A Collaboration and Connection Adventure in Sixth Grade

MICDS sixth-graders enjoyed a two-day collaboration and connection adventure with a ropes course at Principia School, an on-campus engineering challenge, and planning for their next adventure to Hawn State Park in May. Mark Duvall, Sixth Grade Dean shared, “This was sixth grade’s first field trip off-campus in a long time, and outside of having fun, one of the bigger goals was to foster more collaboration and teamwork.”

The leaders at Principia designed and led a rewarding adventure on the ropes and on the ground, whether students were in the air, on a balance beam, performing hula hoop challenges, or crossing an imaginary volcanic sea of lava. The low ropes course posed engaging dilemmas that called for imaginative maneuvering and movement. Sometimes students were racing against time and sometimes against “in the box” thinking. Either way, the program offered a safe space for strengthening interpersonal communication skills, self-motivation, and collaboration—all in an atmosphere of perseverance, confidence, and joy. Middle School English Teacher Kelly Walsh shared, “The best part about the ropes course was seeing kids trust in one another in order to face their own fears!” Duvall added, “It was amazing to see the encouragement and support and more attentive listening they gave one another, especially among students who don’t know each other well.”

Back on the MICDS campus, students worked on a new version of the egg drop STEM challenge. In a typical egg drop challenge, students have to construct a contraption that allows them to drop an egg from a specific height without breaking the egg. For the sixth-grade egg-drop challenge, students were told that a virus was released onto an island that infected everyone who lived there, turning them into zombies. Their mission was to transport the golden egg, filled with a special potion, across the ocean (a blue tarp) and onto the island (a bucket) without cracking the egg and spilling the potion. They had specific constraints that forced them to have to think outside the box. And, they had to collaborate, communicate, and use their listening skills to execute the challenge without breaking the egg. Middle School Science Teacher, Michelle Hrastich shared, “Some were successful, many left a pile of gooey egg to clean up, but all had fun working together with their team members.” Middle School Humanities Teacher Megan Caulfield added, “It was super cool to watch different groups of students collaborate and problem-solve together. They were thinking outside the box and demonstrating great teamwork.”

The other activity students engaged in on-campus was organizing and planning the sixth-grade camping trip to Hawn State Park which will take place later in May. Students had to work together and lead the activity design and process. We can’t wait to hear all about it later next month!

Duvall noted, “There was a noticeable difference on the second day for everyone, whether they started at Principia or on campus, their skills were sharper on the second day for teamwork, listening, and working together.”

Students remarked on the experience, echoing the importance of collaboration. For example, on the “wood trolley,” one team gets on two planks with ropes and has to move together to get from point A to B. Students were surprised at how much teamwork and strategy it took to move the planks!

“My favorite part of going to Principia was the plank bridge because we had to use a lot of teamwork and use our brains a lot. You had to work out ways to get to the end, so we had to use partnership and teamwork. And it was fun. Something I didn’t expect was us having to learn things we’d have to work on, to improve. Words like leadership and communication and other things that we had to find out how to do with the teamwork challenges. I wasn’t expecting to learn something from the challenges, but I liked how the people helping us found a way to make it educational and fun for us to learn. I tested my trust levels, I have a big fear of heights, and it was scary, but I faced my fear and trusted the people on the ground who helped me get through. I am happy I was able to persevere through the challenges and find people I can trust.” – Rylee Day ’28

“My favorite part was the ropes course. Even though I am afraid of heights, I still went on it, and it was cool. You had to put a lot of trust in your teammates because they were helping you get across it. It wasn’t a one-person thing; you had a lot of support. Even though the ropes course was small, it took a while to get one person across the whole thing because you had to communicate with other people a lot. Something that helped me push past my fears and get out of my comfort zone was that the leaders there had a lot of faith in us, and they reassured us, ‘Everything is fine and totally safe,’ so that helped me get over my fear. Even though it was a small activity, it made people better. It’s hard not to get mad at someone when they mess up because it messes up you, too, but getting over that and trying to be nice and supportive is a big thing, and I noticed people starting to do that. I thought, ‘If they can do that in this small situation, if they can do this every day, we’d be so much greater.'” – Bella Froedge ’28

“My favorite part was the ropes course because it was really fun to go up and climb, and it was physically demanding. You also had to tell the people below you what to do, and you had to work together with them. I thought the plank bridge was difficult because instead of just placing one plank and then the next, you have to strategically place the planks and then get people across in order.” – Adi Bharadwaj ’28

“I don’t have a favorite part because it was all so fun. Maybe the plank bridge challenge [though], because as a person who has trust issues, it helped me step out of my comfort zone and really help myself to trust other people.” – Savannah Garrison ’28

“My favorite part was the ropes course, not doing it but helping others out. I have a really bad fear of heights, but it was genuinely fun to see other people doing their best to do it and helping them out. I liked the Box Challenge. I’m tall, and I actually got to use my height to help others out. You’re attached to a rope, and you have to climb up several boxes while also placing them at the same time. One surprising thing was the difficulty. I thought it was going to be simple tasks, getting from point A to point B with some teamwork, but no, both physically and teamwork-wise, things were difficult, especially the plank bridge. I am not good at balancing, so it took me a couple of attempts to get across and get back.” – Trip Scanlon ’28

The sixth-grade students and teachers enjoyed the two-day focus on understanding each individual’s role and value in a group, learning when and how to lead and follow, and maintaining a positive attitude throughout challenges (and occasional failures). They look forward to putting these skills into practice in regular daily life!