thinking and offered them the option of wrapping more branches as a way to offset the one(s) they wanted to keep.
What we found was that the children who were deeply connected to their sticks were willing to put in extra effort to hold on to them. In fact, they were willing to add up to three times back to the community to hold on to the thing that was dear to them. Those who couldn’t be bothered to put in the added effort were willing to leave their sticks behind for others to use. The beautiful thing about what transpired is that both options benefited our community of thinkers and learners. We’re always happy when our choices lead to community-building.
Sometimes we come across adults who stubbornly hold on to ownership, too – parents, leaders and educators who cannot see past the need to own their ideas. But this week we encountered several adults who possessed the ability to look past the need for control and ownership. The creative inspiration and energy that oozed out of them was almost palpable. With each one, we could actually see the moment of connection – when the mind switched from closed to open. That’s the sweet moment when any idea becomes possible; when connections to learning and to other people become limitless. In the right environment, free from the need for ownership, we’ve witnessed people become unstuck from one thing and become open to every possibility.
To read more of our theory-building on ownership, click here.