Open Connections

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Looking to See, Seeking to Understand

This article was originally written for the Spring 2021 issue of the Open Connections Magazine.


Observation skills are valuable in all areas of life. As we look to see, seeking to understand, we can call on all of our senses to collect information, wonder, possibly recognize patterns, and help us ask more informed questions. With new questions we can hypothesize, predict, research, and test these ideas and theories. As naturally as this unfolds in our day-to-day lives, we also devote a lot of time to the development of observation skills in the Group Tutorial III program. Whether approached subtly or with intention, through discussion, debate, games or activities, our understanding of ourselves, each other and the world around us grows with our ability to keenly observe and grapple to make sense of things. Piecing together bits of information as we puzzle together a bigger picture happens rather organically while reading and discussing a book, conducting an experiment, studying social cues, or collecting and recording data for a citizen science effort. What follows are two examples of Group Tutorial III projects that we have enjoyed this year, and an opportunity to participate in the fun. 



Group Tutorial III makes journals each year, to be used throughout the year, for field notes and nature journaling. ‘Look-See’ is an annual project intended to develop observation skills through descriptive writing and drawing. Each person is given a specimen of the same category in a paper bag. In years past we have used leaves, shells, feathers, nests; this year we are studying rocks. This is a 3-part challenge: creating a drawing, writing a detailed description, and in the end working to match all of the drawings and descriptions with the specimens. I find that in drawing we see details that may have otherwise been missed; there is the opportunity to become more adept at observation, as well as helping to retain information. Frequently, the processes of studying and drawing, and, studying and writing descriptively, support and inform each other. Working with objects of the same category makes it necessary to dig deeper into the well of descriptive language. Youth are free to use metaphors and similes in creating analogies when noting measurements, specific colors, shape, size, texture etc. Another benefit of this activity is that using in this way is often associated with mindfulness as it tunes our awareness to the details of the present moment and what’s in front of us. 

(Do you want to try to match the drawings, descriptions and specimens?  Click here and scroll to pages 18-19 or the Magazine. )


Recreate a Famous Work of Art:

The quarantine measures brought on by the global pandemic inspired a creative challenge posed by some museums around the world, that went viral: recreate a famous work of art, using things (including family members and pets!) you have around the house. Group Tutorial III members were invited to choose a work of art and share their recreation. This has been a great way to engage with art from a perspective similar to the artist credited with the work. In addition to simultaneously navigating precise and approximate thinking, and understanding the visual element of perspective, careful consideration was given as to how to use three dimensional objects to recreate a flat, two dimensional piece. Lots of flexible, critical observation and thinking! Last, and certainly not least, I would like to think there was joy and laughter.

Click here to see a sampling of the works from Group Tutorial III members on pages 20-21.


Wishing for some more joy and laughter in your day? Why not participate in the challenge?