Surprise: contrast and whimsy
“One of the great joys of the surprise aesthetic comes when we surprise others, and hide-and-reveal is a fun way to do this.” (page 176)
It was 1996 and I was teaching third grade and I was preparing to launch a new unit on the Oregon Trail. This was likely my very first attempt at experiential and exploratory learning in the classroom. I found out the actual historical names of those who had been on the Oregon Trail and brief profiles through diaries that were published, and I assigned each student a name. As they entered the classroom each day, the students drew a stick that would have any number of experiences written on it that one might have encountered on the Oregon Trail. The students kept journals of our adventures and all they were learning and reading each day.
I do not have a theatrical bone in my body, but the day I decided to launch this unit, I showed up to class dressed up like a pioneer on the Oregon Trail with a new name. The students were speechless, quietly excited, and SURPRISED. I had caught their attention.
Interestingly enough, students that I saw at their graduation parties or have run into other places (just happened again a week ago), the one thing they always comment on was the day I showed up to class as someone else.
Surprise intensifies our other emotions and etches what is happening into a memory of significance.
“By restoring a sense of whimsy and unpredictability to our surroundings, small bursts of surprise also change our relationship to the world as a whole. Surprise destabilizes us a little, just enough to introduce a new idea or a different perspective. It brings us back a bit of childlike freshness. By snapping us out of habitual thought patterns, a small surprise can reset our JOY meters and allow us to see with new eyes.” (page 188)
Our tendency to be natural explorers declines with age and we are drawn to the familiar vs. that which is novel and full of possibility.
The design aesthetic of surprise keeps wonder, delight, and discovery alive.
How can you use the design aesthetic of surprise and bless those you work with this week?
How can you use the design aesthetic of surprise and bless those in your family?
What is a #joyfinding moment you have had this week? Consider sharing what it is by commenting on this article.
“Surprise.” Joyful: the Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, by Ingrid Fetell Lee, Little, Brown Spark, 2018, pp. 164 – 188.