Back to School 2019 Discussion Starters

Discussion Starters - Educational Innovations Newsletter

For teachers, back to school means getting ready for new students whose names, faces, and learning styles you haven’t yet learned.   For students, it’s often a nervous time—will they fit in?  Who will be their new friends?   We’ve collected some wonderful team-building activities here.  They’ll make the first days of school more productive while getting your students ready for a fantastic year of science learning (and FUN)!

If you have any team-building activities or classroom ice breakers related to science, we’d love to hear about them!  Please add them in the Comments section below.

Back to School 2019 Team-Building Games - Educational Innovations Blog

Marshmallow and Toothpick Challenge

From We Are Teachers, here’s a perennial favorite that combines team-building and engineering!  Divide students into groups of equal numbers. Pass out an equal number of marshmallows and wooden toothpicks to each group. Challenge the groups to create the tallest, largest, or most creative structure in a set amount of time.  Make sure that each member has a turn doing the actual building.  Afterward, have each group describe what they made.

Create a Time Capsule

Back to School 2019 Team-Building Games - Educational Innovations BlogWe like this idea from Scholastic.  Help your students set personal goals by creating individual time capsules for the year.  Not only will your students use this activity to get to know each other better, but at the end of the year it will be a wonderful keepsake to remind them of how far they’ve come!

Add a scientific touch by telling your students about the Golden Record time capsule that NASA included in its 1977 launches of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.  (You can read more about that here.)

Each student folds a sheet of paper into three columns, like a simple brochure. The first column is labeled “Five Things I Hope For,” the middle column “Five Things I Have Accomplished,” and the last column “Five Things I Hope to Accomplish in This Class.” Ask students to write five things for each column and then to decorate their page with a photograph and their own designs.

Designate a special box for your time capsule. Store it until the last day of school, when students can reread and reflect, and set new goals for next year.  Click on the image at left to download a ready-to-go template.

When Disaster Strikes, Teams Build

Back to School 2019 Team-Building Games - Educational Innovations BlogWe really enjoyed this team-building activity from ThoughtCo.

Divide students into groups of 8 to 10. Describe to them a fictional disaster scenario in which they’ve found themselves. For example, they might have survived a plane crash in a remote mountain area or find themselves stranded on a deserted island after a shipwreck.

Teams must strategize together to formulate a survival plan and make a list of 10-15 items they need that they could make, find, or salvage from the wreckage or natural resources available to them. All team members must agree on the supplies needed and their survival plan.

Provide 15-20 minutes for the activity and have teams select a spokesperson and take turns reporting their results when they are finished.

Each team can brainstorm the same scenario to compare and contrast their answers after the exercise. Or, they may be provided with different situations so that classmates outside their team can weigh in with their thoughts of the survival plan and items needed after the activity.

The disaster scenario activity targets teamwork, leadership, critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Critical Thinking as Team Building

Oregon State University has a plethora of fun team building and critical thinking games.  They’re bundled in a zip file for easy download.  The activities include:

  • Group Juggling
  • Stepping Stone Game
  • Straw Game…and our personal favorite…
  • Tarp Challenge

Cup Stacking Challenge

We recently discovered Liz Belasic’s Middle School Science Blog.  Well done, Liz!  Take a look at her awesome Cup Stacking Challenge, available on her blog and as a PDF.

image source: Liz Belasic Middle School Science Blog

A Back to School Archive

Education World is an excellent resource for free online lesson ideas.

Check out their vast archive of Back to School activities!

Looking Back at Back to School 2015

In our first Back to School newsletter, we offered a selection of icebreakers, humor, videos, lesson ideas and more.  Well worth a revisit!

Back to School Newsletter - Educational Innovations Blog

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