April 14th, 2019

Last week I witnessed magicians at work.

And I wasn’t at a magic show.

I was miles away from civilization, on a small island to observe 12 expert facilitators grow and develop 60 upper elementary students. Their magic was their ability to teach what school could not: how to work as a team, develop resilience, create novel solutions and communicate and collaborate with all kinds of people.

The video below captures one of the projects they designed to teach these skills. The project objective was simple: Build a raft that can carry your team to the end of the pier.

Video Entitled “Camp Video” in “Video Folder”

What struck me more than watching the students at work building the raft was the way in which they were guided by their project facilitator (camp counselor). Rather than dictate learning, he guided the process in a way that helped students find success on their own. His carefully timed questions, invaluable input and gentle guidance helped them accomplish the task in less than 30 minutes time.

Below I captured some of his well- timed input:

“Does anyone know how to tie different knots?”  I love this question because it draws on the skills students already possess.

“Why don’t you teach that knot to another student?” This questions allows students to share in expertise needed for success.

“Remember when we discussed this design in the planning stage?” Gets students to be reflective practitioners.

We need someone to take charge. All I hear is mumbling.” Empowers student leadership.

“Eric, you are strong- why don’t you help me lift these barrels?” Acknowledges student strengths.

“You have four questions available. Listen carefully to the instructions and save them for important tasks.” Develops higher order inquiry skills.

“I’m going to give you quite a leading question. What’s the difference between the top and bottom of the raft?”  Encourages and invites ingenuity and imagination.

“With the challenger group, we asked them to build one raft that fit all 16 students.” Allows for variation and differentiation.