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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fun changes behavior for the better

As you can see, we've posted a video here of ... people walking up a piano staircase.

No, seriously. We're not joking. Watch it and enjoy.

As part of a Volkswagen initiative, three videos were created that demonstrated the effect fun can have on one's behavior. In the one we posted, 66 percent more people than normal took the stairs during a day as opposed to the adjacent escalator because they enjoyed creating music as they walked.

In another of the videos, a sidewalk bottle bank was used by 100 people in one night because it was turned into an arcade game -- with people rewarded points for putting recyclable bottles in certain holes. A regular bottle bank in the same neighborhood received just two visitors.

And in the other video, a trash can was wired to make it sound as if people were dropping their waste thousands of feet into the ground. All of a sudden, people were picking up trash from the ground, excited to hear the cool sound that dropping it into the receptacle caused.

The ultimate result was that 72 kilograms of trash found that can during a day compared to just 41 kilograms in a normal trash can nearby.

How does this relate to DC SCORES?

In several ways.

One of our goals is to improve the physical fitness of our students. That doesn't sound too fun, does it? But by doing this through soccer practices and games, we try to make it as enjoyable as possible for the students. When they're playing soccer, they don't think, "Yay, I'm becoming more physically fit." Rather, they think, "Yay, I'm having a lot of fun kicking a ball around."

While it may not be as easy to create "fun" inside a classroom, DC SCORES does a good job of this through creativity. By using icebreaker games and writing exercises that don't feel like assignments but instead  games, we keep kids from thinking that their time spent in our classroom is an extension of school.

Which is not to take away from what's learned in school, but by 4 in the afternoon kids are tired of classes. They want something different. And that's the way our writing coaches approach their sessions with DC SCORES students.

Having students write and perform poetry is another way we try to make something perhaps bland to students enjoyable. Think of this comparison: Writing an essay is akin to walking up normal stairs; writing poetry is like striding up the musical stairs.

In an essay, there's not as much wiggle room for creativity. You have to be more to the point and follow a clear format. With poetry, however, you can express yourself however you desire. And you can write about anything. It's one of the best forms of self-expression, and it also helps to foster good writing habits.

Which brings us back to the fact that, sadly, not all staircases will be transformed into pianos (at least not for a while). However, if we can develop in kids a love for physical activity (through soccer) and writing (through poetry), we're confident they'll come to care more about staying fit regardless of the form of exercise and doing well in school, especially in writing exercises.

Our statistics, just like the fun behavior ones, back this up.

You can improve your behavior and become a better citizen or student without even realizing it.

That's the power of fun.

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