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Teamwork is an important skill to learn

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By Cathy Toole

Teamwork is an important skill to learn.  Fourth and fifth graders throughout the county have been developing those skills this past month in 4-H school enrichment clubs. 

Group projects in school can be frustrating for many people. Often this frustration is a result of individual personality traits.  An open dialogue was then discussed about people who are extroverts and tend to keep the group off task by maybe talking too much or changing the subject away from the project.  There are also those who are introverts that feel more comfortable working alone and really do not enjoy sharing their ideas.  Introverts do not communicate as well as other personality types. 

Many groups find that one person tends to be a little too “bossy” and tries to take control of the project.  It can be hard for a natural leader to pull back and make sure that each person is involved.  The oldest child in the family tends to be a strong leader because of their additional responsibilities at home, but this can cause problems with their peer groups. There are also those who are willing to sit back and do nothing while letting the rest of the group do all of the work.  While some of these people may be just plain “lazy” often they are those who do not have high self-esteem and they feel they would rather not do anything than be made fun of or put down by other group members. 

After a lively discussion and a few good laughs as students recognized their own personality type they were then given the task to try a form of brainstorming that can be an effective method of working as a group.  After receiving a task, each member is encouraged to write down ideas as to how to accomplish the goal.  Then one at a time each member of the team reads their ideas to the others.  The other members are not allowed to ask questions or comment on any ideas at this time.  Once everyone has had a chance to speak then as a group the team decides which course to follow, which is often a combination of several ideas.

To put the brainstorming method to the test each team was given the task of building the tallest tower they could build using the materials given, which were:  20 straws, 10 paper clips, and several feet of masking tape.  The tower had to stand alone without any assistance.  Each group was given the same amount of time to complete the task.
Each member was also challenged to consider their own personality traits and try to adapt those as needed to help the group work effectively as a team.  The team with the tallest tower would be acknowledged as winners as well as the team that worked the most cooperatively.

Overall, the experience was a great success.  Students rose to the challenge and did work well together to accomplish their goal.  It was also interesting to see many of the personality traits that we discussed earlier were displayed throughout the county.

Hopefully students will be able to use the techniques used in this project to make their next group assignment a success.