Rock Hill's Sullivan Middle School holds day of team building

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comAugust 24, 2013 

— The classrooms and halls of Sullivan Middle School were filled with uncooked spaghetti, masking tape, trash bags, paper plates and plastic cups on Friday as students focused on team building.

Because Sullivan is an International Baccalaureate school, instructional coach and IB coordinator Chris McLean said the students need to have certain qualities.

“We know our kids need to be collaborators, they need to be reflective, they need to be risk-takers,” she said.

To work on these skills, each grade level was split up into groups, although not by class. The students were shuffled around so they were with a cohort they didn’t know as well. Then, they rotated from classroom to classroom and different teachers coached them through five different activities.

In Melanie Doan’s sixth-grade classroom, groups of three or four students were given some uncooked spaghetti, a piece of tape, a bit of string and a marshmallow. Their task was to construct the tallest tower they could in 20 minutes using only those materials. But the marshmallow had to be at the top.

“The groups that do better are the ones that have all the kids participate,” Doan said.

When one person tried to dominate others, or when students didn’t want to contribute, those groups tended to fare worse, she said.

“They’re building community amongst each other,” she said of the groups of students, who worked frantically to construct their structures, calling out ideas and furiously tearing tape and breaking spaghetti.

And that, McLean said, was the point of each of the activities.

“If you have to build a tower out of spaghetti and a marshmallow you’re going to have to make some mistakes,” she said. “You’re going to have to listen to each other, and we want them to understand that sometimes you have to go back and start from the beginning again.”

In another activity, students tried to get from one part of the hallway to the other by only stepping on paper plates. The trick was, if a foot left the plate, the plate would be taken away, so teams needed to work together to get everyone across the finish line.

“It was fun,” said Sadie Dibrell, a seventh-grader.

Her team took several attempts to master the paper plate activity, but eventually got the hang of it.

“It’s kind of hard sometimes because we all have different ideas,” she said.

In Amy Hayne’s classroom, she watched as sixth-graders tried to stack cups without actually touching them, using a rubber band and several pieces of string. Working together to do these types of activities and then reflecting on their performance helps prepare the students for schoolwork, she said.

“They’re stretching that comfort zone so they’re ready to do anything,” she said.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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