This was the theme for our school’s Health and Wellness Summit this year. The summit, which took place in early October, was all about people coming together to solve relevant local and global issues surrounding health and wellness. However, like last year’s summit, this one was missing something…
The summit was led by our 5th grade students. They picked the topics, they researched information and solutions, and finally, they presented to and led a discussion with a group of students about their findings. They worked extremely hard for weeks and in the end, most of them… failed miserably.
Their research skills were “copy-paste plagiarize” at best. Their findings unoriginal. And their presentations were unorganized and, at times, downright incomprehensible. But that was from a technical standpoint. From a learning standpoint, they did marvelously.
Throughout the process, the amount of growth the students showed was immense. The odds were against the. They had a very short amount of time. That time was at the beginning of the year, and they were working with people they did not know very well, in an environment completely new to them. But in the end, they did it. It might not have been pretty – although there was some very interesting cat memes – but they got it done. That was the goal.
The summit actually had three major goals. First, to allow students to explore the ‘why’ behind what we do in Physical Education class. To peer into the deeper roots of lifelong physical literacy and active living. Second, the students thought bigger than themselves. They embarked on a journey to find meaningful problems in the world that effected their health and the health of those around them, and they worked to solve those issues. Third and finally, they set themselves up for success later in the year. It was, in effect, a training ground.
In PYP schools, at the end of elementary school (I.e. 5th grade), students are charged with doing something called an exhibition. It is a serious study into a local problem in the community and a realistic attempt to solve that issue through intentional and meaningful action. Examples have included awareness campaigns about seatbelt safety, fundraisers for cancer research, or the building of gardens around the school. Basically, the exhibition is a smaller version of the summit. Solve issues… in your community. But at the end of it all, it is entirely led by the students.
Our schools health and wellness summit was a punch in the gut for many of our 5th graders. They just hadn’t felt that kind of pressure before. I caught up with one boy right after he had finished presenting and he looked exhausted, like he’d just run a marathon. I asked him how it went. “It was tough. Worth it, but tough.”
What a great answer. ‘It was tough.’ Isn’t that teaching in a nutshell?
We are not called to make children’s lives easy. Doing so usually has very negative consequences. And while we should reflect on the level and amount of challenges we give them, we should never shy away from allowing them to fail miserably. Because like the summit, that failure gives them the perspective and preparation necessary for the years ahead.