Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Amazing Race, Take 9!

I've had a few people ask me about our Amazing Race Grade 9 activity and I need to pass the task of organizer off to another staff member while I'm away this year - so I've described our day here to kill two birds with one stone.

I LOVE starting the year off right. Instead of talking at our grade 9's and organizing guided tours we do something a little different. Every time we do it, staff, students and parents talk about how enjoyable it is. Staff get to meet the incoming grade 9's in a fun, relaxed environment and the kids get to be, well, kids! It's the only time grade 9s feel like they are the only ones in the school and they love it.

This idea began when I was teaching in Moosonee, Ontario at Northern Lights Secondary School. Like all good ideas, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly who came up with it, but I believe Angela Tozer and Sandy Lederer are to be given credit for this idea.

When I moved to PSS, I brought the idea with me and this is how our day goes:

9:30 - 10:00 am - Welcome by Principal, Vice-Principal and Student Council leaders, introduction of staff (Guidance, Special Education, Student Success)

10:00 - 11: 15 am - The Amazing Race Activity

11:15 - 11:30 - wrap up, questions and refreshments in the cafeteria

During the Amazing Race students visit the rooms listed on their passport, complete a challenge there and get sticker or stamp for their passport. Here is a link to the Google Doc copy of our Amazing Race "passport" students use. At the end they trade in their completed passport for their timetable (and a lesson on how to read it).

In terms of organization, here is what we do:

- put up sign-up sheet for staff during last week of school. Take 9! Day is on a holiday, so staff volunteer. Any staff member is welcome (custodial, office, educational assistants, teachers, administration)

- the day before I set up all the challenges as needed (most staff organize their own now) and put envelopes in each volunteers mailbox with materials they need and stickers/stamps for the passports. I also revamp the passport with the appropriate room numbers for this years challenges and print them.

- on the day of we tell teachers that students will start coming to the classrooms around 10:00 am. We then make an announcement at the end, asking all Grade 9s to return to the cafeteria. This is really a signal for teachers that it is over.

Common Challenges:

- how to log onto the computer system (our passwords start as YYYYMMDD and then need to be changed) in the resource room

- how to use a lock - students must open a combo lock to complete challenge

- something in the gym (shoot a basket, soccer goal, floor hockey, sit ups, push ups, etc.)

- something in the shops (hammer a nail into a board, etc.)

- something dramatic in the drama room

- find/label a few rooms on the school map

- something in the hospitality room (measuring, mixing, a step in baking something, etc.)

- purchasing of their package deals (student fees, yearbook, etc.) or getting info about it

- getting their timetables and learning how to read them (rooms, course codes, locker number, etc.)

- extra-curricular, something about clubs and teams

After the first year, most teachers will set up their own challenges without any help from the organizer. It is a time for teachers to "sell" clubs and subjects as well. For example, breakfast club or green team leaders have challenges around those clubs. The first year it helps to provide teachers with "challenges in an envelope" so they get the idea.

Starting the year off with bubbling grade 9's wandering through the school trying to find classrooms (until they get to the challenge where they get a map of the school) is amazing. Staff love this way of meeting grade 9s. We've used name tags before and then provided awards that the teachers decided on (one for each challenge, just silly things - like most innovative way of doing something, most helpful, etc.). Our students' council leaders often run or help out with the challenges in the classrooms to relieve congestion. Starting the year off right while building community!

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