I spent part of Tuesday morning with our sixth graders in the woods as they did low ropes team building.
They worked in advisory groups and were faced with a series of challenges - for instance, trying to put 12 students on a ~ 24” x 24” platform (the aptly named “All Aboard”). Another task was passing the entire group through a spiderweb of ropes without ringing a bell attached to the ropes. And one of the most challenging was figuring out how to get two groups of students to pass by each other without falling off a series of 4” wide balance beams. As you can imagine, it was a great mix of fun, laughter and learning more about one another.
An important wrinkle is that teachers never tell students how to complete a challenge. They merely provide guidelines, facilitate discussion and ensure safety. The students must determine solutions for themselves, and if (when) they initially fail, figure out what didn’t work and how to fix it.
I was struck by a few observations. First, these students do a great job of communicating with one another. They readily solicited ideas from other students, were willing to share suggestions with one another, and easily flowed from leader to led. And secondly, the deep strategic and tactical planning in which they engaged showcased their extraordinarily creative and thoughtful approaches to problems.
This is all a part of our sixth grade experience, teaching students to be leaders both inside and outside of school, to build student-student and teacher-student communication, and to cultivate a deep sense that life, both now and in the future, is truly a group effort.
So the next time you see some of our sixth graders, ask them what their most challenging obstacle was and how their team solved it. You might hear some wonderful stories!