Community Voices

The FUN Theory in Action

A little fun with audio recording on the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library.

Just over a year ago I became a Chattanooga resident, having relocated from the rocky coast of Portland, Maine. During my time in Maine, one of the big things I noticed was a laid back sense of exploration that kids, tweens, and teens of the community had during the summer months. School had ended, the sun was out, and the community was open to explore. There were some, but very few, camps or structured extracurricular learning activities. In Chattanooga, I noticed the opposite: there were many camps and and structured learning activities but less kids, tweens, and teens out and about in the community exploring freely. This got me thinking about kids, tweens, teens, and lifelong learning. I began to ask myself “what is the best path forward...the structured or the unstructured? And how can my work at the Chattanooga Public Library give the community what it needs?”

In my pursuit of a clearer path forward, I began reading up on all kinds of perspectives on education, from common core, to STEM and STEAM, homeschooling, unschooling, and everything in between. Now don’t get me wrong; every perspective that I studied up on had benefits for kids, tweens, and teens. However, one of the big things that I found missing from each of these perspectives was a simple three letter word: FUN.

Realizing that I may be onto something, I started to learn about how others incorporated fun into learning. My search led me to Volkswagen’s FUN THEORY, a movement “dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour [sic] for the better”. It immediately hit me; while supporting all types of learning, the 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library could add just a dash of fun, mix it in with lifelong learning, and see what can be cooked up. And that’s exactly what we've done. When you visit the 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library, you’re greeted by our button maker, 3D printer, the Awesome Bear, our Augmented Reality Sandbox, and more. All of these activities are not only fun but full of learning. Button making? There is a little bit of art and a little bit of engineering in putting together a button. The 3D printer? You’re learning a bit about cutting edge technology and 3D modeling. The whole time you’re exploring the 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library you’re having fun and learning something at the same time.


Students get an introduction to 3D printing. 

Has it worked? Numbers are one way to see our approach of learning through fun is working. In 2013-2104, a staggering 82,849 visited Chattannoga Public Library events, up 37.8% from the 2012-2013 total of 51,525 visits to library events. I’d say that’s a pretty good sign that fun and learning together are reaching out to Chattanooga kids, tweens, and teens. But there’s another way to see if this approach is working: come visit the 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library on any evening after school or on a Saturday afternoon. That’s where you’ll see the real magic of learning through fun happening firsthand.
“The whole time you’re exploring the 2nd Floor of the Downtown Chattanooga Public Library you’re having fun and learning something at the same time.”