Cavert, C., & Simpson, S. (2010). The Chiji guidebook: A collection of experiential activities and ideas for using Chiji Cards. Bethany, OK: Wood N Barnes. 112 pages. ISBN: 9781885473844
An exciting part of reviewing Cavert and Simpson’s The Chiji Guidebook is that the book, and the cards it describes, represents a convergence of my two practices of education. As an experiential educator, I always have Chiji Cards on hand; of the three decks I own, I try to keep one crisp and clean, while the other two are dog eared and faded from frequent use and many young hands. As a Ph.D. candidate doing research, I find that story and metaphor are important ways teachers and students can draw educative meaning from experiences of social activism, and I recognize how the cards and the book can support this process.
For the uninitiated, Chiji Cards are “a deck of 48 cards originally designed to spark/enhance discussion during a processing session…. When a facilitator asks the group a question … the pictures provide a starting point from which to formulate a response” (p. xi). The Chiji Guidebook has been written in two sections. The first provides a quick background on the creation of Chiji Cards, the intentions that the developers had for them, and the explosion of uses invented by experiential educators thereafter. The authors offer an effective, if basic, outline of the theory behind intentional processing as a key component of experiential education—just enough to help a novice facilitator. Given the purpose of Chiji Cards, it is not surprising that Cavert and Simpson focus their discussion of theory on making a transition from didactic question-and-answer debriefing toward participant-centered processing, where group members hold some or all of the control in debriefing their experiences.
The second section offers Chiji Cards aficionados 25 activities (plus variations) organized by the nature of the activities: processing, getting to know you, frontloading, object lessons, initiative activities, and fun with Chiji Cards. For Experiential Educators, the primary value of the The Chiji Guidebook lies in the opportunities it provides for rich meaning-making through participant-centered processing. A quick outline of how I use two of the book’s activities illustrates this.
During a ropes course experience with grade 5 special education students, I have used the “Picture Processing” activity, which involves picking “a card that, for some reason, describes your feelings about the last activity” (p. 15). Using this strategy, I have frequently been reminded that metaphor and story are fundamental building blocks of meaning—even for very young students. As a second example, I have used the activity “Relationships” in an educational law class for pre-service teachers to preface a module on student-teacher relationships. This activity involves students choosing pairs of Chiji Cards between which they identify some kind of relationship. For example, the lightning bolt and the fire cards might be paired as related. I use the activity to open discussion on the notion of “being in relationship.” Sometimes the activity is simply a fun “hook” to start thinking about relationships, but other times the Chiji Card relationships actually crop up as a meaningful part of class discussion on ethical professional conduct. In both examples, the Chiji images create a powerful experience by inspiring the framing metaphor invented by the students, rather than imposed by the facilitator.
Readers who approach this as a sourcebook of activities will not be disappointed. More importantly, however, many readers will find value in the interstice of theory and activity. Cavert and Simpson contribute to the field of experiential education by inviting readers to facilitate in ways that blur traditional lines between experience and processing. That is to say, The Chiji Guidebook could be used by practitioners who want to make experience more thoughtful and processing more experiential. This emerging direction in our field is worthy of consideration across academic and practical contexts.
Blair Niblett is a Lecturer in the School of Education at Trent University, a Ph.D. Candidate at the Lakehead University Faculty of Education, and a Senior Consultant with Adventureworks! Associates—all in Ontario, Canada. Email: email@example.com
Visit the Association for Experiential Education at www.aee.org We will be at the annual AEE conference in Madison, Wisconsin this week. See you there in the bookstore!