Director's Corner: On Teamwork

Nov. 3, 2011

Halloween TunnelWhat better model of team work than The Magnolia School infamous Halloween tunnel? There is Sharon, the master builder, there is Kevin, her close building associate and relative, and this year, there was Aidan, the mad hole digger and distinguished alumnus, there was Steve, a.k.a Jatavius' Dad, with his compressor and his gallons of paint, there was Rick, pushing for more rooms while enjoying his tunnel staff status, and, as always, numerous students and parents erecting walls and decorating rooms. If Sharon ever starts with a precise plan in head, nobody ever knows it, because she constantly listens to students' whims and dreams, lets them problem-solve and modifies the plan accordingly.

The tunnel acquires a life of its own and, through the efforts of so many, ended up this year stretching even farther than ever (while Sharon et al. ended up with as little or fewer hours of sleep as ever!). A shantytown sight by day, spooky and magical by night, the ephemeral Halloween tunnel is a glorious example of cooperative project just for the sake of fun (we are not aware of any attempt to estimate the length of duct tape used, and that is fine!). And of course, talking about the Halloween party, the pot-luck dinner (thanks, Alyssa!) and the carnival games (many thanks, Sunshine!) were other examples of well-appreciated team work.

The elementary school students were also busy with a great creative team project over the last two weeks. Four different groups of them wrote their own radio show, complete with story lines and sound effects. The "yellow room" was transformed into a sound studio in which sound-man, Thomas, recorded the performances. It was fascinating to see the cooperative process at work, the leaders emerging to incorporate disparate ideas, the rehearsing, the critical thinking, the problem solving, the confidence building.

This is all project-based learning at its best, engaged students collaborating on fairly complicated projects complete with deadlines, learning and practicing all the skills needed in today's work world. An interesting bonus is to observe how, when given the chance, some students who tend to be resistant to more traditional pedagogical approaches shed their bored and/or negative attitude to blossom into project leaders.

We are looking forward to reporting on more such projects this year. Stay tuned for news on Model UN, the team project the middle schoolers will be embarking on their own soon.