So Nicole and I were sitting around together at the end of last semester, excited about getting to meet a new batch of students in the spring, when we asked ourselves:

How are we going to get these people to form a community?

We puzzled about it, and scratched our heads, but there was no lightning flash, no sudden inspiration.  We had an idea that we’d like to give them something creative to do together, something collaborative, something they could do on their own prior to the beginning of the next semester, but we didn’t really have any clue as to what that could be.

Several days went by and Nicole sent me a link to this video. (I think she just wanted to get me excited about heading out to the Playa next summer, but it had a totally different effect.)

While I was watching this, it hit me… why don’t we have the students remake this video in their own very special way?  Not only would it be a perfect introduction to the Burning Man culture and begin to give them an intuitive feel for the motivation behind our classes, but it could also result in a really cool end product that we could watch together as a celebration of the beginning of our new semester together.

We felt that the exercise had the potential to cultivate a sense of community and shared purpose well before the start of spring semester, and could give our students a taste of radical self-reliance.

A couple of days later we sent our students this email with an assignment… right when they were entrenched in final exam week! Our semester together wasn’t even going to start for another four weeks:

Screen shot 2013-01-31 at 6.50.37 PM


We had no idea if the experiment would work, but hey, it was worth a shot.  If it worked, we’d have some community bonds formed even before the first day of class. If it didn’t work, we thought, nothing lost.

And then, on Monday January 7, 2013… it was time for the first day of class. What would it be like? We didn’t monitor or prod the students over the winter break, so we had no idea. We knew we’d be surprised, one way or the other.

To be continued… Read On ->

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