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Building bridges and teamwork at Math and Science Academy

  • Math and Science Academy students test a bridge built during a teambuilding activity Tuesday. From left to right: Taylor Nichols, Alexander Houghton-Miles, Hannah Foster-Marquis, Marcel Pattavina, Mirela Cioclea and Alexis Farrick. (Recorder/Chris Shores)

    Math and Science Academy students test a bridge built during a teambuilding activity Tuesday. From left to right: Taylor Nichols, Alexander Houghton-Miles, Hannah Foster-Marquis, Marcel Pattavina, Mirela Cioclea and Alexis Farrick. (Recorder/Chris Shores) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Math and Science Academy students test a bridge built during a teambuilding activity. From left to right: Tabitha Caloon, Isabella Daye, Jason Daye, Luke Wisnewski and Longyao Xu. <br/>(Recorder/Chris Shores)

    Math and Science Academy students test a bridge built during a teambuilding activity. From left to right: Tabitha Caloon, Isabella Daye, Jason Daye, Luke Wisnewski and Longyao Xu.
    (Recorder/Chris Shores) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Math and Science Academy students Kyle Gleason (left) and Skylar Craig test a bridge built during a teambuilding activity Tuesday. (Recorder/Chris Shores)

    Math and Science Academy students Kyle Gleason (left) and Skylar Craig test a bridge built during a teambuilding activity Tuesday. (Recorder/Chris Shores) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Math and Science Academy students test a bridge built during a teambuilding activity Tuesday. From left to right: Taylor Nichols, Alexander Houghton-Miles, Hannah Foster-Marquis, Marcel Pattavina, Mirela Cioclea and Alexis Farrick. (Recorder/Chris Shores)
  • Math and Science Academy students test a bridge built during a teambuilding activity. From left to right: Tabitha Caloon, Isabella Daye, Jason Daye, Luke Wisnewski and Longyao Xu. <br/>(Recorder/Chris Shores)
  • Math and Science Academy students Kyle Gleason (left) and Skylar Craig test a bridge built during a teambuilding activity Tuesday. (Recorder/Chris Shores)

GREENFIELD — Using everyday items like straw, pencils, tape and folders, Math and Science Academy students are building bridges — in a team-building exercise designed to bridge the age gap among those in the school.

Groups of eight or nine students, made up of boys and girls from grades 4 through 7, were given the task to build bridges that could stand and support a toy car traveling from one end to the other.

Leading the exercise was Laura Thomas, director of Antioch Center for School Renewal at Antioch University New England. The center works with students and teachers to develop new instructional methods for the classroom.

The challenge fit into the school’s math- and science-focused curriculum. But the real purpose of the task was to build community among the students, said Thomas.

“One of the things we focus on a lot is the idea that within a community, you can push kids to work hard and do more rigorous work because they feel safe together,” she said.

When a sense of community is absent, students go through the motions or work hard in school only to please the teacher rather than because they value education, said Thomas.

And, in a school where fourth- and fifth-graders meet in one class and sixth- and seventh-graders meet in another, there was an emphasis on having students meet their peers.

“We (share) this building as one program,” said Heather Evans, coordinator and teacher at the Math and Science Academy. “This was the second opportunity (after orientation) to work together in teams ... to bring out the best in everyone else.”

Elizabeth LaValley, a seventh-grader, liked being able to work in a group with students of different ages.

“It was a little difficult but we still made it work ... to build a bridge that worked,” she said.

Fourth-grader Jacob Frank said his group was able to overcome differences of ideas to create a suspension bridge.

“I love creating new ways to transport stuff,” he said. “My favorite part was designing the bridge, thinking about what it would be like, what it would look like, and figuring out how weak or strong it would be.”

After construction was complete, students traveled with their group to see the work of their peers.

And then they met together to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their effort, said Thomas, as well as strategies that they could apply to future projects.

You can reach Chris Shores at:

cshores@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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