Archive for Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Being McGyver

BJHS students solve problems with creativity

February 28, 2001

The leaders of tomorrow are being taught today at Baldwin Junior High School. The school's administrators currently in the first stage of its improvement plan are aware of the responsibility needed to provide students with the skills that will make them successful in life.

BJHS principal Connie Wright notes the importance of problem solving, reading and communication skills.

"All these skills are required to be successful," said Wright. "Businesses look for teamwork (in applicants)."

Wright is making sure BJHS students learn these skills, and in a hands-on way. Just before winter break, BJHS faculty led students in the First-Ever McGyver Day. This daylong activity based on the cunning television character "McGyver" incorporated problem solving and communication skills while presenting students with fun challenges. These challenges included building a tower out of newspaper to support a golf ball at the top, guiding a blindfolded team member through a series of obstacles, and extinguishing a flame with the energy from a mousetrap.

The idea for McGyver Days came from a 1998 inservice presented by Belleville High School. Titles such as "Bombardment," "The Great Balloon Dilemma" and "Tower of Pasta" forced students in groups of all grade levels and abilities to work together and find a common solution to the challenges.

"The kids really enjoyed it," Wright said.

McGyver Day was lead by Extended Learning teacher Shelly Arnold. "It provided a fun problem solving atmosphere," she said.

Arnold complemented the students' success in their groups, made up of peers they might rarely interact with. The randomly selected groups, she said, strengthened the students' problem solving skills. "It was a success."

BJHS students agreed.

"I learned that some things take more than one person to accomplish," eighth grader Brett Schulte said. "Different kids have different ideas."

Lesley Haeffner is ready to conquer McGyver days again. Also an eighth grader, Haeffner enjoyed many of the activities. She remembers the more difficult challenges vividly.

"The hardest part was working with my group," Haeffner said. "Everyone was pretty different."

McGyver days fell in line with the school's future plans and objectives.

"Problem solving is a big part of our school improvement plan," said Wright.

She mentioned a future excursion to Kansas City to visit the Science City museum and a visit to a traveling national Holocaust exhibit. Also on the junior high's agenda is an instrumental and vocal festival and math relay competition, and the eighth grade's transition to Baldwin High School.

The transition ceremony, which takes place at the end of the semester, formally introduces and welcomes eighth graders to the high school.

"Beforehand, we try to get the kids over to the high school," Wright said.

She noted that the students in transition benefit from the close proximity of the two schools. Research in the high school's library, the sharing of facilities, and the frequent interaction between junior high and high school students makes the transition smoother.

Eighth graders take part in a number of events, introducing them to the new learning environment. "Student Council members at the high school speak about how to be successful in high school," she said. A transition night is coming up, for eighth graders and their parents to hear Baldwin High School staff members talk about what students and parents can expect from the next leg of their academic journey.

Wright is confident that BJHS students leave prepared for both high school and the real world. With the help of activities such as McGyver Days, the school is extending the curriculum past the traditional "3 Rs" and producing students ready to meet any challenge.

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