Camp, Creations, and Other Challenges

It’s amazing how quickly time passes. I challenged myself to write at least once a week this year, and just like that, three weeks have passed. It’s not for lack of things to write about but rather a lack of time to write – which is a good thing, I think. Since my last post, the AZ has been hopping with activity. Our 6th graders went on our annual overnight trip to Camp Manitou, our Quarter Project Game Night is quickly approaching, and our Friday team design challenges have been testing cooperative learning and critical thinking skills.

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Camp Manitou

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Ah, camp. If you read my blog post about our camping trip last year, you know that camp holds a place very near and dear to my heart. I was a counselor at a summer camp for many, many years and my experiences and memories from that time will always remain very special to me.

The buses pulled into Camp Manitou this year on a very chilly morning. Energetic students piled out and collected their belongings to dump into their cabins, then we all joined in the Main Lodge to get ready for the day’s events. Before starting any introductions or expectations for the day, one adult asked the entire group to raise a hand if they had never been to a camp before. Most hands shot up in the air, and my heart swelled. I knew this would be an experience they would never forget.

Throughout the course of the day, students spent time on and near the water in the large war canoe, individual kayaks, and fishing from the shore. They sat around a campfire cooking gooey snacks, hiked through trails photographing the natural beauty around them, and created fun and memorable crafts to take home. The evening included some free time to just hang out and enjoy the games and activities available around camp and our very first-ever skit show!

Though our evening campfire was rained out (normally my favorite part), I was so grateful for some extra quality time with my cabin mates at night. I think the picture below says it all. So many smiles. So many giggles. So many sweet moments. I always return from camp feeling like I know my students on such a deeper level.

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Create Phase

First quarter is quickly speeding by, which means our first public project launch event is rapidly approaching. The quarter one project’s driving question was: How can I design a game that depicts a struggle that exists in our nation? After digging into some quality research about their topic of choice and some game design questions, most students have moved into developing their final products. This always means several things for the AZ: it’s loud and it’s messy, but gosh, it is fun!

It’s amazing to see the creativity kick in as students find ways to work with the supplies and resources we have available to us. Game boards are being built out of poster boards and cardboard boxes. I watched two girls glue bottle caps together and paint them to use as pawns for their game. The things they come up with are always surprising and unique. I love the energy in the room when we hit the Create phase of the project cycle. On October 30th, from 6 – 8 pm, each group will commandeer a section of the Northstar Commons. Families and other community members will come to play these newly-designed games and to offer honest feedback about the quality of their creations.

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Friday Design Challenges

A new addition to Humanities this year is our Friday challenges. Each week, students are presented with a random design challenge that tests their quick and critical thinking skills. They have built everything from spaghetti towers and bridges to craft stick catapults and paper airplanes filled with money. Every week they’re grouped with new people and given 20-25 minutes to complete the random challenge of the day. Each task brings new obstacles but many successful moments, as well.

What is most fun for me is listening to the conversations at each station. On many recent occasions, I have overheard things like, “What color are you?” or “What’s your leadership style?” – taken from our recent True Colors and Leadership Styles activities and discussions where they are learning more about themselves and each other and how their differences can help when working together in groups. There are no arguments about who is working with whom, but instead they are already leaning on each other’s strengths and differences. At the end of the day, successful or not, they all leave with smiles on their faces.

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