Team Building for STEM Challenges
How do you build community in your classroom? Have you tackled STEM Challenges yet? How do you prepare your students for the fabulous collaboration that can occur when they work in groups to solve a STEM problem? Stay tuned and I will give you a great idea!
As many of you know I am a STEM Lab teacher and I will have to tell you that the number one thing I hear from other teachers is this: I could never get my kids to work in groups to design and build something! Never!
I will let you in on a little secret. We complete STEM events every single day. The team work and talk between kids and how they help each other is just amazing. But, this didn’t happen accidentally! I set them up to be successful with team building events at the beginning of the school year. We spend the first class sessions with team challenges and this sets the tone for the rest of the year. I asked some students recently which team challenge was their favorite and the answer was, “The Winnie the Pooh one!”
So, that’s the one I am sharing with you today! It’s a great team challenge for August, but it is also one I will repeat in January when the kids come back from Christmas break.
First, you need to build this contraption:
It’s a binder ring with about 18 strings attached. Each length of string is doubled and tied to the middle ring so it makes 36 strings dangling. (More directions for this are listed at the end of the post!)
Next, you have students form a circle around the strings that are laying on the floor. Each student picks up one or two of the strings and holds them without lifting. (Some kids will hold two strings and some might only hold one. Just be sure all of the strings are being held!) Place an object on the ring and the kids must keep the object in place! In the photos it’s a tennis ball! This is what I usually begin with.
On your signal the entire group begins to lift the strings so that the center ring remains stable. They will slowly rise from the floor trying to get completely in a standing position and then slowly lower back down to lay the strings gently back on the floor.
Well, honestly, the tennis ball is actually pretty easy! It sits on the center ring and rarely falls off.
So, of course, I make the task harder after the kids are able to lift the tennis ball and set it back down. I add something that is a little more precarious.
Can you see what is sitting on the ring in the picture above? It’s a cup turned upside down with a plastic ball sitting on top of it! Believe it or not, groups will work together to get this up and back down.
Here’s the part I cannot show you in photos. The intense concentration and expressions on their faces is priceless. My favorite part, however, is the talk. The kids encourage one another so much. There is a constant stream of voices telling teammates to lift or stay steady or increase the tension. They will cheer when they finally set that object back on the floor!
And, of course, you know what happens next….
I add something wonky to the center and make it even harder. And that is where the team challenge got the nickname of Winnie the Pooh! The last object placed in the center is a Winnie the Pooh stuffed toy. He wobbles more than all the other items because his little bottom is round and soft.
Guess what? The kids still get him lifted off the ground. The cheers when Pooh finally is set gently down on the floor are the loudest of all!
Team work at its finest!
This is just one of the team challenges we complete every year (and in January)! Try this one! I promise you will love it. After your kids do it, try it with your faculty!
If you are looking for more about teamwork try these:
And, because I get so many questions about exactly how to make the string device here are some close-ups for you and more details.
The binder ring has a diameter of 1.75 inches. The strings are nine feet long, but that length is doubled.
- Fold the length of string in half so the end is looped.
- Place the loop under the binder ring.
- Fold the loop over the binder ring and then pull the dangling strings through the loop.
- Pull the string tightly and continue to do this until the ring is covered all the way around.
That’s your string device!