Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Not just Frisbee, but Root Beer Floats, too

I ran into the Provost of my university today at the Building Better Communities project showcase. I would see him regularly at the Strategic Planning Committee meetings, but I stopped going to those meetings early in the Spring semester when the interfered with my fellowship at the Virginia Ball Center. (Also, it appeared to me that the committee had already done all it could do, and I'm sure they wrapped up fine without me.) I told him a little bit about my experience at the VBC, and he asked me what I've learned as a fellow. This is not the first time I've been asked this question by a colleague at the university. I should probably have a canned, elevator-pitch-style response. Since I don't, I was honest.

I told him that the lesson is all wrapped up in the name of the studio: Root Beer Float Studio. Midway through the semester, other students on campus were struggling with midterms, and we were having root beer floats. Superficially that may make it sound like a vacation, but the truth is that we earned those root beer floats—a fact that was recognized by Lauren, a team member who is astute and generous. My team has worked hard this semester, struggling with academic, professional, and emotional challenges in an endeavor that Jerry Holkins describes as "making sausage out of yourself." Our root beer floats have been outwards signs of hope in the tumult of creative frustration. When we take fifteen minutes after lunch to play Frisbee, it's not because we're slacking off but because our bodies need time to decompress from the intense studio work. Without Frisbee time, I'm positive there would have been more sickness, more arguments, and less productivity.
An original Root Beer Float Studio root beer float
In a normal, three credit-hour course, we try to form teams and challenge students, but there is literally not enough time for a team to gel like this. There is often too much pressure to get something done, and this makes us forget that without trust and morale, the project is crippled.

I am proud of Root Beer Float Studio, and our game is looking great. We showed a demo at our project showcase Monday night, and we're scheduled to make a public release at the end of this week. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to invest myself into this project with this team.

As the Provost and I parted ways, he quipped, "Next semester, back to work!" I suspect he was joking, but I cannot help but have a hint of doubt that I was misunderstood. The work I have done this semester has resulted in demonstrable transformations, the evidence of which is part of a larger study of immersive learning. I'm sure that Root Beer Floats, cupcakes, Frisbee, and team lunches will feature as prominently in the data as Scrum, ludology, design patterns, and studio-based learning.

An original Root Beer Float Studio root beer float cupcake.
Maybe even better than a root beer float.

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