The Three Whats

Posted by jlubans on February 09, 2012

As readers of this blog know full well, I rely on experiential learning to explain and augment leadership, management, and teamwork concepts. I am among a very few teachers of management in library schools to use experiential activities. Certainly, many use team projects but I know of no one else who uses group activities, at least not to the extent I use them. If I am wrong, let me know!

I’ve culled and adapted my problem-solving “initiatives” from the many (really hundreds of “new games”) created within the experiential education movement dating from the 60s. I used several in my Fulbright teaching last year: Egg Drop, Bibliofoon, Mirage, Pyramid, and Frenzied Fun and Facts. Biblofoon and Frenzied Fun and Facts are customized versions of Pipeline and Corporate Connection. Most, if not all, of these activities can be found on the Internet and in publications from Project Adventure.

Most of these activitites can be done and discussed inside 60 minutes. In that discussion we explore, among other questions and observations, the three Whats:
The What?, the So, What? and the Now, What?
To help explain the 3 Whats, I use Vincent Andriani’s children’s book, Peanut Butter Rhino. It’s a story about a rhinoceros – intent on lunch with an elephant friend - that loses his peanut butter sandwich. The sandwich is not lost but stuck to the rhino’s backside – he sat down on it. (Imagine the giggles among young children hearing the words and seeing the illustrations! Nor are adults immune to this juvenile humor). The story explains how several animals try to help find the missing sandwich. A monkey looks in several trees, then a lion checks out a cave, and a mouse finds some old cheese in a mouse hole but, alas, no sandwich.
Stumped, the rhino declares he will just have to see elephant without his “most wonderful peanut butter sandwich.” Enter the elephant, which inquires, “Why is there a squished peanut butter sandwich on your bottom?” No matter, elephant has brought two peanut butter sandwiches, one to share.

The first What? is the story. A fun story with an absent minded rhino and a happy resolution due to a kindly friend, the elephant.
There is more to the story, the So, What? The story shows other animals helping rhino to find the missing sandwich. And it shows elephant willing to share his second sandwich. So, helping and sharing.
Finally, Now, What? asks what the reader will take away from this story and apply to herself? Will it be the lesson not to sit on a peanut butter sandwich or will it be something more, like helping others and sharing with the less fortunate?

I tell the students that just about everything we do in the class can be looked at from the perspective of the three Whats. I mean for that to enlarge their thinking on class activities and for them to look for personal meaning in what happens in the class.

Copyright John Lubans 2013
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