Sep 16

“Work Together Wednesday,” Episode 2

I had hoped to get in a “back to school” post before this one, but I must have forgotten just how exhausting the first few weeks of school are!  Here we are, finishing up week two of school, and time is already flying.  Today was our second “Work Together Wednesday,” and boy was it fun.  I grouped students this time randomly.  It changed up the groups from the last challenge, but I’m not quite ready to release them into “free forming” groups right now.  I think it’s important to get used to working with all different types of folks in order to help them realize the different roles required in group tasks–and sometimes you might have to step up, and other times, you might have to step back.


Work Together Wednesday, Episode 2

pyramidchallenge1Note..I had to clarify (BEFORE we started so I wasn’t changing the rules midway), that they couldn’t use ANY part of their bodies to touch the cups–and yes, they asked. If you know third graders, you know that they would have used any method possible to build the pyramid.

pyramidrulesIf we can’t use our bodies, how are we going to do this?” was the obvious question.  I thought the same thing when I was faced with this challenge a few years ago at yet another STEM conference.


There was no time limit this time, so the kids weren’t working against the clock.  The challenge was to see which group could successfully complete the challenge, and of course, who could do it “first.”  A little competition is always motivating, but we talk endlessly about how these challenges are about the “challenge” or the “task,” and not about a “winner.”  Engineers are all around us, and without successes AND failures, we wouldn’t have so many of the awesome things we do!  Once each group had their materials, it was GO TIME.  

Each group had a different idea of how to complete the challenge, and, as usual, that’s always the fun part!


One group was determined to try to wrap the string around the cup.  It wasn’t an immediate failure, but it certainly wasn’t working to move the cup.

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Some groups struggled communicating with each other, so it was harder for them to work together on the task.  Eventually, they all figured out that this was a challenge in which they would not only have to communicate with their words, but also get their motions in sync.

The best part–the CHEERS and SCREAMS as each group successfully completed the challenge.  It was no longer about “who did it first,” but rather, who was able to be successful.  One of the goals in such challenges is helping kids realize that THEY don’t fail, but rather, their IDEA failed.  And what we get from ideas that don’t work, are even more ideas–ones that lead us to even better results.

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Check back in a week for Episode 3!

1 comment

    • Jenn on September 16, 2015 at 9:35 pm
    • Reply

    I LOVE this!! This will definitely be added to the snow day “list of things to do”!

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