September 27th 2009
Once a week at Camp Hope, we have Discovery class. Discovery can encompass a wide variety of activities, but the main goal is to get the students thinking outside the box. This week was the students’ first experience with Discovery and we did the “” challenge. The students broke into groups of 2 or 3, were given simple supplies, and were told to build the tallest tower they possibly could that stood on its own using only the supplies given to them.
At first, the students looked at the paper, tape, popsicle sticks, and straw, and then looked at me with completely blank faces. “Build a tower? But we don’t know how!” I told them to just start experimenting and doing whatever they could to turn those things into a tower. Pretty quickly, the class of older students got to work tearing and rolling up the paper, taping things together, and hiding their designs from the competition. When it came time to measure, each group in the older class had a free-standing tower.
For the younger class, this task was a little more daunting. The blank faces didn’t change as quickly, and one young boy, Milton, looked up at me and said, “I can’t build a tower,” in a tone that suggested the task was ridiculous. I knelt down next to him and assured him that he could, but he continued to insist that it was impossible. He and his partner, Alduvin started to fold the paper with doubtful looks on their faces, and each time I passed by them, Milton looked up at me and reminded me, “I can’t build a tower!”. Each time, I affirmed that he could. Eventually, Milton and Alduvin had a design in progress that was standing on its own and climbing at the same steady rate as Milton’s confidence. By the end, Milton was beaming as he looked around the room, noting that his tower was significantly taller than the others.
When it came time to measure all the towers, Milton and Alduvin’s tower was the tallest in the younger class, and even taller than the tallest from the older class. As I announced this, Milton’s eyes widened and his grin broadened. At closing, he made sure everyone knew that his tower had been the tallest of them all, very proud of his great accomplishment.
As he walked out the door at the end of the day, I looked down and said, “See, Milton, you can build a tower.” He smiled back and me and said, “The tallest one!”