Homeadults with learning disabilitiesWhy not make learning fun?

Over the years, I’ve noticed a tendency in our society to put a sharp separation between “fun” and “education”. It extends to work, too.

I often wonder if it’s that deep seated mental division that’s to blame for so many people going to school for subjects they don’t enjoy and later finding work in a field they hate. The following misery is then a mystery. I know, the issue’s more complex than that, but the idea does play a part.

The more I learn about individual learning styles and the array of teaching techniques out there, the more I wonder why creativity isn’t fostered in conjunction with more subjects.

Looking back on school, I realize my favorite subjects were taught with creativity and practicality. Those would be science and the arts. Concepts and facts stuck more easily for me when I had hands on experience and patterns to assist me.

Math, history and geography, on the other hand, were just things to struggle through. I had no interest in the way they were taught, and a nearly complete inability to memorize the disconnected, dry facts thrown at us.

I’ve recently been approved to join the affiliate network for Mental Floss, one of my favorite YouTube channels, a magazine and web page specializing in fun ways of teaching. As I was perusing the links (and resisting the urge to go shopping for geeky goodness), I came across this product.

It reminds me a little of my youngest niece’s shape puzzles. Little kids learn best by touching, doing, feeling and generally experiencing their environments. Oddly enough, big kids seem to do the same. 
So, why not teach geography with puzzles, too? I realize unstable political environments in different parts of the world result in new countries, but manually figuring out how each country fits would be a better way of learning than only pointing them out on the map. You could even apply that idea to learning about bodies of water, continental plates and all sorts of other geographical phenomenon.
The page for the country map says for kids 9-14 years old, but I bet there are quite a few adults who would benefit from it, too.

I probably would. In fact, the more I look at it, the more I want it. Down, girl!

That increased engagement is the idea of finding fun ways of teaching otherwise dull topics. If you’re interested, the facts stand a better chance of sticking.

This is part of why I’m glad to have found geek culture. It goes far beyond obsessing over TV shows or books. It also fosters a love of the world, learning and creating. Things that I had thought of as boring beyond belief, like history and math, become interesting when presented in quirky, practical ways.
It looks like I’m not alone in this, either. This study says it should be more broadly used through schooling, and even offered in a class.

When you think about fields in science, business and even retail, that makes perfect sense. Since almost everyone starts at lower paying jobs, and I have years of retail experience, let’s look at how retail requires creativity.

When you work at a store, you will need to learn at least some of the following skills:

  • Customer service
  • Stocking product
  • Ringing/bagging purchases

Customer Service
Customer service entails relating to other people in a helpful manner. Unfortunately, too many people treat store staff poorly no matter how well they’re treated. It’s up to the staff to come up with ways to react to their customers, provide service and maintain safety. Not the easiest thing to do, and sometimes you really need to find unique ways around sticky situations.

Stocking Product
In the bigger stores, employees are given maps called plan-o-grams, which are sent in from upper management. The employees are supposed to create displays according to these instructions. Things go wrong, though. Fixtures aren’t the right size or are unavailable. The stock isn’t shaped in the way whoever put the plans together thought it would be. Some stock called for hasn’t or won’t arrive, so it must be replaced with something else. It goes on.

Employees are left with a more or less useless piece of paper and a stack of materials to display. They must figure out how to best set the product on the fixtures to highlight features, fit as many pieces as possible, maintain company standards and adhere to laws like those set in the ADA and OSHA.

Smaller stores, of course, don’t have those initial guidelines, so employees must create displays from scratch every time.

Ringing/Bagging Purchases
Considering my problems with numbers, this is my least favorite part of retail work, and retail was not fun for me. Disability aside, working the register alone can take creative manipulations, depending on the system used.

Computerized systems can make the job much easier, but when things like coupons or sales don’t register, it’s up to the associate to figure out what to do. Usually, it involves calling a manager, but some stores allow their cashiers to learn how to manipulate the computer for known problems.

Bagging, of course, involves the Tetris-like task of fitting everything in the smallest number of bags as securely as possible. Of course, many grocery stores have customers bag their own items, but department stores often leave it up to their employees.

Low-wage jobs like retail may not require schooling, but they do require more creativity than meets the eye. The same goes for higher wage jobs, as well.

Wouldn’t it make sense to foster a greater sense of creativity in childhood, so it can be applied to problems faced in adulthood?

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