Christmas is in ___ days?! No matter the number that happens to complete that sentence when you’re reading this post, it always seems to bring about some excitement. In addition to the excitement, especially in an elementary school setting, there inevitably seems to be a certain level of craziness. During the last full week of school before Christmas break, our fourth and fifth grade students took part in a bit of craziness and excitement.
For the December house competition, these students competed in a gingerbread house contest with their fellow house members. Students were given some guidelines, materials, and a timeframe to construct their final product. They were allotted 20 minutes to develop a plan and delegate duties so that each house member could contribute, and with points on the line, students were motivated to create some quality structures for their house. When the crumbs settled, we had a village with a town square, a mansion fit for a king (sized candy bar), a replica of our campus, and a sleigh atop the most ornate, crushed peppermint roof you’ll ever see.
Some of our younger students and other members of the faculty were able to join in the fun by casting votes to determine the winners. While the votes were tallied and house points were given, this event proved beneficial in more ways than just compiling points. As some students took their opportunity to lead, all students were able to shine as duties were shared and every member of each house had a role. The thoughtful planning, positive and encouraging interactions among peers, and shared common goal all served as the ultimate sweet treat of this competition.
When students were asked for their feedback later that day, a few responses really stood out and pointed to some of the benefits experiences like this can bring. “I liked it because it made your brain really work to figure out how to use the materials,” said one student as he twisted his hands on each side of his head. One member of FIDELITAS complimented a couple of our other houses: “I really liked what HUMANITAS and INDUSTRIA came up with.”
Hearing students pass along compliments to others and truly reflect on their thinking process is a Christmas gift in itself for this teacher. While we as teachers truly enjoyed watching the students participate, we hope for our students this activity was the icing on the cake for what has been a fantastic first semester!