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Science of Sharing Educator Activities

Science of Sharing Educator Activities

Science of Sharing was funded to create experiences that promote:

  • experimentation with social behaviors,
  • awareness of how we perceive others and think about social interactions,
  • discussion of the social aspects of large-scale societal challenges, and
  • understanding of the scientific study of human behavior.

The project’s museum exhibits and online activities offer two powerful methods of achieving these goals. But the project team recognized the importance of reaching audiences beyond museum walls and social media platforms—particularly middle- and high-school students—so we also created a set of simple group activities for classrooms, community centers, libraries, and other venues. These activities were designed to focus participants on key topics in social psychology, and while they are ideal for use in middle school, high school, and college classes in psychology, economics, anthropology, civics, government, and environmental studies, they are easily adaptable to a broad range of groups and discussion topics. They require little setup time and minimal materials, and are designed for maximum flexibility for use with groups of different sizes. They are free to all educators and group leaders and require no permissions for use, modification, or distribution.

Activity Structure

Each activity follows a consistent format: an initial overview; materials and setup instructions; a suggested script for describing and running the activity; Discussion Questions to foster group inquiry; and a Variations section containing ideas for focusing discussion on key elements or adapting the activity to different contexts. In addition, most of the activities include a Resources section that provides information for further investigation.

In our experience, giving educators and students opportunities to experiment with ways of running the activities is a powerful catalyst for active discussion and deeper learning of the core ideas underlying each experience. It is through the experimentation with format and framing described in the Variations sections that participants become the “scientists” of Science of Sharing. We also strongly endorse the notion of following these activities with extended projects in your school or organization. Such projects could include community service–learning initiatives, where participants “teach back” what they learned to engage more students and groups. For example, consider ways of building on these activities through student government initiatives and club activities, local environmental or community initiatives, social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, and even the development of new apps focusing on social interaction.

Testing and Development

The development of these activities was led by the Heroic Imagination Project (HIP), a key member of the Science of Sharing team. As these activities evolved and were tested on the museum floor, HIP and museum staff met repeatedly to observe how visitors used early forms of the exhibits and to brainstorm ways of adapting them for classroom use. Additionally, HIP provided new ideas based on insights gained through their extensive experience translating social psychological research into compelling small-group learning experiences. Once the team had generated a large set of potential activity ideas, we refined them through the same iterative prototyping method used for creating strong museum exhibits, which includes comparing variations in setup, instructions, and framing to simplify procedures and clarify learning goals. Many of the activities were also tested with groups of enthusiastic Exploratorium Explainers, who act as docents, guides, interpreters, and experience partners on the museum floor. Creating these activities would not have been possible without their effort and creativity.

We hope these activities inspire animated discussion and experimentation in your class or group and prompt further investigation of the scientific study of cognition and behavior. Please take opportunities to share and discuss them with others, and email us at to let us know how you’ve used them. Good luck—and thanks for being part of Science of Sharing!

Download Activity PDFs

Download PDFActivity 1: Take it or Leave it
Investigate fairness and equity with the Ultimatum Game.

Download PDF Activity 2: The Investment Game
Experiment with strategies for cooperation.

Download PDF Activity 3: Public/Private
Explore conceptions of independence and social responsibility.

Download PDFActivity 4: Social Norms
What happens when you break the rules?

Download PDFActivity 5: Collaborative Shapes
Work with someone you can’t see.

Download PDFActivity 6: Crime and Punishment
Play with trust in the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Download PDFActivity 7: Freeloader
Will you play for the group—or for yourself?

Download PDFActivity 8: More or Less
Take one for the team . . . or not!

Download PDFActivity 9: Tuna Tag
Play tag to learn about the Tragedy of the Commons.

Download PDFActivity 10: The Bystander Effect
Conduct a research project on helping behavior.

Download PDFActivity 11: Read My Eyes
Communicate using only your eyes.