Charades, drawing bugs and playing “parachute” games might sound like a day of goofing off for a group of high school students.

Charades, drawing bugs and playing “parachute” games might sound like a day of goofing off for a group of high school students.
But the 268 area high school students who attended the fifth annual “Behavior Mania” event at McPherson College were gaining valuable lessons about psychology, sociology and other behavioral sciences in the midst of all the fun. The crowd of students represented the largest in the history of the event, which started in its first year with a modest 50 attendees.
Dr. Kent Eaton, provost of McPherson College, welcomed the students to Behavior Mania, tying in the event to the college’s larger focus on education with an entrepreneurial mindset.
“We think that learning should be engaging, it should be experiential and it should be fun,” he said. “We think you will experience all three of those here today.”
Dr. Bryan Midgley, associate professor of psychology, said the event has grown and developed by staying close to a successful ratio.
“It’s the 90 percent/10 percent rule,” he said. “We try to make it 90 percent entertainment and 10 percent education.”
Just as important as what it offers to area high school students, Dr. Midgley said it was important to the college’s behavioral sciences department. All of the professors and every available student in the major has a role, whether that’s helping guide the groups around to five of the 10 available sessions or helping to lead one of those sessions themselves.
“We love having the kids on campus, but we really enjoy having something to do together as a department,” Dr. Midgley said. “It brings good feelings to the department and a feeling that what they do is important.”
Dr. Cari Lott, academic dean, served as a session leader for the first time this year with a new session activity, called simply “Draw a Bug” — where the students drew a bug.
But the twist was that they could only draw the bug that Dr. Lott described verbally, without being able to see the picture, ask questions or talk to each other — which she would emphasize by curtly reprimanding anyone talking when she looked up. She only looked up when someone was talking.
The harsh tone was out of Dr. Lott’s usual personality and, the students discovered, part of an act. After the verbal description, the students compared the pictures to each other and to the original Dr. Lott held. One of her points was how one’s preconceived notions affects perceptions of new experiences.
“You’re bringing your previous experience to the situation,” she said. “We do that all the time.”
The other point of the exercise was to demonstrate good and bad communication skills. After going over what she’d done wrong the first time, Dr. Lott described the bug picture again, this time allowing questions and collaboration, making eye contact and  sketching the figure on the chalkboard.
“People are trying to communicate with you,” she said. “Listen.”
In another session, Dr. Midgley presented “Speed Friending” — a less-intimidating version of popular “speed dating” events.
“You have three minutes to ask questions to see whether this is someone worth spending time to be friends with,” Dr. Midgley said.
After a few rounds, Dr. Midgley presented several other questions that the students might not have thought of, but that could be important in relationships — such as whether they are disorganized, careless or impulsive or — in the case of a romantic relationship — what their religion is or what their lifetime earning potential might be.
Overall, Dr. Midgley said that between the aphorisms “Opposites attract” or “Birds of a feather flock together” — the latter is usually true.
“What do we think we know in psychology versus what the data shows?” he said. “In our friendships and our romantic relationships, they tend to be with someone like us.”
Jill Roland, psychology, physical education and health teacher at Sterling High School, said she appreciated that MC has provided this event for so long for area students.
“There’s not always a lot for the behavioral sciences,” she said. “Some have really enjoyed it. I have some now who are really considering a career in the behavioral sciences.”
One of those students from Sterling, senior Megan Schroeder, said this was her first year attending Behavior Mania and particularly enjoyed the teamwork skills they learned in an event called “Tangled Group.”
“I was kind of surprised,” she said. “I thought it would be a lot of boring lessons about psychology. They got us involved.”
Students attended from 13 area schools: Canton-Galva High School, Centre High School (Lost Springs, Kan.), Chase High School, Hesston High School, Ell-Saline High School, Kingman High School, Salina Central High School, South Gray High School (Montezuma, Kan.), Southeast of Saline High School, Sterling High School, Wichita High School East, Wichita High School South and Cheney High School.