Author: Kathleen Mulroy
Washington Elementary School’s First Lego League (FLL) team won a first place award for Core Values at the University of Idaho’s FLL Official Qualifier in December of 2014. But as happy as teacher and mentor Dinah Gaddie was for the students, she says their experience working as a team in preparation for the competition was nearly as meaningful as the actual award.
Team members – chosen by an application process and teacher recommendation – included Kate Bokowy, Camille Neuder, JP Bond, Jane Aitken, Ky Blaser and Keyan Strock. They started at the beginning of the 2014 school year with twice weekly meetings, learning how to problem solve together and think on their feet. Community professionals spoke to the group, including local surgeon Dr. Nathan Kanning.
Gaddie says her team entered the FLL judging room at Sandpoint High School not knowing what to expect. The students only knew they were going to be given a challenge and asked to solve it within the time constraints. As it turns out, the challenge involved being handed ping pong balls, strings and paper clips, then being asked to “create something interesting” as a team.
FLL judges look beyond completion of a project, watching instead for the team’s ability to emulate First Lego League’s (FLL) Core Values. Core Values constitute a team’s ability to demonstrate cooperation and gracious professionalism. Cooperation, according to the FLL, is unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition. The idea is that teams act with integrity and sensitivity. Gracious Professionalism is another term straight from the FLL founders. It is defined as “A way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects others in the community.”
Team member Camille says of the challenge: “I felt confident because I knew we cooperated well together and could come up with a product as a team.” She adds, “Getting the first place trophy made me feel empowered, like I could accomplish anything with the help of my team that I set my mind to. This made me feel like I can make a difference in a huge world.” JP says, “I thought our team was very organized so I felt confident. Getting the trophy made me feel excited (and) super happy.”
Dinah Gaddie requested the teacher’s grant from the Panhandle Alliance for Education because she knew how much FLL team members would learn about cooperation and problem solving. She says they have come to better understand that, “We are better off if … we help and cooperate with each other, and learn from teammates.” These are valuable life lessons for future citizens to learn.
Congratulations, FLL Team Washington!
The Panhandle Alliance for Education is a nonprofit organization composed of local citizens, businesses and educators. PAFE’s mission is “to promote excellence in education and broad-based community support for the Lake Pend Oreille School District. As an independent organization, we will create and sustain an endowment to provide resources in support of effective teaching, learning and school management.” Donations are distributed as a working pool of money used to fund teacher grants, READY! for Kindergarten and other strategic programs. To learn more about PAFE or to make an on-line donation, visit the Alliance’s Facebook page or go to the website, www.panhandlealliance.com. You may also call the Executive Director, Marcia Wilson, at 208-263-7040.