Getting to know each other again at Churchville-Chili Middle School


After this past year of semi-isolation, many students are finding that in-person learning and working with classmates feels new and a little intimidating.  

At Churchville-Chili Middle School, teachers designed lessons for the first few weeks of school to help students ease back into building relationships with peers and redeveloping interpersonal skills. 

Teacher Dan Hickey’s fifth-graders share their design for a protective carrier that includes a parachute made from a shopping bag.

In teacher Dan Hickey’s fifth-grade class, students learned about the dangers of traumatic brain injury. They broke into small groups to design their own custom gear for protecting delicate eggs (representing brains) from concussion.  

Team members worked together to brainstorm solutions and collect building materials. Ultimately, they shielded their eggs in structures that included combinations of towels, bubble wrap, parachutes, balloons and peanut butter. 

Students used a variety of materials to cushion their eggs, including balloons.

Each team designated a single member to drop their construction from one of the school’s second-story windows, while the rest waited below to see if their egg survived. No eggs were harmed. 

All of the young engineers successfully protected their eggs from a two-story drop.

Teacher Rachael Herman’s fifth-graders also participated in the egg experiment and followed it up the next day with another team building exercise — a Cup Challenge. Each team of three or four students tried to build a pyramid from plastic cups without physically touching their cups. 

In teacher Racheal Herman’s class, team members worked together to build a pyramid of cups without touching them.

“Students teamed up with peers they hadn’t worked with before,” Herman said. “Each team member was vital and necessary to the success of the group. The skills they practiced — listening, sharing, valuing each other’s contributions, collaborating — are all things they will need going forward. Activities like this in the beginning of the year give me a chance to evaluate each student’s skills so we can provide extra help where needed.” 

Using only string and rubber bands, teams built interpersonal skills they will continue to use throughout their careers.