Symbols help to express feelings, values and attitudes. The facilitator comes up with an open question, for example “what does poverty mean to you?” Or “how do you use resources in a sustainable way?“ Each student then selects an object as a symbol for his/her answer and presents it in front of the group. There are no comments allowed by others during these small presentations.
This method helps to energize a group since picking the object involves getting up in the first place. “More than words” helps to formulate expectations in a course and to define basic concepts as a group.
Didactical description of the method
Preparation: If used as warmer / at the beginning of a semester, the facilitator should provide the objects. If used at a later point during the semester, students can also be asked to bring their own – the facilitator should still always have a back-up set of objects prepared.
Procedure: Students will be asked to sit in a circle and the facilitator will place the objects in its centre. After asking an open question (what does a sustainable university mean to you? or a question concerning the content of the course), students pick an object that symbolizes their answer to the question. Once everyone has picked an object, one after the other presents his object; the facilitator might jot down some notes on the flipchart.
At the end of it, similarities can be exchanged or the group can conclude a common answer (depending on the question) - the flipchart can support this process.
Flipchart, symbols – objects can be post cards, stationary, keys, etc.