The Maze Overview
A centerpiece for the 5th Dimension area is generally a maze (made of cardboard, wood, etc.) with three or four entrances leading to 20 or so rooms. The physical 5th Dimension maze can be added to as the activity system grows. In fact, it is very common to have rooms "under construction" or "waiting to be decorated." This is part of the incompleteness of the 5th Dimension that al-lows the children to participate in construction by suggesting activities for the maze. It also helps to avoid disappointment if a piece of software is missing or if computers break down.
The mazes used so far are open-top models with several dividers demarcating walls, and several openings in the dividers demarcating doors. Each room has several doors that connect it to the rooms around it, and all the rooms are interconnected. Rooms differ, however, with respect to the number of doorways they have.
The rooms are visited by little figurines (regular cruddy or transformed creatures) which are chosen by (and stand for) the children who are citizens of the 5th Dimension and are making their journey through the 5th Dimension There are four main entrances in the maze through which the children's figurines can enter. In each room there are two activities and the child chooses one of them to play. In playing a game, the child follows a task card which indicates three levels at which the game can be played: Beginner, Good, and Expert. The levels determine the child's consequences of how to move through the maze. In general, the higher the level, the more choices children have in moving through the maze.
You may have noted that the room in the very middle of the 5th Dimension is called the "Dare Room." If a child is stuck in a rut or looking for adventure, this may be just the room to consider. The child throws the 20 sided dice and moves to whatever room is designated.
Some mazes have a flat cover that fits exactly over it, which is left in place covering the maze, except when the children need to move from one room to another. To move one's figurine, one opens the cover, picks up one's creature, and moves it. A map of the maze is drawn on the cover, marking carefully the main entrances, and the doors of each room. Sometimes, the rooms of the maze have names; then, the name, the number, and the two activities that form the choices for each room are on the map. Children carry an identical map, but of smaller scale, in their folders so that they keep track of their journey. The only difference between the cover and the children's map is that the children's does not indicate the activities that can be played in each room.
A child who has chosen a cruddy creature and is ready to enter into the 5th Dimension is ready to become a citizen of the 5th Dimension. Upon entrance they receive the constitution to the 5th Dimension, which an adult Wizard's Assistant may assist in reading and explaining. After becoming a citizen, the main goals that adults negotiate and urge children to achieve are: (1) to exit from a different door than the one they entered so that they can come back transformed; and (2) to visit all 20 rooms in the 5th Dimension and become a Young Wizard's Assistant. The adults around the site have the status of Wizard's Assistants.
Relation of levels and consequences
A general rule in the 5th Dimension is that the choice of consequences must vary according to the level at which children complete a game. (The consequences per room are found at the back of the task cards that the child can choose to play for that room.) That is, when completing a game at beginner level, children receive no choices as to where to go next and must go to the one room indicated in the consequence card; when completing at the good level, the child has more choices; and when completing at the expert level, she has gained access to go to any of the adjacent rooms. This gradation of choices for the consequences aim to push children to play at a higher level and, thus, to get to learn more about a game.
If a child decides to play only at the minimum level possible and, thus, keep playing at the beginner level consequences are designed such that they allow the child to visit only a very restricted area of the 5th Dimension. The maze provides choices between the activity levels; that is, from three of the four entrances the child gets quickly into a loop that takes him/her back and forth between two rooms, while the fourth one sends her to the dare room.
Playing at the good level, the child has more choices but not all exits are open to her/him yet. In fact, sometimes the good level consequences send them back to the same room, they could have visited if playing beginner level, but this time they get a Free pass. In general, however, the child has more choices than if they played the beginner level.
The consequences for the expert level give the child the greatest amount of control of their itinerary through the maze. Then, the child is allowed to exit from any of the doors of that room; that is, they can go to any of the adjacent rooms--even to the dare room, if it is an adjacent room. (The consequence card for the expert level, however, merely enumerates the rooms to which the child can go, and it might be a good idea to write "go to any adjacent room." This way the implication of full control would be obvious to both the child and the adult playing with the child.)
The consequences for expert level carry further two interesting implications:
An adult with a child can, while looking at the maze, plan the child's itinerary while assuming and implying that if she did expert level at a game then she would have full control to go out from any door; thus, they can plan the fastest route to a favorite game, or the most attractive route, and so on. Thus, the moment the child has completed expert level, the structure of the maze looses its resilient quality and becomes totally transparent. That is, it loses the quality that some doors can be entered from one side only and not from the other. (This funny property is always present at the good level, but it gets alleviated at the expert level.)
Secondly, from the point of view of an adult designing a map: If playing at the expert level gains free access to all the doors, then there is a time when the 5th Dimension maze is exactly as it looks; that is, a door has the property that it has in real life, that it can be transversed from either direction. Under this condition, we can estimate the amount of traffic that a room can have; that is, the more exits that a room has, the more traffic we expect it to have. Taking this property as our starting point, we can place the shared and "favorite" games in appropriate rooms. (Of course, this is only a rule of thumb and the degree of difficulty of the levels of the games around it affect it as well).