There are few things that aren’t improved by adding chocolate. Coffee and chocolate, mint and chocolate, and my personal favorite, a chocolately minty mocha! But blending things together can make more than just delicious caffeinated beverages, it can also be a recipe for creativity.
Where substitution is mostly focused on things and materials, combination is great way to think about manipulating ideas and bringing people together for different purposes. For instance, there is a television show on ABC called Once Upon a Time that incorporates different fairy tales and literary characters into one small town where they explore their connections in the past and how they would interact if thrown together in the present. The Avengers is a popular Marvel Comics franchise where superheroes team up to fight the forces of evil, but it is the force of their individual personalities that ends up being their biggest challenge. And last year USAT had a challenge that asked students to bring different animals together to reach a common goal.
In many ways, just being part of a team is also an exercise in combination. Some students may be stronger at math, others may excel at acting, and some may be better at thinking on their feet. Academic Triathlon is a great opportunity for students to shine in the areas in which they are already strong, and to explore new skills that they may not find as easy to harness. Being able to work together and being supportive of creative risk-taking are key parts to success during AT Meets and beyond.
“Combine” is a great tool to incorporate into P.A.R.T.Y. in a Box challenges. In addition to writing interesting stories, students are asked to quickly construct props and costumes by bringing together materials like plastic cups, paper plates and garbage bags. Time is of the essence during prep time, and practice doesn’t have to make perfect but it sure can save time. These items are a part of almost every Meet, which means it is worth the time to practice working with them and figure out cool ways to bring them together. Cardboard is an incredibly versatile substance, but the box that holds all of the other materials is rarely used as anything but a way to carry the props and costumes to the performance! Just think about the hours of fun your students could have exploring different ways to combine different materials as a way to get excited for a Meet.