Entering high school is a major moment of transition in the life of a student. But at Big Picture College and Career Academy, high school is just one part of…well, you know. That’s why they partnered with Cottonwood Institute (CI) to design a day of custom programming, to acclimate their new Freshmen to the Big Picture community and to start developing to the 21st century skills (teamwork, design thinking, acceptance of failure) that they will need throughout their lives and careers.
CI Instructors came prepared with a litany of teambuilding exercises, challenge games, and goal-setting activities to help students start the year off on the right foot. This began, naturally, with a competitive round of Captain is Coming! Once the decks were swabbed and everyone was thoroughly warmed up, students broke into their advising groups to test the strength of their bonds after two weeks of working together. They exercised their mental muscles with a game of Zen Counting (a test of patience nonverbal communication) and broke down physical barriers with Flip Tarp (in which students must turn over an ever-shrinking tarp, while standing on it!).
For the next level of challenge, students were asked to break into new groups with partners they might not have met. Instructors helped them find common ground with a social barometer activity, and then put their teamwork to the test crossing the “Peanut Butter River” and disentangling themselves from a human knot. The new groups put on an impressive showing against these new challenges!
After a pizza lunch, students were asked to dig a little bit deeper into their identities and their goals for the year. First, the whole group joined in a step-in circle, which asked students to recognize the similarities and differences in their identities, interests, and whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich (consensus: no). Then each Freshman took a few minutes of silent reflection to write a letter to themselves at the end of the school year, an opportunity to set goals for themselves and to reflect on where they were at the start of school. Finally, after a few more light games to get the energy back up, the day closed with a debrief and a few rounds of Taps. Students could silently tap on the head other students who they were inspired by, enjoyed meeting, and wanted to get to know better. It was amazing to see how many new friendships were being formed! CI instructors were sad to see the day end—we can’t wait to see what the Big Picture students will do next!
Written by CI instructor Andrew Miller
See more photos from the day here!