There’s a reason schools and workplaces organize orientations and ongoing team-building events. People need to be comfortable around their colleagues and it takes a shared experience to form those connections. Icebreakers are great, but it’s also important to bond through authentic team-building tasks and activities. For Trailblazers Day, we chose tasks that highlighted the philosophy of Innovation Lab:
- An icebreaker to get students moving, talking, and learning about each other. In Innovation Lab, we will create a community that’s supportive and tolerant at all times.
- A team-builder to get students working together to solve a problem and then reflect on what makes a group effective. Students decided that an effective group listens to each other, asks good questions, respects other opinions, and has fun.
- A mixer activity where students found someone they didn’t know and described a powerful learning experience they had. One student explained their love of scuba diving and how he’s learned about environmental issues in oceans as a result. Student passions like this will be incorporated into projects; in this example, there’s an easy crossover with human impact on the local environment.
- Our main event where students used scale drawings of our anticipated classroom spaces and designed them in a way that reflected their needs for a productive learning environment. It was an authentic problem that needed to be solved and was relevant to them. They took ownership of it and came up with some really unique designs.
- A showcase of work where student groups took turns presenting their ideas to each other. This showcase of work was to the most relevant audience possible – the other people who will be using the space next year.
- A reflection where students summarized what was unique and common to the designs. Reflection is a key piece of the learning process. We often think about reflecting at the end, but it’s ongoing. It helps you know where you are and where you’re going. The discussions we heard throughout the day demonstrated that these students value the same room for reflection.
We ended the day with a closing activity where students held a string and threw a spool of twine to other students who had something in common with them. After enough rounds, everyone was connected in a web of common interests and experiences. We lowered the twine to the ground and a few brave volunteers took turns laying on it as they waited to be lifted in the air. It wasn’t a perfect success. A couple of students were lifted a few inches off the ground before a strand of twine broke, and it seemed the web might fall apart. Students weren’t discouraged. With the bell about to ring, another student walked out into the center and asked for one last try. We all lowered the twine once again. It would be nice to say it was a triumphant moment; the touchdown with only a few seconds to go, the shot at the buzzer. But unfortunately, the web fell apart before we could even try. Students didn’t leave disappointed, though; they left talking about how they could make it work next time.