Once we had fortified ourselves with some tasty toast at this week’s Book for Breakfast session, we took a diversion from our usual activities to test out a new game that challenges you to look for links between ideas.
The group split into two teams to explore 16 different pictures chosen from around the world, and all through time. Here is the sheet, which includes pillar boxes, a map, a historic hot air balloon flight, medicine bottles, stringy cheese and the oldest cookery book in the world. I had gathered them from various museum projects I’ve recently been involved with.
The groups had to try to find connections that would link the pictures together – and then present their ideas back to the other group. So, what did they come up with? The answers were very different between the two groups, and all extremely creative.
Team A chose to create a journey with their pictures, stepping from one object to the next with a logical link, then finding a different link to the next image. They linked the barometer (which predicts the weather) with the world war medals (because weather can affect the outcome of battles). From there they went to the medicine bottles, since medicines could treat war injuries. The next link, via the idea that medicines require recipes, was to the oldest cookery book in the world. This, they linked to the stringy cheese as a food, and then to the map of the world since cheese is a worldwide food! Finally they linked the map to the hot air balloon because of global travel. So, their journey had taken them from a barometer in 2014 to a hot air balloon in 1811.
Team 1 chose a very different way of looking at the links – using themes and illustrating them with examples from the 16 images. Their first idea was to link objects through time, creating a chronology that took in the 4000-year-old cookery book, then the 1154 world map by Al-Idrisi, then Magna Carta of 1215, and finally to the 1808 table of atomic weights. Next, they looked at the topic of transport, discovering the crisp delivery van, the hot air balloon, the opening of the Metropolitan railway and the ship figurehead. Another topic was chemistry, and they connected the crystals in the barometer, the cheese which has cumin added to make it go stringy, the chemist Dorothy Hodgkin who discovered the structure of insulin, and the pottery factory. Finally they looked at food, linking the cookery book, the table of atomic weights, the barometer and the cheese (again!).
This game exercised everyone’s brains in articulating the links and connections you can make between diverse objects. These are great skills for deep thinking and building an argument. It’s a very creative exercise because you can come up with so many ways of doing it.
And even with all that hard thinking going on, we still had time to eat breakfast, and to read chapter 16 of The Hunger Games.
You can see here how some adults got on with the same task at a museums workshop in Darlington.
Other ways to play this game:
- pre-select two objects as your starting and ending points and see if you can jump between them using other objects as stepping stones
- ‘six degrees of freedom’ – see how far away you can get from your initial idea by taking just six steps
- alternatively, give yourself six steps only to link up two incredibly different objects or ideas. Try it out in a museum, and let us know how you get on!