SCAMPER is a valuable technique for students as they approach USAT challenges. Below are links to last year’s SCAMPER blog series for new students and coaches, as well as those returning who might need a refresher or a way to liven up practices.
We’ve reached the end of our SCAMPER journey and I hope these posts have been helpful! If you missed any of the intervening letters, here are the links to the SCAMPER sheet that should be in every team’s competition kit and the posts about getting the most out of the technique:
And now for Rearrange. During the USAT season, the writers often employ at least one Mind Sprint where spatial awareness is key. Objects and ideas are flipped over or reversed, or the sequence of events may need to be changed in order to solve a problem. We ask students to use shapes and tools to copy images or to create their own pictures. Some students find this fun and easy, but for others it can be a real challenge.
One way to tap into this skill is to try out a set of tangrams with your students. Tangrams are an ancient Chinese toy that gained popularity in Europe during the 1800’s. I had a set growing up and they are a lot of fun! With some imagination almost anything can be made by moving around these geometric shapes. Feel free to download and use both the tangram cut-out at left and the animal shapes at the end of the post.
Another way to hone rearranging skills is to use scrambled words. A day or two after teaching my ESL students new vocabulary words, I will often give them the words again but with the letters in the wrong order and ask them to figure out what the words are. For a native English speaker the exercise is mostly about moving the letters around in their minds and recognizing patterns, but it also helps my Bulgarian students learn to spell the words correctly. This is a fun game to play with your students, and it is quick and easy to prepare. Words can have a theme like foods, school subjects, toys, etc or they can be random to make it more challenging.
Likewise, you can scramble math problems. If a person is given the answer and all the components to a problem, she can use the order of operations to decipher the original equation. For instance, the answer is 49, the components are 3, 4, 7, ( ), + and x. What is the math problem?
Answer: (3+4)x7 = 49.
Happy SCAMPERing and good luck at the first Meet on December 12!
Here we are the the midpoint of our SCAMPER acronym, but if you missed the background, S (Substitute), C (combine) or A (adapt) the posts are all waiting for you. So onwards and upwards, or as the case would be, bigwards and smallwards.
The M of SCAMPER stands for “Magnify,” or making things bigger. In a pinch, this is a great fallback when stuck during a brainstorming session or thinking about ways to change an object to put it to a new use. For instance, if you make a house key much larger, it can be used not only to open a comically large lock, but the big, sharp teeth would make it a great saw. Or a crouton could be an ideal raft in a giant bowl of soup. With a big enough tube of lipstick a person could paint a whole building, though I would avoid brush up against that exterior, the stains would be a nightmare!
On the other hand, the opposite side of magnify is “minify”, ie making things smaller. If a person were the size of Pekinese then they could live comfortably in a kennel, or if they were even smaller a whole town could move into your ventilation system. If pizzas are bite-sized you would be able to sample many different varieties without all those calories. There are lots of things that would be convenient to carry in your pocket if they were only a few inches tall, and think of all the cool stuff that could be worn as jewelry!
Another thing that can be made bigger or smaller is an idea. Taking “selfies” became a huge craze, but what about the next big thing for internet? Electric cars exist, but could there be consequences if everyone in the world had one? And right now in scientific circles people have re-opened the debate about whether or not Pluto is a planet. They have to decide if they are going to expand or limit the definition of what constitutes a planet, and there will be consequences of that decision.
So if you are looking for something to do during a USAT practice, you could try having your students practice making things bigger and smaller in their minds, and think of new uses for them once they’ve been changed.
For most middle-schoolers, the word “substitute” probably brings to mind those days in school when the regular teacher is out and someone else comes in to press PLAY on Bill Nye the Science Guy. Or at least, that is what we watched on those halcyon sub days when I was in grades 5-8. But, in this week’s post we are going to focus on some other meanings and ways of using substitution when trying to find a creative solution.
Some other s-word synonyms for “substitute” are switch, swap and supplant, so if your students are having any trouble remembering “substitute” these could also work in the acronym. There are plenty of real-world examples of substitutions and upgrades to start with as a jumping-off point because humans are constantly trying to improve on what has come before. For instance, plastics have replaced metal in many cases because they are flexible and light-weight. Blu-ray technology and HD televisions are displacing DVDs and the clunky TVs of the part. Fast food restaurants have started to offer fruit instead of french fries with their kids’ meals because of a demand for more nutritional options by concerned parents. But, this is not to say that a substitution is always a good thing. For example, the more we use plastics, the more we become dependent on petroleum and the places where oil can be harvested.
When brainstorming, you can either substitute one whole thing for another whole thing, or substitute part of a thing with something new, so let’s take them one at a time.
Swapping one thing for another can offer lots of chances to make something like a game, activity or experience into something new. Swimming in a pool of gelatin rather than water would sure make doing a swan dive bouncier! Think about cleaning your house with a garden hose instead of your vacuum cleaner, or what it would be like to weed your garden with your Hoover. Could a witch still fly if you took her broom and replaced it with a a carousel horse? And who would clean up the mess if everyone’s dog was suddenly swapped out for elephants?
And then there are those times when you can replace just one piece of a thing for another, or change some of the materials involved. For instance, substituting the air in a basketball for helium would make shooting hoops a completely new different game. Maybe you could have a built-in security system for your homework if you use trained snakes as the straps for your backpack. And who wouldn’t want a week where everyday was Saturday?
It is also really fun to think about substituting one time or place for another. How would classes be different if your students’ school was on the moon? Would kids still play dodge ball in gym class if it was the Middle Ages, or would they be learning to joust? And how what could you substitute for a volleyball net if you were stranded on a deserted island?
It’s important to remember that ideas don’t always need to make something better, or even to make sense, it is just a matter of asking “what if?”and then trying to imagine the consequences. The results of substitution could be dire, they could spiral out of control, or they could make something boring much more enjoyable!