It is certainly amazing how fast the summer flies. Here in Alaska, our days are starting to feel shorter, the leaves are starting to change colors and fall on the ground, there is a crisp chill in the morning air, and we have more rain. It only seems perfect to head back to the daily routine and fun in school. I enjoy the fun times at school learning with 29 (yes, twenty-nine) 4th and 5th graders. Our first day in class was a great opportunity to build our classroom community, check in with old friends and make some new friends.
Besides learning our 5 rules and engaging in “getting to know you” activities, we had an opportunity to be engineers today. This is always a fun treat for everyone. Today’s task was to build a tool with with a rubber band and string (each student in the team had to hold at least one string) to build a 6 piece cup pyramid. Those were the complete instructions. Some of the students looked at me like I was crazy to think they could do this task. However, I explained that in life you can’t depend on someone to tell you how to do everything. Sometimes you have to look at the problem and materials, brainstorm with your team, and figure out how to solve the problem. I have to say, I enjoyed watching the learning process evolve.
After about eight minutes of trial and error (lots of creative thinking, critical thinking, and conversation going on here), two groups were on to a solution. Soon, other students began to get creative and work to solve the problem. After thirty minutes, all groups figured out a method to make a tool to maneuver the cups successfully. It was interesting to see the variety of methods AND the rationale behind each invention. After forty-five minutes, all teams experienced success.
This project was the perfect opportunity for students to learn how to work together to solve a problem. Did we have a group or two get frustrated? Yes, we did! Did we have a couple of students get angry that their ideas were not being tried? Yes, we did! There were many team collaboration conversations throughout the timeframe and more conversations to have grit and persevere. These are skills that everyone needs in life – not just the engineers that students became today.
Our first day was a perfect opportunity to learn and work together. We celebrated our day with some fun games along the way. I’m looking forward to seeing these kids grow in teamwork skills, critical thinking, problem solving, and creative thinking, as we continue engaging in more learning solving problems.
Annette has been an educator for 29 years working in the PK-6 elementary classroom, English learner instructional specialist, district leadership, university professor, as well as a mentor for teachers nationwide. A National Board Certificated Teacher, Annette focuses her research on accelerating learning and advancing achievement, personalizing instruction, technology, and leadership in the education field.