By Dylan Livingston
During this past summer, I traveled to Detroit, Michigan to visit my father and take a look into what he was working on for his job. Over the past year, my father was hired as the CEO of the Michigan State science center. One of my dad’s main objectives was to educate the public about how the racial and economic demographics throughout the Motor City made it how it is today. Although the museum’s calling card will be primarily surrounding science, my dad jumped on the project with massive intentions of teaching the public about the history and experiences of the people in the only American city to go bankrupt in the last 5 years.
My dad wanted to create a hands-on approach to educate youth within the Detroit Public School system about the city they live in. As upsetting as a city-wide bankruptcy is, my dad wanted to focus on its beginning as much as he wants to talk about what the city is doing and putting in place to change their misfortunes and make the Motor City boom like it once did. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure about his approach in terms of talking about the good and the bad of Detroit’s demise but after his explanation I was on board. My father described the entire experience as one big story that the youth of the DPS system could really get into. This got me to thinking about the endless possibilities that the project could bring to these children.
My dad wanted to make an interactive story providing a taste of a game similar to “The Game of Life” where the children would be presented with a small playing figure and they would progress them through their lives until they were hit with the reality of bankruptcy. The children were to be guided around a large room with different stations that represented different events that were to take place within their lives. They could choose their car, schools for their children, jobs they picked to work in and so on. The age range for students going through this game is targeted at around 10 to 15 years old.
As the game was to carry on and the lives of our made-up characters progressed, my dad wanted to gradually incorporate a failing economy in the student’s salaries at work and price of groceries in the store. As the children are beginning to notice small changes, it was my dad’s hope that a few students would take leadership roles and try to figure out the problems, only to amp up the experience and introduce the actual bankruptcy. As the bankruptcy takes hold it’s the goal of the exercise to teach a little about money, problem solving and coming up with a solution; similar to Detroit using creditors to help bail themselves out.
This exercise was very appealing to me because I knew it would make the students think and help them learn about their great city. Using interactive approaches, especially with younger children, gives them a reason to stay engaged while also having fun in the process of gaining everything, losing everything and then learning how to recover. I hope there are more interactive approaches to centers of history, science and art as they give the patrons of the facility a different experience and a great way to learn.