Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Imagination Adventures #2 "World Shifting"

Tonight I had another imagination adventure with my daughters. We have had other mini adventures since my last post on this topic but they were all derivatives of the same storyline. Tonight's adventure was the start of a new chapter in our adventures saga.

Once again we began our adventure in the girl's castle talking with frog. Frog asked them about their day which mostly was dominated by the fascination with the Silly Bandz mom bought for my older daughter Christiane (5yo) and a trip to the grocery store Makayla (2yo) took with mom while I was at work and sister was at school.

Then frog asked the girls if they knew of any good jokes. They both took turns telling jokes that made no sense at all until Christiane stumbled upon a pretty good one (somewhat by accident but really a Eureka moment since I could tell she understood why this one was funny and the others weren't):
Christaine: Knock knock
Frog: Whose there?
Christiane: Ach
Frog: Ach Whoo?
Christiane: Bless you!
Given a little time to warm up our creative side Frog asked the girls what kind of adventure they wanted to go on. Makayla said she wanted to go see a cave and Christiane said she wanted to see witches and ghosts. So, Frog said he knew just the place.

Frog: If you knock on your closet door three times then rub your back on it in a circle the closet will become magic. Once you step inside, close the door, then open the door again you will be transported to a magical forest. On the far edge of the forest is troll bridge. On the other side of the troll bridge is the entrance to a cave.
Christiane: I wanted to go on a scary adventure to find a witch!
Frog: There are many ghosts and witches in the forest and no one knows what is in the cave.
Me: Why are we going to see a witch or a ghost? Why would anyone want to intentionally visit either one?
Christiane: I know! The witch has captured Henry and we have to rescue him (side note: Henry is our cat).
Frog: We have to be very quiet walking through the magical forest, there are all kinds of spells that the witches have spilled here. You never know when you are going to accidentally step on one.
Christiane: I accidentally stepped on a pumpkin seed. The witches must have put a spell on them because it is making the pumpkin grow arms and legs. OH NO! Everyone watch out! Giant pumpkins are coming after us! They want to eat us!
Makayla: Here you go. (she throws water at them obviously remembering from our last adventure what effect water had at stopping witches)
Me: We better keep moving if we want to get to that cave.

We spend a few minutes walking through the house treating every piece of furniture like a tree or an obstacle. The path through the forest took us through the living room, the hallway, the bathroom, and two bedrooms three times over until we came to the troll bridge at the top of the steps. The troll appeared to be asleep. We thought we lucked out and crossed the bridge. The girls led the way into the cave as they went down the stairs until:

Me: Help! The troll has my feet! I am stuck!
Christiane: He must have woken up just as you were crossing. I will save you. (She grabbed my hands and pulled me away from the clutches of the troll as I slid down the stairs into the cave head-first)
Frog: It appears there is an underwater lake. We have to get to that boat over there if we are going to go any further.
Makayla: We could swim. (she grabs her life jacket which is stored around the corner in the basement and begins to try and put it on)
Me: Underground lakes are usually too cold to swim in. We will get sick. We have to find another way to get there.
Frog: Look up there. The roof of the cave has tree roots hanging down from the forest above. We could swing over to the boat.
Christiane: Good idea frog! I'll go first. (She pretends to swing from branch to branch followed by me and Frog. Makayla didn't understand what we were doing so she just ran over to us.)

Now the boat is our old couch we have in the basement. We rowed and rowed until we got to the other side of the lake where we saw an ancient temple. (side note: The ancient temple is actually a painting of the Temple of Mars and Venus I did in college. The painting is about 5' x 6' so for all intents and purposes it makes for a good backdrop for a story.)

Frog: This is strange. I wonder who would build a temple in a cave. It is so dark and spooky down here.
Christiane: I bet it is a witch's house.
Frog: I think you are right. We better be on the lookout.
Makayla: (grabbing onto me and holding me close) I'm scared.
Witch: What are you doing in my house? I don't like visitors.
Christiane: We came looking for Henry. Do you have him?
Witch: I will tell you where Henry is if you do one thing for me. I want you to draw me a picture of my cousin the Space Pirate Witch that I can hang up in my house. Bring me the drawing and I will tell you where your cat is.
Christiane: Sure thing!

We all ran over to the art table and began drawing illustrations of our last big adventure. After about 15 minutes of drawing we were ready to present them to the witch.

