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Odyssey Blog: Gaining Perspective Through Conflict

Developing Effective Communication and Better Group Dynamics

October 2, 2011: We delved into problems this week that were rife with conflict and perfect for discussions about effective communication and better group dynamics. It is not always easy to talk about our feelings when we are upset and the young people this week really spoke honestly about the conflicts they were experiencing and offered many possible resolutions. Our team is growing stronger every week.

Verbal Warm Up

Name something you can do with your feet that you can also do with your hands.

  • Paint!
  • Polish them
  • Walk
  • Pick things up
  • Dance!
  • Wiggle!
  • Build a tower
  • Paint abstract art

The answer is “yes, always” what is the question:

  • Would you like to have some chocolate?
  • Would you like a million dollars?
  • Would you like to sleep in?
  • Would you like a free pet?
  • Would you like to read books all day?

The answer is “no, never” what is the question:

  • Would you like to die?
  • Would you like all your limbs chopped off?
  • Would you like to eat spinach?
  • Would you like to clean your room?

Create a bumper sticker for the space shuttle:

  • Eat My Stardust!
  • Caution, this vehicle makes wide turns
  • My other vehicle is a car
  • Jupiter or Bust

We moved on to my favorite game: What Are You Doing? A fun game that is more challenging than it sounds where you mime doing one activity while saying you are doing another. The next person in line has to mime the activity you said while saying another. Could you mime the first item while saying the second?

  • Dancing- doing something top secret
  • Eating-juggling
  • Designing a T-shirt-stealing mom's money
  • Looking into space- feeding pandas
  • Brushing my teeth- riding a pig

Hands-On Challenge

Make the tallest structure you can.
Materials: newspaper, one roll of masking tape, stapler with one fill of staples. You may not tape your structure to the floor.

We split into two groups on opposite sides of the room. It turned out that someone in each group happened to have built structures with newspaper before so they immediately shared the idea of rolling the newspaper into tubes. Both groups made tripod structures that supported a longer piece. It was fascinating watching how each young person processes a project like this. Some worked by themselves figuring out a solution then sharing it with the group. Some came up with an idea but felt reticent to share the idea with the team. When one team created a structure that was too high for them to add on to, they started looking for a chair to stand on. When told chairs were not permitted, they began brainstorming. They asked how much time was remaining (ten minutes), and decided they had enough time to take the long tube off, strengthen it and make it longer, and return it to the tripod. About this time the other group was having trouble with their structure leaning over and at risk of toppling.

“Make the tallest structure you can” can easily be heard as “make a structure taller than the other group.” Frustration started to grow in both groups. When groups started comparing results, hurt feelings came up. “You're cheating.” “You're group is copying us.” “It's not fair. Your group has taller people.”

We had the first of many conversations we will be having throughout this year about how we can create an environment that breeds creativity and doesn't stifle it. This exercise gave us the opportunity to talk about jealousy, “cheating,” what it means to be a team, and how feelings rise in us, often taking us by surprise. Are we naturally competitive? Are we socially competitive? What does “fair” really mean to each of us? Why does winning feel so important?

  • How can we be more successful as a team?
  • How can we communicate our ideas to others more successfully?
  • How flexible are we about changing our thinking?
  • How open are we to hear the thoughts of others?

Our thoughts were spinning after this exercise and conversation. We took a brain break and watched a ten minute segment from the documentary, Recreating America, that showed a school team from Oklahoma competing in Odyssey of the Mind. Parents, although we only watched a short segment of this film, you might find the entire documentary to be very interesting.

Afterward, we moved our attention to inventions. Sometimes inventing is a daydreaming process. Thinking about an umbrella stand turns into thinking about an umbrella that stands (built with a tiny tripod at the point). Sometimes inventions are created because we can't stand working with things the way they are and we start to imagine something better. You have an idea that might seem impossible at the time, like wanting to heat food in a hurry without making the dish hot. It is the idea that starts first and doesn't immediately need to have a solution or even feel possible. Desire fuels ingenuity.

I put out a series of every day objects and asked the group to pick something from the pile. Once they had chosen something I asked them to look at their object carefully, think about what it does and how it does it, and then find a way to improve on it. Can you make it faster, cheaper, more beautiful, recyclable, reusable, portable, more efficient? The objects chosen were tweezers, a book light, a troll, a Frisbee, a roll of paper towels, a toothbrush, string, a hanger, a key and band-aides. I can't wait to see what our young inventors come up with for next week! Stay tuned!

We are Team Talking Stick.

-- Asha

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