Another Day, Another Challenge

Aaand, they’re off! For their second week of school, Spark learners took on their first big group challenge. After a week and a half of routine-setting and practicing procedures, they were ready to let loose and build something cool together. They explored their new big, heavy blocks, learned how to use them safely in the studio, then got to work.

The challenge seemed simple at first–build a structure that guides a red ball from one side of the carpet into a basket at the other end. 

But it wasn’t so easy. There were only two inclines that had to be strategically placed to form a ramp. Where should they go? In what position? 

“They should go this way.” “No, not like that, like this!” “How about here?”

The ball kept falling off course before it reached the end. How to keep it on a straight path?

“I think there should be a wall. Make a wall around the basket.”

As guides, it was so neat to step back and watch this young group work as a team. All by themselves, they pointed out problems, tried out solutions, failed, and tried again with lightning speed. Sure, there were occasional arguments over whose block was whose and which ideas to use. If the learners couldn’t manage to solve conflicts themselves, guides helped them take turns, make respectful requests, and support each other. But more often than not, the learners took the reigns and figured out how to work together.

That wasn’t all of course. At the end of the first day, they still hadn’t solved the challenge. They were getting close to a solution, but the ball kept losing momentum before it reached its target and was falling to the floor.

After cleaning up, one learner concluded that the day was not a success. This proved an interesting point of discussion to start our second day. Was that true? Other learners volunteered that since they had tried hard and worked together, and found ways that didn’t work, it had been successful after all. 

That second day, they set about planning, drawing their ideas and proposing additional tweaks that would eventually steer the ball to its target. They tried building it again and again and this time found success. “It’s working!” “Wahoo!” They tried over and over, seeing what solutions made it even more consistent and stable. All the while they cheered and congratulated each other.

It’s real-world experiences and challenges like these that teach the “hard skills” we emphasize here at The Village School. The ability to collaborate, solve problems, think critically, be kind even when you’re frustrated, contribute ideas, reach compromises, resolve conflicts, and celebrate hard work are so important for success in learning, a career, and life in general. Reading, writing, and math? Those skills are important, too. But let’s call those soft skills. We promise, they follow soon after!   

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