Tip #557: An Ode to Pipe Cleaners

“It is always the simple that produces the marvelous.” Amelia Barr

I was recently looking through a magazine that offers various tactile objects for trainers to buy for their participants. There were objects of many different of shapes and colors that I’m sure would be appealing and engaging. I even have some of them: glitter wands, Koosh balls, star-shaped squeezable balls and large dice.

But, by far, the very best tactile object that trainers can provide on their participants’ tables is the simple pipe cleaner.

Pipe cleaners are colorful. They come in all of the colors of the rainbow.

They are pliable. They can be twisted into an infinite number of shapes, limited only by the participants’ imagination and creativity.

They weight almost nothing. This makes them wonderfully portable.

They are soft and compress easily into the spaces between the ribs of carry ons and suitcases.

They are appealing. It is difficult to sit next to a pile of pipe cleaners and not grab at least one to play with.

They are very inexpensive, so they are a negligible budget item.

They give the haptic and kinesthetic learners something to do with their hands so their brains can be fully engaged in the learning process.

However, they also delight and spark creativity in participants regardless of their learning preference, age, ethnicity, gender, religion, position, culture or geographic location.

It is simply amazing how these colorful bendable sticks evoke such joy and transform a group of participants into a warm and loving learning community

During breaks, conversations are struck up between participants designing at their tables and other participants who are strolling around to see others’ originality and/or to “shop” for the pipe cleaner colors they need to complete their own creations.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many packages of pipe cleaners I bring into a training room. (We’re talking about packages of 1000 pipe cleaners, 100 of each of 10 different colors!) I still tend to leave with empty bags.

The artistry is absolutely awesome: from simple to complex and many-layered flowers; three-dimensional people, animals, insects, houses, and vehicles; jewelry, from leis to earrings to bracelets and tiaras; intricate woven baskets- no matter how often I see these creations, I always see new, different, more complicated, more delicate, and more original designs.

Last but definitely not least, the pipe cleaner designs can help to prompt memory and reinforce retention.

I take photos of the pipe cleaner creativity and send them to the participants after the training is over, along with photos of flip chart work completed by the groups during the sessions. Both the photos and the actual creations they take home with them after the training serve as colorful reminders of what they were learning while they designed them.

May your learning be sweet.


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