Yellow Band: By Land, Weeks 10 and 11

“Piper, this is so meta.”

Folks, things are really weaving together over here in the Beehive. And it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.

The Yellow Band participates in a ‘river crossing’ team building activity AND trail simulation.

As you read last week, we’ve been studying the emmigrant trails of the mid-1800s in North America, and working on building a covered wagon during our afternoon project time. The name of the game this week has been TEAMWORK.

First, we wrote ourselves a definition of teamwork at the beginning of an afternoon project work session.

Oscar and Ronin made a great team working on the prairie schooner. One drilled holes, the other followed to drive in screws. And zoom in to read the whole definition the group came up with!

I love the kids’ definition because it is both proactive and attitudinal; it gives them concrete things they can do to help their team, and it tells them how they should do those things. They should ask, “How can I help?” in order to join a team, and they should listen to the type of help the team needs. A team tries to solve a problem together, and they look out for each other, trying to keep each other feeling safe and secure the whole time. Who could ask for more?!

And we had so many different chances to practice working as a team!

Quinn places magazines onto rolled–not folded–paper circles, while Emilio records data in the table.

Hunting for books at the library!

Working on afternoon projects!

But this is where it got meta. I checked the calendar and noticed that the Yellow Band was signed up to lead Friday circle. We’ve also been playing our way across North America in our Emmigrant Trails board game. Back then, those bridges and tunnels we’ve been studying hadn’t been built yet, so pioneers on the trail to California and fugitives on the Underground Railroad had to figure out a different way to get across rivers and over mountains. So, I decided it was time for us to try a simulation.

Playing our board game means rolling the dice and moving your piece in our Monopoly-style game. You’ll either land on a ‘Chance’ or ‘Opportunity’ space. Land on a ‘Chance,’ and you’ll have to roll the dice to find out the outcome to a challenge emmigrants faced on the trail. Land on ‘Opportunity,’ and learn a cool fact about the trail! Then, make sure to update your trail diary to show the progress you’ve made and record everything that’s happened to you along the way.

Devlin’s journal entry reads, “I got blackberries galore!” Runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad often foraged for food, making blackberries a special treat–watch out for thorns though!

Sakira’s opening entry in her journal let’s everyone know who she is–both her slave name and her real name.

Oh no, Emilio’s wagon broke an axle! It’s a good thing they’re almost to Ft. Laramie!

Oscar has been particularly interested in the outbreaks of cholera on the trail. This disease spread in contaminated water at many of the frequented campsites along the trail, killing thousands of pioneers. So, when he drew the cholera card from the ‘Chance’ pile, he wrote extensively about it in his journal, taking on the voice of an emmigrant.

Simulations are great. They can really help us take the facts we’ve been learning out of the book, and feel some empathy for the historical people who actually experience the things we’re learning about–make our learning real and meaningful. I decided to lead the kiddos through a river crossing simulation by playing a game that is a common team building activity. At the garden for Class Meeting, I explained that the sidewalk would be the river. Our purple wiggle cushions would be our supplies. We would need to use our supplies to get across the river, and we needed all of our supplies to make it to the other side. That meant that we couldn’t let go of them while in the middle of the river. After several false starts. the kiddos started to feel a bit of that frustration and tension of something being both challenging and rewarding. And, they started to figure out a system.

Devlin had an extra challenge: he had to carefully place each purple dot, and then step on it right away so that our supplies wouldn’t float away down the river!

At first, the pioneers tended to hop from one purple dot to the next. The problem with this strategy was that it tended to leave a dot–aka some of our supplies–without a Yellow Bander standing on it. We had to start over so many times because of this initial approach! As I explained to the travelers, weaving in the story of our cross-country journey, we lost our flour, our bacon, and even our grandmother’s cuckoo clock before we got the river crossing right! We were frustrated, but that’s OK. Our frustration pushed us to find a better approach to crossing that river.

Nolan, Oscar and Reyahn look back to make sure Sakira has safely made it from the first dot to the second.

We realized that we had to start looking out for each other, but positively. That meant changing something about our own approach, and helping our fellow travelers along the way. The kiddos realized that they couldn’t just hop from one spot to the next. They needed to walk forward, moving just one foot forward at a time, so that the person behind them had a second to catch up. The Yellow Banders needed to be aware of both the person behind them and the person ahead of them. They needed to move at just the right speed–not too fast, and not too slow–so that the folks behind them could get across, and so that no supplies ahead of them would be left to float away down the river.

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When we made it across, we all agreed: we had an activity to share with the school on Friday at morning circle.

We were able to get the whole school across the river with us!

And that’s how we took one thread, and made it meta.