Building Teamwork

Supporting Belonging, Creating Bonds

How to start? The 12 sixth graders looked at the large, tippy wooden platform in front of them. Their goal was to step on, two at a time—without either end of the “boat” touching the ground—until they were all aboard. There were no directions, no assigned leader, no time limit. Two tall students stepped forward, ready to give it a try.

“There’s no way that the students on the left know what the students on the right are thinking,” cautioned the facilitator of the challenge. “Make sure everyone knows what the plan is.

The middle schoolers were discovering teamwork essentials at the PNW BOCES Challenge Course—a series of physical and mental challenges that can only be solved when groups of students work together. The field trip grew out of John Jay Middle School’s commitment to supporting a sense of belonging in each student which, in turn, correlates with a greater sense of well-being and higher academic engagement.

a sense of well being that supports academic engagement

“The goal is teambuilding,” said Assistant Principal Catherine Graybosch, who was watching the students find their way. “The students will learn about working together in small groups and take that skill to the bigger team.”

She was referring to the five academic teams that John Jay’s sixth grade is divided into: Aspire, Curiosity, Progress, Tapestry and Zest. The approximately 50 students in each rotate through the same math, ELA, social studies and science teachers each day.