Challenger Middle School Holds ‘Adventure Event’ to Help Make Up For Eighth Graders’ Loss of COVID | The gallery


Challenger Middle School hosted an “Adventure/Leadership” event on Tuesday that educators hope will help eighth graders catch up on some of the experiences they missed during the shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s eighth graders were sixth graders at the height of the pandemic and were forced to miss a critical orientation moment. They also missed field trips and other critical social development events, according to Challenger director Debbie Holt.

“These students spent much of their sixth year in virtual learning, so they missed out on a lot of the interaction you get when onboarding,” Holt said. “This (event) aims to offset some of that – to help build relationships, develop leadership skills, and develop problem-solving skills while learning to work together.”

The first semester of sixth grade can be a difficult transition for students. They had been the oldest and tallest children in their elementary school a few months before; now they are suddenly the youngest and smallest. They have to get used to a radically different learning structure, navigate crowded rooms during “change periods” and learn how to interact with unfamiliar students and teachers.

It’s under optimal conditions, and the 2020-2021 school year was less than optimal, Holt said.

“Moving from elementary school to middle school means learning a whole new set of skills, and some of those skills can only be acquired by working alongside other students,” she said. “That’s a big part of what we do today.”

Challenger staff members have been planning the adventure event since March, Holt said. The teachers organized a training session last week to do the exercises themselves and learn how to lead the groups.

Divided into small groups, students participated in a series of exercises designed to encourage teamwork, building trust and communication. Each group was led by a teacher and an adult volunteer, but the adults left the bulk of the problem-solving to the students. This allowed young people to challenge themselves, to reflect, to think critically and to learn how to give and accept constructive criticism, according to Holt.

One exercise, called a “confidence race”, was a team-building exercise where a student runs through a glove of classmates with their arms outstretched, confident that they will spread their arms out before the runner makes contact. In another exercise, students guided a blindfolded classmate through a field of obstacles, using only verbal instructions.

Several other exercises have been designed to allow students to spend the day away from their desks, get some fresh air and exercise, and talk to each other.

After each exercise, the students sat in a circle and discussed what went well and what went wrong. Guided by teachers and volunteers, they also brainstormed ways to improve their performance.

Challenger student Blake Maestas said his COVID-scarred sixth grade year left him feeling isolated and overly reliant on technology.

“Not good,” Maestas said of her freshman year at Academy School District 20 college. “You couldn’t talk to anyone. You could only text, and not everyone has a phone.

Maestas, 13, said he appreciated the temporary freedom from the confines of the classroom on Tuesday.

“It’s quite important, because last year we missed our field trips,” he said. “It gives us a bit of exercise and we can socialize with each other.”

The drills helped teach Maestas the value of teamwork, he said.

“You can’t always do it all on your own,” he said. “Sometimes you need help from your friends.”

Holt said she hopes teachers and students can use the Tuesday lessons throughout the school year.

“Teachers will be able to take the lessons that are being learned today and make them their own in their classrooms,” she said. “Not only will this help students this year, but hopefully it will better prepare them for high school next year.”

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