Updated: May 20, 2020
Now that you have done the Wonder stage, you have all sorts of ideas and information at your fingertips. Some of those ideas could be wacky and wild or, at the other end of the spectrum, could be sadly banal. Explore is the stage where you investigate the real possibilities that will help you achieve your purpose. Go back to your Question. What exactly do you need? This is when you start to apply common sense to see how you can make interesting ideas feasible.
Look again at all your Wonder items with a view to deciding what might work for you and what won’t. When it comes to solving this particular Question, some of your ideas might be:
interesting but unrealistic
realistic but boring
novel but expensive
workable, but with no added value to make it different from what has been used before
You need to have a clear idea of the characteristics or key features of each solution so that you can judge their relative merits in due course. What you need to do at this point is sort out all the solutions that are possible from those that definitely are not. Forget-Me-Nots can be useful tools at this stage, too, but the best starting point is ACES.
ACES is an acronym to remind you what to do with your Wonder items when you get to the Explore stage. Assess all the ideas you came up with. Some of them will work as they are, or definitely won't work at all. Some might be possible, with changes. Alternatively, some things could be combined to develop a workable solution. So:
Assess the Wonder items, then:
Construct - this is where you can link two or more of the Wonder ideas together to create an interesting possibility. You're building a new potential solution, using multiple elements you came up with when you were Wondering.
Enhance - take one of your basic Wonder ideas and enhance it to get to a solution. For instance, suppose you had something that was usable and practical but a bit boring, could you add an interesting twist to give some novelty?
Select - some ideas you have come up with may be deemed suitable (or unsuitable) just as they are. Add them to (or remove them from) your list of possible solutions.
Let's go back to our Playground example. When the youngsters did their Wonder stage, they came up with a list of items that we could assess together. Even before they had finished that stage, though, their brainstorming had started to slow down. They were struggling a little with which activities/rides to choose. However, when they considered the theme they had picked and how that could link with activities, suddenly their ideas started to flow again.
That is an early example of what you would do with ACES, where you can take two or more elements from Wonder to Construct something entirely different. Like many of the Forget-Me-Nots, it isn't rigid, with its use fixed to a particular point, but used when needed. Suddenly, from a lull, we had a storm of new ideas: zip slides in the jungle, neon climbing frames in the form of animals, rocket-shaped climbing frames, a fishing-net obstacle course.
Enhance is where you take a basic idea from Wonder and make it better. In the playground exercise, the theme again helped the Learners to come up with something better. With the 'sea' theme we ended up with a clear glass slide that went through shark tanks or slides in the shape of an octopus, where each 'slide' had a different variation (high drops, 'bumpy' slides, 'legs' that went over and under other ones, or through a tunnel). In 'space' we had 'roundabouts within roundabouts' to mimic planetary orbits. Note: we did say that the playgrounds shouldn't include a slide, a swing or a roundabout 'unless they were very unusual' - we felt that all of the above fit the bill. They also enhanced the 'zip slide' by making it a series of slides going from planet to planet, in the dark and considered changing the temperature of each area to represent the type of planet it was.
There were ideas that they could Select from their list straight away (inspired by items from their memory rather than combining it themselves with a theme) such as a woodland adventure assault course and a tree house or a pirate ship where you climbed the rigging.
The children in our various 'playground' sessions had lots of ideas to choose from in Wonder, but using ACES they reduced their lists to a much more manageable length, comprising items that were all much better than the first thing they came up with.
At the end of the Explore stage, you would expect to have fewer items than at the end of the Wonder one, as you have got rid of any of the ideas that were totally unworkable or have combined others together to get something feasible. In the Rank stage that follows, you will select which solution(s) is best.
You can watch us talk about this stage, along with some practical examples, in E is for Explore on our YouTube channel.