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Paper airplanes allowed: Why we break the rules in YE

In most classrooms, flying paper airplanes is certainly against the rules. But in YE, flying paper airplanes is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. We’re all about “breaking rules” creatively in YE classrooms — and here’s why.

Breaking the rules spurs innovation. The experiential nature of YE promotes “rule breaking,” encouraging students to think innovatively and creatively. The invention game activity is one example. “The goal of the game is to create a product that has never been created before,” says Greg Kegley, YE Area Manager in Phoenix. “The only rule is that the product has to be brand new. There are no other limits! Students sometimes struggle at first, and they worry their idea is too crazy, or they’re not sure how to approach it. For once, we let their brain run wild. That’s how you get creativity and innovation going.

Breaking the rules teaches students how to test their hypotheses. Especially in Market Day, students learn how to create value for others and then test it out in the market. “Students spend a whole semester learning how to appeal to their customer, how to crunch the numbers and how to start up any business,” Greg says. Students get to test facets of their business (like how a product is packaged or how it is marketed, for example) and see how the market chooses what they want. It’s an experiential way of exploring how their idea pans out in real life.

Breaking the rules shows students how our economy works. A popular YE activity is the trading game PIT, which hit the market in 1906. In the fast-paced game, students use cards to trade commodities. The original game rules do not allow players to discuss what commodity they are asking for or what they want to trade. The students quickly see how this is incongruent with the way business really works: free speech allows us to advertise. They’ll play the game again, breaking the original rule, and they see how advertising changes everything. Breaking one simple rule allows students to explore why free speech is important to how capitalism operates today.

Breaking the rules encourages real-world application. “In a lot of classrooms, the concepts can be hard for students to grasp in an outside world. It’s easy for students to forget why they are learning,” Greg says. “But in YE, when students ask how they will use a concept, we will have an answer every time. They can instantly take what they are doing and implement it as soon as they leave class.”