Last Saturday, we brought a bunch of activities to LAEEF 2016 (the Los Angeles Environmental Education Fair). The central activities revolved around The Puzzle of Life, and we encouraged visitors to make of it what they would - to find solutions, make their own pieces, or work on a coloring book. Some highlights:

A Family Connected by love!

[caption id="attachment_1044" align="alignright" width="150"]A family connected by love. A family connected by love.[/caption] When we talk about connections, most people immediately think of physical stuffs: food, water, air, and the like. So, I was wonderfully surprised when this woman sat down with her daughters, and began creating a Puzzle based on her family. She created a central 'family' piece, additional pieces for the various people in her family, and a final piece that represented the love that connected her family together. Which was great!

A Determined Puzzler

The Puzzle of Life is actually kinda difficult. Even with the harder pieces removed (omnivores, oak tree, rainbows), most people take quite a while to find a solution. Of course, we're happy to help, but we're also happy when people are so captivated by the Puzzle that they find their own way to the answer. This young man was one such person. He was obviously engaged and determined, so when I asked if I could take his picture, he said that I could, but not until he'd finished. [gallery link="file" ids="1043,1041"]

A Determined Artist

While some people were attracted by the challenge of the Puzzle, others wanted to express themselves. This young man sat down, and with nary a word, slowly and methodically produced a set of remarkably beautiful pieces. He then left as mysteriously as he arrived. I feel like there's a story in his pieces, and while I don't know what it is, I can imagine lots of great possibilities. [gallery link="file" ids="1045,1047"]

The Long Tail

One of the benefits of the World Wide Web is that it has something for everyone. There are blockbuster media thingums that appeal to big audiences, but there are also niche blogs and channels that serve niche needs, needs that would have gone unserved in the dark times before the Internet. Those many small niches are often known as the long tail. Why do I bring this up? Because at last Saturday's LAEEF, I feel like we caught the long tail. Most of the visitors seemed like they wanted to look around, but didn't really want to engage. On the other hand, there were a smaller number of folks, perhaps forty, who really dug in to our activities, seemed to find them highly rewarding. Those who did engage with the Puzzle did so in a wide variety of ways, confirming yet again that The Puzzle of Life is a wonderfully flexible learning tool. I'm really happy that we were able to help these people to engage their minds and hands in ways that they found rewarding. Given that the Puzzle can serve such a wide range of interests, I would bet that there were many folks at LAEEF who would have enjoyed our activities, if only they'd had more confidence about what they'd be getting into, which is a marketing problem. Marketing and image are things that we've always struggled with, but we're slowly getting better. Last Saturday, we got some useful feedback from visitors, feedback that will help us to improve our presentation, and to have a bigger impact at future festivals. Specifically, we'll add a few more tabletop signs, as well as some printed activity suggestions - one page cartoons suggesting Puzzle challenges and piece ideas. Together, these items should allow the more shy among our visitors to feel comfortable, confident that they can try out our activities without fear of pressure or marketing. We never pressure anyone for anything, but we totally understand that folks might be wary of unfun tactics, as we've been on the receiving end of those things ourselves. Later gators.