So last year I had an idea.
My school talks a lot about life skills and social skills. We are even lucky enough to have a fabulous counselor who (on top of working one-on-one with students) goes into every classroom and coaches our students in valuable things like responsibility, friendship, persistence and empathy. The teachers have the buzz words down. We can pull out the right life skill for every problem or crisis that arises with our students. But all we did was talk about these things.
I wanted to turn these values into a practice that the students could take part in, into something they could go out and do. Growing up I was big into the outdoors. I went camping and hiking. I did Outward Bound. I was lucky enough to go to a high school that had an outdoor education program (yes, I have a lot of privilege). We did trust falls and ropes courses. It meant a lot to me and I wanted to bring that experience to my school.
So I pitched the idea to our principal (who didn’t take a lot of convincing, she’s awesome). And we were off. I put together a manual of activities for the school. It included activities to build trust and community, activities that focused on communication and listening, physical games, mental challenges that required problem solving, and challenges that required everyone to work together. We started demoing different activities at professional development meetings so that all the other teachers could get a sense of it before doing it with their own classes. It’s gone okay. Some staff members really grabbed on and have been doing it with their own classes consistently. I know we can convince even more people of the program’s value next year. I want to share an idea with you that you can take back to your classroom or family.
I’ve seen the activity called pipeline or marble pass. The objective is to get a marble into a cup that is on the other side of the room. The only materials you have to use are tubes. You can do it with cut up pieces of PVC pipe. I used foam pipe insulation, it’s pretty cheap and available at any big box hardware store. But really any kind of pipe or tube will do.
The rules are that when the marble is in your tube, you can’t move your feet. You can’t plug up the end of your tube. And if the marble hits the ground the whole group has to start over. The main challenge is that the group should not be given enough tubing to cover the entire distance from the start point to the cup. This requires them to get to the end of the line once the marble is out of their tube in order to create a long enough pipe to get the marble all the way to the cup. It is a fun game and very energetic.
In the debriefing afterwards, it will likely provide an opportunity to discuss how plans were made, how leaders were chosen, what the quality of communication was, how issues/problems were addressed and fixed, and what improvements could be made for the future.
My class has really loved these activities (mostly, they can be really frustrating sometimes). I hope you give it a try.