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Yes, We Have No Banana

By Anita Harris Hering, Extension Educator — Military Families

Before I joined the Center for Family Development to work with military families, I worked in Extension Center for Youth Development (CYD). In my time with CYD, my colleagues and I wrote three booklets with reflection, evaluation, engagement, and leadership activities. Since the booklets were published, we have been giving presentations locally, nationally, and even internationally.

Image credit: University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development. (2014).

Why reflection? For over 100 years, educators, philosophers, and practitioners have promoted reflection as an essential part of learning. American educational theorist David Kolb’s “Experiential Learning Cycle” includes reflection on the experience, and then application based on reflection.

Image credit: Experiential Learning Model adapted from Pfeiffer, J.W. and Jones, J.E. (1985).

This complete cycle is necessary for learning to take place, and for transfer of learning to occur. Reflection is what creates value in the learning, and when reflection activities are successful, people understand more fully what they will take away from a program or activity. So, reflection is a critical component of a group debriefing process.

To help program participants “make meaning” of an experience and transfer learning into real-world application, our Extension teaching must be intentional about engaging the learner and creating opportunity for meaningful reflection. In addition, we as program planners benefit from reflection to enhance our program improvement efforts.

Reflection can be fun and easy to incorporate. A favorite activity from the booklet is Banana Surgery. Teams are formed and each group is given a banana, cutting board, and plastic knife. The activity leader directs the teams to peel and cut the banana into four to five equal sized pieces.

Image credit: iStock.

After teams have cut up the bananas, they are handed a “banana surgery kit” and told to reassemble the banana within 5 minutes. Usually at this point, participants frantically begin try to figure out how to put the banana back together again with the pins, tape, thread, and toothpicks in the banana surgery kit. They want to make the banana look “whole” again. Most think that they have done something wrong, that there was a certain way that the banana should have been cut into those four or five pieces.

After the 5 minutes are up and sticky fingers are cleaned, it’s time to debrief. Key to this activity is reflecting on the surgery and its consequences. Here are the questions used to debrief the experience.
  • Since you were not able to solve the problem, does it mean your group is a failure?
  • What did you learn through this and your groups’ “failure” to put the banana back together?
  • What do you think you would have needed to succeed?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • When do you feel like you are going with the flow or working well with others?
  • When do you not feel like you are really going with the flow and working well with others?
  • Would you make changes in how you communicated?
These questions apply not only to surgery on a banana, but also to every project at work. Consider how these reflective questions might guide planning your work for the upcoming year, or program planning done within the communities you serve. Kolb’s experiential learning cycle applies to both program participants and to those developing the programs.

I had the honor of presenting on building program quality at Extension’s Fall Program Conference last year, and plans are in the works for me to present to Family Development staff next year. During our time together, I will provide strategies and tools to help you increase engagement and reflection in workshops and programs, and to facilitate participatory evaluation that can be used for program improvement. In an upbeat and fun learning environment, you’ll be actively engaged in tools that have been used successfully with adults and youth, take 20 minutes or less, address various learning styles and used within diverse communities. I look forward to reflecting with you!

Editor’s note
To download the first two booklets in the series, scroll of the bottom of this page on the Program Quality page of the CYD Intranet (login required).

Harris, A., Olson, B., & Stevenson, A. (2016). Building Your Program Quality 20 Minutes at a Time: R.E.E.L ‘em in with Reflection, Evaluation, Engagement, Leadership. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota Extension.

Pfeiffer, J. W. & Jones, J. E. (1985). The Reference Guide to Handbooks and Annuals. San Diego, CA: University Associates Publishers and Consultants.

Southern District Leadership Team. (2002). Banana Surgery.
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