Time outside is the key to sparking big ideas, scientists say
The Sector > Quality > Professional development > Time outside is the key to sparking big ideas, scientists say

Time outside is the key to sparking big ideas, scientists say

by Freya Lucas

August 15, 2019

Early results from an Australia wide experiment have suggested that being outdoors can be a good way to trigger “aha moments” – those times when a big and sudden “bright idea” arises. 


This is one of the early observations arising from The Aha! Challenge, the month-long Australia-wide science experiment that kicked off during National Science Week and runs until the end of August. 


The challenge will be of interest to those working in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector who seek to advocate for the inclusion of more time in nature. 


The experiment, which revolves around a series of online brainteasers, aims to explore sudden bursts of clarity and insight, and their role in problem-solving. In effect, it’s a nationwide quest to find the things that make you go “aha!


Experiment architect, psychologist Dr Maggie Webb from Melbourne University said there have been some amazing responses from people who have participated in the experiment thus far. 


“Some are prompted by religion, including a couple of near-death experiences! Other have arisen around education, which have sparked a life-long love of a particular topic, while some have involved life realisations and relationships.”


So far about 8,000 people have logged on to do the challenge, and one of the most interesting early results is in response to questions about where aha moments occur.


Participants are encouraged to specify multiple situations which give rise to aha moments, or big ideas. The most frequently cited was “in nature”, which accounted for 40 per cent of responses, with “in bed” following closely behind at 37 per cent.


Other key situations which supported and sparked big ideas were being in a quiet place, being at work or school or being in the shower.


Less common situations that prompted aha moments included while driving, gardening, eating breakfast and attempting a cryptic crossword.


Organisers are keen for many more people to take up the challenge before the exercise ends. With more results, more questions can be answered.


The Aha! Challenge takes about 15 minutes. It can be found here.


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