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Learning with Towers
by Gina Rocca, BCIL Lower School Curriculum Innovator & Collaborator

Last week during "Fun Friday," 1st graders participated in a building challenge that encouraged them to become courageous risk takers, one of the BCIL Core Leadership Skills, and to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn, rethink, and rework. When faced with challenging situations, there is an opportunity to grow, build strength, and apply new strategies. First graders were given twelve index cards and masking tape. The only direction they were given was to build the tallest tower. Some of the students chose to sketch their plan, while others got right to it, ripping the tape and creating their tower. The activity was individual, and children eagerly shared ideas with each other. During the 40 minutes of building, you could hear squeals of excitement, grunts of frustration, reassuring self-talk, and even positive praise for friends nearby. The 1st graders had to work in the present moment as they added more cards to their tower, evaluating whether their plan was working or if they needed to try a different approach. Leo M. said, "I have another plan, and now it's really working." As time went on, each student showed brave thinking, remained flexible, and had a positive attitude. Max E. built his tower "more like a square building so that I can move it and it doesn't fall over." When asked what was hard and what was easy at the end of the activity, the students reflected that it was more challenging than they thought it would be. Many also commented on how each person created their tower differently and how they all look unique. Emerson C. said that she “didn't get frustrated because she could just take it down and try again in a new way.” The students' overall consensus was that this activity was fun! They requested to do the activity again and, as we cleaned up, celebrated the failed tower that tipped over from too much tape. Without a doubt, this activity welcomed experimentation. It inspired the 1st graders to reconsider when a plan isn't working and how failure is a natural part of the design process. 

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