COLD SPRING, N.Y. -- With a cursory nod to the reality show "Survivor," Columbus Elementary School students took to the woods of the Taconic Outdoor Education Center last week to test their problem solving, communication and cooperation skills.
The fourth graders from the Mount Pleasant Central School District had to solve a series of physical and analytical challenges that could only be accomplished with their combined effort.
Team leaders from the education center in Cold Spring led small groups of students through narrow wooded paths to the different "survivor" stations set up in small clearings. At each station, students were given a challenge to consider that required discussion and cooperation from the entire group — such as balancing their weight on the "Whale Watch" boat (a wooden platform) so it wouldn't tip and take on water. Captains were chosen to direct the shipmates onto the platform in pairs and ease them simultaneously, one toward the bow and one toward the stern so the boat wouldn't dip into the "water" and sink. Not an easy task unless the entire group is paying attention and communicating.
At the "Islands" station, the 10-year-olds had to figure out how to get their entire group from one deserted island to another using just two short pieces of wood. Letting the students discuss a game plan yielded some good (and interesting) options. In the end, calculation and cooperation allowed all members of the group to get safely to the next two "islands," and take their makeshift wooden bridge with them so they could get back.
There were more challenges at every clearing. Students figured out how to get all of their feet onto a two-foot square platform, got their team through a spider web "force field" and landed their whole group on a tiny island via a rope swing without losing any of them in the "ocean." Learning to listen to the ideas of others was a key part to solving the problems.
"I learned that teamwork is fun," Jake Russo said as he headed excitedly to the next station. The day was a success all around. And on the way home, no one got voted off the bus.