“Is ditchwater dull? Naturalists with microscopes have told me that it teems with quiet fun. “ G. K. Chesterton
Even after all of these years of setting up training rooms to engage as many senses as possible, I still get nervous about how well it will be received by certain audiences.
A case in point: I facilitated a two-day Technical Trainers’ Toolbox in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. My client was the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture and the participants were from many different countries: Pakistan, Tunisia, Syria, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Greece, and Great Britain.
This is a serious and well-respected organization. It has an international team that includes soil, crop and water scientists, and policy and socioeconomic experts. They focus on challenges in marginal environments- of sustainable production, use of saline and alternative waters, environmental impacts, natural resources assessment and management, and policy and governance.
Knowing this, I was worried that the participants, all of whom are distinguished research scientists with doctorates, would be put off by my music, butterfly and fish wall kites, and the Koosh and other table toys.
However, they loved the toys and the colors! They liked how cozy the kites made the room feel. They threw Koosh balls at each other over the breaks and some of the women even danced to the music.
They got a kick out of the peg system for LESSON plan. Everyone stood and participated each time we used it. And they expected prizes anytime they did almost anything! It was a stitch!!
Participatory training was completely new to most of them, but they took it seriously. We built lesson plans for two of their work topics: climate control models and soil salinity mapping. Then we created a variety of participatory learning activities for both lesson plans.
On my last day, three of the scientists asked to sit down with me to discuss how to revise an upcoming training program. The remote sensing scientist and two climate modeling scientists were eager to learn how to put into practice what they had learned during the class. I was thrilled! We brainstormed a variety of learning activities and revised the flow of some of the content.
They also expected prizes as a reward, which I was happy to provide. Not surprisingly, mini-Rubik cubes were a particular favorite!
If you have highly technical content you would like to convert into engaging participatory skill-building training programs, contact Deborah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May your learning be sweet- and safe.
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