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MindLab
A Parent’s view

My name is Ian Denbigh. I am a parent of two girls at Wilderness School in South Australia. Wilderness School is a school that recognises the importance of an explicit thinking programme to help support our girls to become independent, life-long thinkers and learners. In support of these ideals the Junior and Middle School has engaged Chris Ramsden from Mind Lab Australia to introduce the methodologies of the Mind Lab system of learning using specially adapted board games.

I was first introduced to these games in a wonderful event held at school called the ”Dads & Daughters evening”. This was an event where tables were placed around the hall with about 6 sets of one game at each table. The purpose was that for about 15 minutes each girl could introduce and explain the game to their Dad before they rotated to the next game. It was highly successful and in looking around you could see the enjoyment the girls were experiencing whilst explaining the rules of the game and often beating their dad in the process!

I was often told by my youngest daughter Annabel, that she was looking forward to school today because they had a Mind Lab lesson. Also the girls in the years not yet exposed to the methodology were jealous and looking forward to when they would have the chance to participate.

It is worth pointing out that these games are specifically designed strategic games that teach participants to plan ahead, think outside the square, decide on the balance between attacking play and defensive play and most importantly learn lessons from past efforts to improve your strategy and success in future games.

I actually met Chris at an education expo at the Adelaide showgrounds where he showed me more examples of Mind Lab games which further my respect and interest in this education tool.

In March this year the school made us aware of an opportunity that had arisen for an Australian team to attend the Mind Lab Olympics in Budapest in June 2010. As Wilderness was one of only two schools that was involved in the Mind Lab programme, students from the school were being given the opportunity to compete for a chance to represent Australia in the games “Octi” and “Abalone”. Annabel was fortunate enough to be chosen to play Octi in this competition.

Annabel was then given specialised training in this game from Chris (as was Emma Macfarlane in Abalone) in the weeks leading up to departure on this exciting adventure. My involvement was to help Annabel practice and try and challenge her with different strategies. During this process I gained more respect for the foresight needed to play this challenging game successfully.

The team also involved two students from Scotch College. The four competitors all travelled separately with members of their families. We all arrived in Budapest early in the week and along with most of the international competitors we stayed in the same hotel.

On Wednesday we travelled to the historic Vajdahunyad Castle where the individual competition was to take place. Annabel and the rest of the Australian team were quite nervous about how they would fare against more seasoned competitors. We needn’t have worried as Chris had prepared them thoroughly and they were very competitive against the other players. Annabel surprised the eventual winner of the Octi competition by winning the 1st game in a best of 3 format.  He eventually won 2-1 but Annabel analysed his play and proceeded to use his strategy in her following games. This was a common trait amongst the other Australian players in their own individual competitions. Annabel’s last game in this competition was a play-off for the Silver medal and although she was not successful we were thrilled that she was awarded a bronze medal for her efforts throughout the day.

Later in the afternoon the competitors were grouped together to workshop some new Mind Lab games, which was a great cross-cultural exercise for the competitors.

The following morning was an exciting event in which the teams were very proud to represent their country. Our team really upheld the team spirit typical of Australians by supporting each other and competing strongly but fairly. We as parents were very proud of the way our children carried themselves throughout the competition. We were also thrilled with the way they developed as competitors throughout the week and it was a privilege to be involved in the Mind Lab Olympics.

I can strongly endorse the philosophy of the programme, which has helped develop the thinking & learning skills of my daughter so that she was able to compete successfully on the world stage. I believe that the skills that she has developed by participating in Mind Lab will assist her in problem solving and critical thinking long into the future.