Home What readers say:

Observer's Eyes

Here are two anecdotal letters from Dr. Rosella R. Wallace, retired, formerly a consultant to the Alaska Board of Education, reproduced by permission. Dr. Wallace writes:
I used Win Wenger's methods in combination with Suggestopedia successfully for many years in my elementary classroom.... ‘Wenger's methods can be used hand in glove with other methodologies...'

I used a variation of Win's "Borrowed Genius" procedure in my third-grade classroom ... about the Eskimos and their way of life. We learned that one of their favorite foods is muktuk (whale blubber). This tidbit of information was met with groans and ‘YUK,' ‘GROSS...' [After the class used a version of ‘Borrowed Genius' to] ‘become' an Eskimo....they created their own adventure in their own minds. When they were ready, they were to come back to the classroom and write a story about their adventure or draw a picture, or both. As usual, they went through this whole process joyfully. Their writing and drawing was creative and beautiful, accomplished with ease and enthusiasm. I found this method to be the best way to facilitate creative writing.

After the stories and pictures were finished....at least three of the students told about eating muktuk while they were an Eskimo. They elaborated on how ‘good' it tasted to them.....the same students that were saying ‘YUK' and ‘GROSS.'

What a wonderful way to see through another's eyes and taste through another's taste buds! The possibilities of reducing prejudice are thought-provoking. Thank you, Win Wenger, for your contributions. This is only one example of many in which.....Win's techniques.....enriched the lives of my students.

In this excerpt from an article, Dr. Wallace describes effects with another class from using two Project Renaissance techniques related to developing perceptual and observational skills. I've excerpted only briefly and paraphrased elsewhere, in respect of the possibility that her full article may yet someday be published. She writes:

Field trip time was approaching. I wanted to take my class to the museum. I had taken other classes to the museum and knew that it can be a rich experience. But this time I was a bit worried. I had four children that were real behavior problems. Since it was a large class (35 students), I knew that they all needed to know how to conduct themselves or the trip would not be successful....
Wallace had already used a version of "Borrowed Genius" to have the students "put on the head" of an especially sensitive, intent observer, "able to see and feel with all these senses as a ‘super version' of themselves. They loved using the observer's eyes, senses and mind to perceive the same scenes as richly as the.....observer sees it....they become (that) observer..."

Wallace repeated this procedure, this time in the context of preparing for the museum trip, not without a bit of modeling what the ideal decorum was that would be expected of the students during the trip. She had the students become that "observer" going through the various exhibits, noticing things to discuss for when the trip was over and not wanting to "miss a thing. As (such an) observer, you can describe what you are seeing softly to yourself while you wander through the museum. I'll be silent now so you can do this. When I ring the chime, come back to the classroom and tell your partner what you saw as (this) observer...."

The manner in which that potential problem class embarked upon the bus, and then disembarked at the museum, was orderly, polite, impressive...

I was delighted to hear the children describing softly to their peers what they were seeing. Win Wenger states, "What you describe aloud while observing it, you discover more about." The tour guide quickly took a cue from me and became a resource person to answer questions rather than a lecturer to do all of the talking. Her comment was, "They are noticing things that I hadn't even noticed before!" and "They ask the most interesting questions I have ever heard from such a young group."
The next day back in class "was as educational and enjoyable as the actual visit." Wallace had taken other classes to the same museum before, without this preparation, because those classes were not so large or problematic, so she had a clear comparison.
I can honestly say that though this was the class that I was worried about because of the size and behavior problems, this class was the best behaved and got the most out of the field trip. I know it was because of the advanced preview [of the museum trip through the ‘borrowed genius,' ‘careful observer' experience]. An added bonus was that we were always able to return to the museum and see in our mind's eye what the whale bones looked like when we were studying about whales, or see the octopus in the aquarium during our sea week project.

Rosella R. Wallace

Back to Borrowed Genius |

©2004 Project Renaissance