“What if…?” Conference poses hard questions, opens minds


Alice Yu

Gifted education teacher Jake Giessman and principal Jennifer Mast participate in the “What if…?” Conference on Monday, March 17. Photo by Alice Yu
While “is” and “if” are, grammatically speaking, 50 percent the same, the thoughts they lead to are like ice and fire. “If” leads onto a road of undetermined opportunities and possibilities, while “is” leads into a box of definitive knowledge.
As students climb up the grade levels, the natural curiosity that sparks “what if?” questions tend to transform into trite “what is” questions.
In an effort to revive the power of creativity and “outside the box” thinking, forty teachers, parents, and students attended a conference devoted to “What if…?” questions Monday.
“Students are used to trying to ingest facts and regurgitate them to earn points,” RBHS gifted education teacher Jake Giessman said. “This encourages students to think about transforming what they know into what they can do.”
With three main presentations, students brought forth ideas of a world with humans as chimeras, schools with an increased focus on the fine arts and societies with overprotected children.
“It’s given me some ideas of how I can incorporate some of this in my own class,” science teacher Kory Kaufman said. “I’m looking forward to finding a stronger connection between science class and art classes.”
By attempting to initiate the train of thought that leads to unconventional thinking, “What if…?” Conferences have the aim of providing better preparation to face the future.
“So a lot of times, we think of things in terms of the next year, the next 10 years,” What if…? conference cofounder Andrew McHugh said, “but what’s going to happen 10,000 years from now and lets talk about some of those problems now.”
By shedding light on the importance of the demands of the rapid future, the What if…? Conference aims to create a supply unlimited, anomalous solutions.
“It’s opened up a lot of people’s minds to accept new ideas,” freshman Sam Speake said, “and look at things from different perspectives.”
With break-out sessions in between each presentation, the audience was able to interact with the ideas from the presentations, spurring the introduction of new “what if…?” questions and analyzing the effects of a single “what if…?” question on society and the world.
“I think they help bring out new discoveries for people and a lot of these new discoveries could either solve problems that they already have or solutions for things that they were searching for,” What if…? Conference cofounder Matt Murray said, “but…even more importantly, they can uncover problems they didn’t even realize they had, and solve for them.”
By Alice Yu