Off the Wall Teaching–and Learning

offthewallAs those of us in the northern hemisphere begin to contemplate the crazy last-days-of-school approaching, it may be time for some off-the-wall teaching. Really.

The Off the Wall Learning project of the Institute of Play is an informal learning approach for presenting creative challenges in poster form. The basics are simple.

  1. Create a learning challenge that requires individual or group problem solving.
  2. Create a poster that describes the challenge.
  3. Gather materials.
  4. Stand back and let the learning begin.

The Off the Wall site provides a helpful template for planning and creating your poster, as well as several samples. The Water Filter challenge seen here asks teams of students to produce a water filter that filters a cup of dirty water in a minute. The Explore Your waterfilterEnvironment challenge asks students to gather artifacts representative of their environment. If your time, talent, and resources are anything like mine, your poster is unlikely to be as professional-looking as theirs, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is the challenge and time to explore.

Some of the most exciting off-the-wall challenges will be those that allow students to explore their environment, be it a neighborhood, a supermarket, or parts of the school grounds. Imagine a supermarket math challenge, a survey of architecture in the neighborhood, or a problem-solving task to create new playground games using recycled materials. Of course, smaller but parallel challenges can fit within the walls of your classroom. You could even use the poster template to have students create their own mini-challenges for peers to solve.

Off the Wall Learning has lots of potential for engaging creative explorations. Give it a try—and do let us know what happens.


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