Don't Hate, Collaborate
October 21, 2013
I recently read an article in the Arts Education Policy Review that called for a re-positioning of creativity in education. The article foretold the dangers of our disappearing arts programs in schools and the need for a broader definition of the arts, one that left the confines of a “subject” and became integrated throughout all areas of learning. Once again I found myself regretfully happy that our programs don’t encounter these problems. I made a mental note not to take this fact for granted and cherish our creative environment.
The author emphasized three pillars of education, one of which was collaboration. Collaboration is something we try to emphasize in Maker Class and over the past couple weeks I feel that our children have begun to see the merits of effectively working together. Aside from the Maker activity, each day we emphasize a particular activity that practices these skills. One of the more recent successes involved building a bridge using index cards. Materials were limited to the cards, tape, and glue. Two groups formed and began seeing how to best build a structurally sound bridge. One group, discovered that triangles were used in almost every building structure and immediately employed this approach in their construction. A few minutes later, another member of that group felt that not only were triangles effective but also vertical “beams” could provide additional support. This idea was also adopted and the finished product was amazingly sturdy and capable of holding a great deal of weight.
That same day, our Maker activity was to construct a Skee-Ball machine using cardboard, cereal boxes, and duct tape. Again, the children began to put out their ideas and ended up improving the original model. They decided it would be great to have a return system bring the balls back to them, just like the real Skee-Ball game. This feature was absent from the model we were trying to work from, so using paper towel rolls and duct tape they created a brilliant system of tubes that returned the marbles. It was awesome!
Last week, I found an interesting collaborative activity that I figured would be challenging and of course fun. Pulling Together uses a rubber band with 3-4 strings attached that when pulled together can expand the rubber band enough to fit around a can or cup. The object is to work together and communicate to stack the objects without using your hands. Again, I found the young people working together, improving the original idea, and having a blast while doing it.
These activities are not just fun games that we play in Maker Class, but I think they really make a difference in helping the children practice a hugely important social skill. Effective collaboration is something of a rarity these days as personal competition and egoism prevent sharing ideas. We saw this with the recent shutdown of our own government. Two political parties could not seem to collaborate on any type of solution, to the point that they just quit trying. I have better hopes for our future if more young people can work together to overcome situations like this and others that will arise in the future of our society.