The Human Rube Goldberg Machine

In 2009, the Rooftop teachers reported back to school and went right back to the business of play with our Art Is… Innovation study.  In this team-building exercise, the teachers worked together to make one big human Rube Goldberg Machine.  The simple task of moving a ball through the machine was completed with great panache, as each teacher came up with their own unique way to pass a ball to the next person.  The goal was to pass 40 balls safely through the machine, without dropping any.

Innovative solutions are often possible when problems are tackled from a different perspective, and new insights are drawn.  When the global design firm IDEO comes up with new ideas in order to solve a problem, they often get inspiration from analogous situations. They may look at the team effort of a racing pit crew and apply their observations and insights to designing an environment for an operating room in a hospital.

Link to IDEO’s Design Thinking Toolkit for Educators

After completing the activity, the Rooftop teachers talked about the challenges that they encountered, and the different ways that they solved the problems.  Sometimes, an artistic experience can help people look at everyday life from a different perspective.  The group found the activity to be a good metaphor for the student educational experience at Rooftop.  Teachers must work together in synchronicity to ensure that the children travel through their time at school.  The children are touched by many hands as they go through their 9 years at Rooftop, and the members of the school team do not work in isolation.  Education is a team effort.

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