Written by Ryan Barnes, Coordinator of the Middle School DREAM Lab ® and co-organizer of the ‘Baldwin Survival Challenge’.
Last year, the Middle School introduced a brand new experience, known simply as “It Isn’t Easy Being Green.” It was an opportunity for our girls to experience new things, and learn outside of their academic classrooms, all while making awesome things. With the theme of “green technology,” the girls navigated challenges like designing efficient wind turbines, creating effective water filters and building geodesic domes.
This year, we continued our newly formed tradition, again taking the time to break away from classes just before winter break to learn something entirely new, and learn simply by doing. This year, our theme took the form of “Survivor,” creating experiences focused around survival and natural disasters. The theme, and many of the new features of this project, were informed by the sage feedback from all of our participants last year.
They had the opportunity to take the role of FEMA representative in a game titled “Model FEMA.” Through their knowledge of natural disasters, groups earned the funds needed to purchase the kind of mitigating infrastructure that would help prevent serious and costly damage by natural disasters. Complete with its own “Disaster Simulator,” Model FEMA proved to be a challenge that showed the girls how difficult it can be to predict and plan for mother nature.
In the Science Building, students worked to design and build model passive solar homes. These homes had to be carefully designed to soak up and maintain as much heat as possible. The homes that proved to be most efficient were crafted to use all of the materials in their best possible way.
Down in the spacious MPR, they took on the task of building the gold standard in survival shelters, a lean-to. Armed only with a pile of bamboo reeds, and plenty of twine, students crafted structures to house their entire homeroom group. With a whole lot of knot tying, testing and teamwork, teams managed to build amazing, innovative structures.
On the third floor, the whir of robots echoed as students took the role of rescue robot pilots. Tasked with solving multiple challenges, students had to think outside the box and work with their teammates. Through real world programming and custom made video monitoring, students lived the experience of being robot pilots.
Along the way, teams earned materials based on their performance during each activity. These materials were used to construct a raft. Using cardboard, duct tape, pool noodles and paddles, students crafted boats for the final challenge —a chaotic and crazy race across the pool.
These activities serve as an incredible opportunity for our girls to break away from the classroom, work with their peers across the grades and gain new and unique experiences that aren’t often seen in school. Through these opportunities, the girls work on different kinds of skills. Collaboration, persistence, creativity, innovation and leadership were all pushed to their limits throughout the project. In the Middle School, we strive to ensure our girls not only grow academically, but as individuals as well. It is these skills and opportunities that ensure we strive to educate the whole of our students, from academics to life skills and everything inbetween.
The Baldwin School would like to extend a special thanks to the faculty team that lead this effort, for without them, this project could have never become a reality. So thank you dearly to Ryan Barnes, Kelly Zematis, Bridget Doherty, Kristin Brown, Margaret Epstein and Matthew Bunn.