On Fridays my school closes early to have in-house professional development in the afternoons. On Fridays we alternate between academic days and what are called Crew or Community-Building Fridays. We have school-wide meetings where kids share art or learning, where they dance if they choose, and where we sing the "Quality World" song, and then the 11-student Crews spend the rest of the day with their Crew leaders, working on character, team-building initiatives, academic goals, sharing, playing in the gym--whatever.
Yesterday was a Community-Building Friday and the Phys Ed instructors came up with an awesome Amazing Race rip-off. They provided a City map, a list of clues, and a compass, and each Crew went out into Southwest B'more with a list of tasks: we had to find a bunch of vaguely described sites, answer some questions, and take a photo at each one. We had to cover about 3 miles and get back to school in under 2 hours.
I was along with my Crew but didn't really do much to help them out. The goal is for them to figure out who is good at what job and to work together to finish the mission. This isn't easy with our 7th grade boys, who get into conflicts over the stupidest things, who whine and complain continuously about every activity before starting it and then finding out its fun. So appealing to their competitiveness (something we usually frown upon in hippie charter schools) was a last resort.
And it worked. We finished all questions, we visited all seven sites, and we got back just before noon. I think my Crew returned to the building in fourth place, but some of the Crews ahead of us chose not to visit all 7 sites, hoping to score early return bonuses instead. We may move up a bit.
We saw the B&O Museum, the Babe Ruth house, Cal Ripken's number at Camden Yards, the Dentistry Museum, the Hippodrome, Poe's Grave, and the Irish Shrine and Museum. The kids were hilarious at Poe's grave: "Is he really in there?" "Where dat man who leaves flowers 'n shit?" "I'm scared to be here." "That's nasty to be buried with your cousin and her mom," etc.
The only problem for me was that after two years without a gout flare-up, I happened to have one the night before this activity. I hobbled my ass around on a painfully crippled big toe all day, but it was worth it. I even ran with the kids when they realized they had a chance to beat another Crew on the way back.
I spent the afternoon yesterday planning with the other Humanities teacher. We're working on an amazing exploration of different myths about the afterlife and Underworld (I call it "Excavating the Underworld") with the goal of finding out why people create stories to explain the unkown. I can't wait!
Now I need to rest, because I am SPENT.