By Grace Stratford
Sitting on the turf in the 100 degree heat, observing nine seventh graders attempting to cross a section of the turf field, using nothing but five frisbees, all while being silent. Bodies were hitting the turf as my group tried time after time to figure out the winning strategy, but, to our dismay, the 30 minutes were up, and we had failed to complete The Crossing.
Community: Challenges and Leadership (CCL) is a day in the Collegiate Middle School where seventh graders learn about leadership and responsibility through various games and exercises. Middle School Counselor Sally Chambers says, “This experiential program is designed to help our seventh graders to become responsible decision-makers and leaders as Collegiate community members.” A quick recap of the day entailed an ongoing game of rock-paper-scissors, a story from Director of Service Learning and Civic Engagement Suzanne Fleming, One-Fish Two-Fish Red-Fish Blue-Fish, Gotcha!, a support web, stories from seniors, and finally The Crossing. All of the seventh grade girls participated in CCL on September 20th, while the boys participated on the 18th. There were eight senior boys and eight senior girls that also participated as the leaders of CCL.
In order to be prepared for CCL, all the seniors had a training day where we ran through each one of the exercises and games. Some of the most notable performances were during One-Fish Two-Fish Red-Fish Blue-Fish. This is a team game where one person, the leader, stands about 15 steps away from the group with a stuffed animal at their feet. The goal of the team is to get the stuffed animal back to the starting line without the single person knowing who has it, and everyone on the team has to hold it.
The seniors and the seventh graders thought very similarly about how to beat this game. When the seniors tried it, it took multiple attempts to even get to the stuffed animal, and once everyone was there, there was no strategy developed, so the leader, Middle School Math Teacher Bill Rider, could easily see who had it. When my group of seventh graders tried it, I was the leader. They strategized for a few minutes, and it only took them about two or three tries to understand which strategy worked best for hiding the stuffed animal. Drew (‘23) said, “I think the hardest activity was the One-Fish, Two-Fish, Red-Fish, Blue-Fish, because you had to be careful but fast at the same time to be able to get the teddy bear cross the finish line.” The overall best plan for this game was for everyone in the group to get to the leader, form a clump, and pass around the stuffed animal behind everyone’s backs so the leader couldn’t see who had it. While both the seniors and the seventh graders figured out a winning strategy, the seventh graders achieved victory more quickly than the seniors.
After participating in the games, I lead a group conversation, along with my co-senior Lee Kennon (‘18), about how this game would relate to real-life situations either during school, athletics, theater productions, or their upcoming community service. The Middle School girls had impressive insights about inclusion and working together to achieve a goal.
After our conversation, the seventh graders were given the instructions for The Crossing. It was the most challenging activity, because the students have to be silent while trying to cross, are only supplied with five frisbees for nine girls, and are only allowed to use the frisbees to travel across the stretch of the turf. The time allotted is 30 minutes.
When the seniors tried this one, my group decided to do piggybacks and have the five boys in a group carry the four girls. After around 10 minutes, my group completed it. The other senior group took a different approach, and while they would have finished it, the time was up.
Watching the seventh graders discuss strategy for this one was intriguing because they all had such different ideas, yet they only had three minutes to decide on which one to try first. Many different seventh grade leaders attempted to step up and take control of the situation and make a final decision on which plans to try. After 30 minutes of attempts and a variety of strategies, time was up, and my group did not get to finish. About half of the groups that day succeeded at completing The Crossing. During our conversation afterwards, many of the girls agreed that one girl had stepped up to become the leader. They all suggested ideas and listened to each other, which is sometimes can be difficult in large group settings.
This day was a day to learn about leadership, responsibility, and dependability, and while I was the senior and the leader, I learned from those seventh grade girls about companionship and capability. Drew (‘23) said, “The biggest thing I learned was when everyone works together and listens to each other, then we can solve the problem or do the activity a lot faster and in a better way.” Looking back on that day, having experienced it from the seventh grade perspective six years ago, and now from the senior perspective, CCL is one of the most helpful, hands-on learning experiences about how to be a leader.
All photos by Sally Chambers.