Building bridges and learning about team work

One of the things I always tell people when I do PBL presentations, is that it takes ages for students to learn the skills to be really good at project work. It’s pretty foreign to them to spend the majority of class time working collaboratively with their peers. School just isn’t designed for collaboration (the furniture tells us that) and therefore they find it hard to get out of the routine of sitting and listening… um, passive learning! I like to spend the first week of school giving students the opportunity to develop/sharpen some of the skills needed to be a successful team member.

There’s heaps of suggestions for team building activities online, just google ‘ice breakers’ and you’ll find heaps. When I was looking for an activity to help my year 7 experience the difficulty of team work, I used the lazy person’s google – twitter. I was recommended a cool website that lists heaps of hands on team building activities by Kyla Uribe:

Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 7.59.03 PMFrom the site I found a cool activity that has students working in small teams to create a 1metre bridge from basic materials – you can see it here. I didn’t have many resources at home, so I decided that students could only use 2 x A3 pieces of paper, 5 large paper clips, a blob of BluTak and two strips of sticky tape. I tweeted out my plans to get feedback from my peers,

Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 8.02.04 PMWithin a couple of minutes I received a great tip from one of my twitter colleagues, Bryn Jones. His feedback changed my strategy for awarding points:

Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 7.58.55 PMI also decided that I would have students complete the activity as a mini-project, to help them become familiar with my discover/create/share approach to PBL. I created a quick project outline – complete with driving question – for the activity. Our driving question was ‘How can we make a strong one metre bridge from simple materials?’. I don’t have a copy of the project outline at home right now – I’ll try to post it up tomorrow. Essentially it explains the task and telling students how they will earn points.

Students were given about 30 minutes to design and build their structures. When the time was up, I went around and ‘tested’ each bridge using the different weighted objects – a lead pencil, a whiteboard marker, a pair of scissors, a calculator and a stapler. I was surprised that all but one bridge survived the weight of the objects put on them – these kids know how to design! That meant all teams but one were on the same points. I also told students at the start that I would be awarding a bonus 5 points to the team that works best together – everyone contributing to the goal of the mini-project. That mean one team was out in front by 5 points. Finally, I took a photograph of each bridge because points will be awarded for attractiveness. That’s where you come into play… I told my students that I would share their designs on Twitter and take a vote on which bridge was the best looking. They were only allowed to use the basic materials given… so bridges with writing on them don’t get considered for the bonus points. Below is a photograph of each bridge… we’d love your feedback on which you think is the most attractive!

photo(27)photo(31)photo(30)photo(29)photo(28)I REALLY enjoyed this activity, and so did my students… you could hear a pin drop in the room when we were testing each bridge! My students will be writing a paragraph reflection on their experience of working in a small team to achieve a shared goal. I think they learnt a lot in a very short space of time!




8 thoughts on “Building bridges and learning about team work

  1. Dear Year 7, I was interested to hear about your design brief on twitter. I must say, Ms Hewes made it hard for you – you were very limited in the materials available to you! I liked all the bridges and was interested to see that the ones on the blog were structurally successful (not much use building a pretty bridge if your car falls into the river when you use it !). I liked the simplicity of the first bridge, the contrasting colour design of the second, the rubber band reinforcement of he third and the extra buffering wall of the fourth. My favourite though was the last bridge. I appreciate artistic design and particularly like the contrasting bands of colour, the safety of a “wall” and the reinforced sides.

    Congratulations everyone, a super effort.

  2. Fantastic team work activity! My Year 11 class just told me last week that if they’re not writing, they don’t feel like they’re working – so trained to be passive, mindless and inflexible! Really disappointing!
    I think I’ll have this activity on hand for an opportune moment in the coming weeks to totally throw the “routine”.
    Great post B!

    Oh – and I like the last one best!

  3. Awesome bridge building Year 7 . I have to say my fav is also the last one-it reminds me of a country bridge for some reason , from days gone by and I like that 🙂 The sides appeal too ,it makes me feel like I’d be safe .

  4. Great activity, interesting post. I would also have to vote for #5 (which I also found reminiscent of a covered bridge) although I was very intrigued by #4. It’s possible that my decision may have been influenced by the angle of the shot. Perhaps, if the activity is run again, each team could be asked to photograph their own bridge & therefore consider how to show their creation off to best advantage.

  5. Love it! Your points about the furniture (and the rooms too) are dead on for us ‘non-practical’ subjects. Your work is so inspiring in its thoughtfulness and appreciation of the building blocks that make up the big picture. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. I did this activity with my year 8 class today- thanks so much for sharing! Their ‘bridges’ are currently being voted upon by the Facebook work (my account only). It was such a great lesson for building relationships and breaking down barriers, thanks again!

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