Christiane: Here you go. Now tell us where we can find Henry!
Witch: I don't have him. I gave him to the nasty old troll who guards the entrance to the cave.
Makayla starts to run over to the steps to head up to the troll bridge above.
Witch: Wait a minute. The troll will not just give you the cat. You have to bring him a story. Stories put him to sleep. Put the troll to sleep and you will be able to take your precious kitty back. Now leave my house before I put a spell on you.
Christiane: Lets get out of here!

Me: Wait, I have an idea. We can make the story for the troll on the computer.
Christiane: Yeah! Lets go.

At this point I took the opportunity to introduce my girls to Storybird. I have been showing Storybird to teachers for almost a year now but never engaged my own children with it. I was actually amazed at how well it engaged even the 2 year old. In fact, with me there to type what she said she was able to participate in quite a high level of storytelling herself. I let the girls choose the pictures and direct the direction of the story. What follows is the story they created. I only did a little rephrasing of their sentences for them so that they had a story that made sense and fit together:

Storybird - The Bear is Going to Hunt via kwout

Click on the book to open and read

After we finished writing the book we read it to the troll. The troll was thoroughly distracted and overly concerned about how long it had been since he washed his hair that we were able to sneak past him and save Henry.


I titled this adventure "World Shifting" because what this particular adventure was really about was the intentional shifting of our environment by shifting our perceptions of it. We started out in the girls' bedroom, that room shifted to become part of a forest. Then we entered the cave world of the basement which was really much different from the forest. Then we entered the word of a whole other adventure in the story the girls wrote together about the girl with dirty hair. Finally we came back from the cave to the forest and then back to our house.

The ability to intentionally re-imagine or re-purpose one reality for another is an important survival skill and as near as I can tell it is one that only a small percentage of people ever really exercise. Those who do have this ability to intentionally alter their perspective or perception are the ones who shape our world. If I can cultivate this skill in my children, I believe it will give them an advantage in life that schools rarely ever do. Sometimes these shifts in perception are so profound that when shared they completely change the way the world actually is. Religion is a prime example (though the profoundly devout would likely take this example as heresy). Another example is science and innovation. Where would we be if we didn't have people in these fields reshaping our world through their inventive perceptions of it? It can also be a survival skill as illustrated in my favorite clip from the movie The Pursuit of Happyness:

I am also reminded of the Nickelodeon film Imagine That. While this film is a little far fetched I do believe there is some truth in the ridiculousness. It might not be that Eddy Murphy's daughter's imaginary friends actually predict stocks or that her blanket has magical powers but that in the ability to bend your perception that allows you to imagine those things also gives you a perspective to see other things more clearly. There likely is some truth in this kind of lie.

And, in an attempt to build a case for this argument, here are a few actual people who through their ability to imagine a different word actually changed the world we all live in.

In Barcelona he redefined what architecture could be.

Nikola Tesla
Inventor of AC current, Tesla's work with electricity and how he believed it could change the world could only be described as having heavy influence from his own creative capacity.

Frank Lloyd Wright

By re-imagining how people interact with their environment Wright was able to change how people interacted with each other.

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is notorious for not always relying on market data to make important decisions for Apple. It has been said of him that with his leadership Apple is notorious not for giving customers what they want but what they didn't even know they wanted. By re-imagining the word, Jobs has gone a long way in reshaping it.

I am not a wealthy guy. My kids are not likely going to be heirs to any fortune they can live off of, they are going to have to find their own way. I don't want my kids' education to simply prepare them for the world we live in. I want it to prepare them to shape it. Innovation requires creativity and imagination. This is also an equity issue for schools. Children in our poor schools need more access to ways to grow their creativity capacity. Focusing on the fundamentals will not give anyone an edge or advantage to pull themselves up out of their current economic status. Nearly every example of someone defying patterns of class mobility has done so through exercise of their creativity and imagination. These four guys are all prime examples.


Laura Pilker said...

What a fun Dad you are! Do you plan these adventures ahead of time, or is it all off the top of your head?

Carl Anderson said...

It's all impromptu. A lot of our adventures are drawn from the conversations "Frog" has with the girls before we start but there is no planning involved.

The Book Chook said...

Loved this post! How wonderful that the girls get to share their imaginative play with you in this way. I also love Storybird and think it has huge potential for creative thinking and expression.