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It’s as Easy as One, Two, SCLEE

Benjamin's focus at team-building at the beginning of the year provides students with important life skills.

Eighth+graders+Skyler+Zur+%28center%29+and+Jake+Mendelsohn+%28right%29+can%27t+keep+a+straight+face+as+they+try+not+to+fall+into+the+Boiling+Pit+of+Spaghetti+in+Mr.+Crisafi%27s+Journalism+and+Web+Media+class.++
Eighth graders Skyler Zur (center) and Jake Mendelsohn (right) can't keep a straight face as they try not to fall into the Boiling Pit of Spaghetti in Mr. Crisafi's Journalism and Web Media class.

Eighth graders Skyler Zur (center) and Jake Mendelsohn (right) can't keep a straight face as they try not to fall into the Boiling Pit of Spaghetti in Mr. Crisafi's Journalism and Web Media class.

Mr. Crisafi

Mr. Crisafi

Eighth graders Skyler Zur (center) and Jake Mendelsohn (right) can't keep a straight face as they try not to fall into the Boiling Pit of Spaghetti in Mr. Crisafi's Journalism and Web Media class.

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She cautiously placed her foot on the meatball, being sure not to touch the boiling expanse of spaghetti sauce that bubbled and steamed just inches away. The others anticipated her falling to her doom as they watched her attempt to take one more unstable step. Everyone yelled as they watched her desperately tumble into the scalding sea of sauce, taking everyone else down with her.

No, this isn’t the latest Pokémon app, it’s an exercise Mr. Nicholas Crisafi used in his Journalism and Web Media class and Introduction to Film and TV class as an ice-breaker and team-building activity. Crisafi set up five pieces of printer paper (the “meatballs”) across the floor of his classroom in a straight line. The students then had to get everyone across the meatballs without touching the floor (“the boiling spaghetti”). The only catch was – all of the students had to hold hands in a line. If anyone stepped on the floor or broke the hand-holding chain, they had to start over.
“It’s a great exercise because the students have a lot of fun with it, but there’s very real problem-solving skills involved,” said Crisafi, who also serves as the Middle School’s technology integration coordinator. “Whether the students are working together on the yearbook or a class film, they need to realize that they all have a common goal and that they need to work together to achieve it.”

However, this was just one team-building event that took place across several classes and advisories during the first week of school.  In Mr. Chaplin’s advisory, the students took part in a very lively team-building race. The students laid out a piece of duct tape on the floor and two teams of three people each put one foot on the duct tape and then they raced around the classroom duct-taped together. This activity was not only fun, but made the advisory work together to cross the finish line.

In addition, Dean of Students Mr. Jeffrey Cavallo hosted a team-building assembly for the entire Middle School on August 18 “just to have an opportunity for everybody to have fun,” said Cavallo. “We always divide [these activities] up into sixth, seventh, and eighth grade because you’re still getting to know people, and to make it friendly and competitive at the same [time], and [to] obviously increase school spirit.”

These “pep rallies” have become an annual tradition to which the students look forward. Seventh grader Emeline Smith really enjoyed the experience: “I think it was really fun because we were with all of our classmates and we all worked together to try to earn points for our individual grades to win an ice pop for everyone to eat at break.”

Seventh grade won the most points and won the ice pops,” Smith boasted happily. Even though the students were competing for the most points, the faculty was involved, too, by participating in a basketball game that pitted them against the eighth graders. Mr. Cavallo explained that the basketball game is a great bonding experience “because it’s a way to see the faculty in a different light as well.” The faculty nearly netted the shut out, winning 35-3, an outcome that surprised some of the students. “I thought that the teachers were just teachers and didn’t know how to do a bunch of other things [like play basketball],” said sixth grader Frankie Ciprianni.

However, team-building exercises aren’t reserved for just the first week of school. “In advisory, we have Fun Fridays where on week-one Fridays we all participate in making breakfast and work together, then we sit together and eat breakfast,” explained Mrs. Oster says. “[In class] we have done team building since day one. We have switched up lab partners, done different building activities where the [students] had to solve a problem, and they’ve had to collaborate and work together.”

Team building activities are important because they teach you how to work with different types of people in different ways. Head of Middle School Mr. Charles Hagy supports such activities because belonging to a team, in his opinion, fosters good leadership. “All of the [Benjamin] character traits promote, in a single word, a leader, someone who is leading a team, leading change in the world, and making his or her community a better place,” he said. As a result, Benjamin’s focus on team-building activities is not only so students can bond with their classmates and teachers, but so they can also develop skills they can take with them into the real world.

That’s exactly what the Boiling Pit of Spaghetti Sauce was designed to do. By the way, the students in both of Crisafi’s classes overcame the challenge, and Crisafi pointed out to them the recipe for success after they had succeeded: strategize, communicate, listen to everyone’s ideas, encourage one another, and execute. The students in his journalism class shortened those elements into an acronym: SCLEE. It’s not only a formula for success at Benjamin, but for for life as well.

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It’s as Easy as One, Two, SCLEE