Mission: FRESH POND. Fun Design Challenge Builds Students’ Teamwork Skills

“Let’s head out!” With that, a group of sixth graders steered the carts they had made toward Fresh Pond. ...read more
Grade VI gradehead Katherine Hesko conceived of this team-building challenge last year. “So much of what we do in class revolves around effective teamwork. The challenge of designing and building a cart that can comfortably and safely transport a rider around Fresh Pond presents many teamwork challenges.”
 
This year, Katherine Hesko’s and Josh Fischel’s sixth graders took up the challenge. They began with Barbara Bratzel in the makerspace. “In a project like this,” Barbara explained, “students really experience being ‘smarter together.’ No one has all the solutions, and teams see that they are much more successful when they’re able to take each other’s suggestions. Kids did a good job of listening, identifying good suggestions, and compromising.”

The design challenge was to build a comfortable cart that could safely transport a student fully around Fresh Pond (2.26 miles). In the makerspace, Barbara’s, Josh’s, and Katherine’s role was to help troubleshoot by asking questions about potential weak points in the design.
 
“Students tested and saw what worked and what didn’t,” Barbara observed. “Then they worked together on solutions and adjusted their designs.” Safety was the primary concern. For example, each cart needed to be fully controllable, and students did not ride them to Fresh Pond.”
 
“This project aims to build off many of the lessons we learn at Farm School,” Katherine reflected. “Students thrive in situations where the work is tangible, the consequences real, and the responsibility fully theirs. At Farm School there are two main rules: 'Be Kind' and 'Work Hard.' Pulling a classmate safely around the Pond, negotiating different ideas, figuring out what to do when you fail—all these challenges work better when you keep these two important guidelines in mind.”
 
The project also fostered teamwork among the adults who collaborated to make it happen. In addition to the teachers, thanks go out to Will Borden and Antonio Humphrey, who helped make the expedition possible.
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