Course observation journal #2

TEL 705
May 30, 2018

Part 1: Worksite

I visited the “Museum for Kids” on Saturday with my wife and daughter. As I was trying to connect how this glorified (and I mean it in every sense of the word – it’s amazing!) play place would line up with my problem of practice, it became obvious to me that this is the kind of place that almost every school might strive to be. It’s a place of creativity and wonder, and it has all of the elements you might want to find in a school. It occurred to me as the kind of system a school might want to create for itself if it had the opportunity to do so.


Part 2: Observation notes — Saturday, May 26, 2018

While there were very few “formal” educational activities taking place, this is perhaps one of the more educational spaces I could imagine. From the moment we walked in, there are almost a countless number of small venues and nooks and materials available for children of all ages to play with and explore. There were likely a thousand people in the museum, which has three floors, mostly all families or what appeared to be families (children with parents and occasionally grandparents). There was a giant facsimile of a tree fort, with industrial and eclectic decor for kids to climb. There were staff attendants in turquoise shirts, keeping an eye on kids for safety. There were many different kinds of replica activities for kids, including a pretend kitchen – with felt scraps for pizza ingredients to make on real trays – and a pretend ice cream shop. All throughout the space, children were screaming and yelling and having fun. Parents were monitoring children and teaching them to share. There were even a few spaces within the museum where formal educational activities, such as a cooking class, were taking place.

As a system, this museum was definitely loosely coupled, but I’ll talk more about that in a minute. It was certainly a place with organized chaos, but that’s the driving ethos of the place. It definitely had coherent layout and set of activities, and staff were uniformly dressed and ready to assist. There was a formal entry point for members and paying guests, as well as a gift shop and a cafe and obvious signage for changing rooms, etc. It also had a systematic approach for being a place that kids would enjoy, so there were many tactile exhibits and opportunities to emulate being an adult in a kid-friendly setting.

Part 3: Readings

From this week’s readings, this space obviously jumped out to me as a loosely coupled system, as Weick (1976) identified. You can see that this is a space where there’s a lot of organized activity, but it’s not commanded throughout the building. THere are rooms where kids have to take off their shoes and staff are monitoring closely, and then there are spaces where kids are almost entirely free to do whatever they want, relying only on parent supervision. Some of the spaces and activities encourage cleanliness, while some really allow kids to make a mess.

I think the counter-argument for this space not being a loosely coupled system is that it all flows from the ethos of the place – that’s it meant for this kind of divergent activity, but all under the same house and same house rules! Going forward, I’m not sure if I’ll consider a space like this in the future, if only because a lot of what I’m up to  is geared more toward formal school settings.

Weick, K. E. (1976). Educational organizations as loosely coupled systems. Administrative science quarterly, 21(1), 1-19.

Part 4: Integrations

  • What are the ways in which this system might provide inspiration for some of the other systems my PoP is looking to change? Is it likely that this is more of an ideal?
  • How would Weick talk about this as a system? Is it loosely coupled because there’s so much going on that’s not coordinated tightly, or can it still be coherent because the controlled chaos of the place is exactly the point? I need to get more clarity around systems like this.
  • I’ve been here many times, but never thought of this as a space to just sit and observe. It’s pretty marvelous to just see little kids come into their own and discover all of the new things there are to see/do/try. 🙂

Mom and daughter in tub, high up in the climbing fort!

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