Teamwork in the Taconic Outdoor Education Center
By Mr. Davis
On an unusually cold and windy autumn day, the fourth grade boarded a private coach for the Taconic Outdoor Education Center, located 60 miles north of Manhattan in Cold Springs, New York. The Center is part of the New York State Parks Department and provides many educational programs for students from elementary school through college. It also occasionally serves as a young city dweller’s first introduction to the great outdoors. In fact, our field guide, Aaron, visited the Center when he was in fourth grade at a school in Brooklyn. He credits his first visit as one of the reasons he decided to pursue the natural sciences. We quickly learned that all of the field guides have a background in science coupled with training in education from the Center.
Upon our arrival, our instructors ushered us quickly into the pavilion and broke our large class into smaller groups of 10 or 11 boys. We then headed outdoors.
We knew that the purpose for our particular visit to the Taconic Outdoor Education Center was to learn to work better as a team. As one fourth grader aptly put it, “We boys need to cooperate in many areas in school, such as on sports teams and in science labs.” The instructors designed the course as a series of stations in which the boys were presented with different tasks. Each task required them to work toward a common goal.
One of the boys’ favorite stations was “The Whale Watcher,” a large 25 by 10 foot board resting on a fulcrum. Each group of 10 students was required to balance the plank without letting it touch the ground. The difficulty of the exercise was increased when students were instructed to remain silent and still balance their weight on the fulcrum. Each boy had to coordinate and communicate his movement with others to avert disaster. After many attempts, they finally managed to balance the board.
Other favorite activities included a game in which the boys hid a rubber fish from an instructor and one where they all swung onto a small platform by rope. Each task required the boys to communicate in different ways and to think strategically about accomplishing a goal. The boys all said they had a great time. Our hope is that they can now apply some of the lessons learned back in the classroom and at home.