By: Jill Klatt
Last Wednesday, Mrs. O tied the lessons of the Superhero Summer Camp together with one simple element: a dot! She began by reading to the students a book by Peter H. Reynolds titled The Dot (2013). In the book, a young girl feels discouraged from participating in art class because she does not think she is “good enough” to make something wonderful. However, her teacher encourages her to start by just putting down one single dot on a sheet of paper. With some kind words of support from her teacher about her beautiful dot, the girl learns that one dot can turn into many dots, and soon she is creating magnificent works of art. This story is all about how one step can lead to mastery of a whole new skill—or superpower; all that is needed is a bit of self-confidence!
To expand on the lessons of the book, Mrs. O and Mrs. M first had the students get creative with dot painting. The students were encouraged to think about the things they CAN do—like paint a simple dot—and then let their abilities run free from there. Mrs. M encouraged the students to paint whatever they like and to not judge themselves on the outcome, but to embrace their strengths and build on them one dot at a time! The students got to let their creative juices flow by imagining all the ways a single dot can become a beautiful picture, such as a round spider, a flower, or the sun.
Meanwhile, another group of students was working together to solve another breakout box on the WonderBus. This one of course had a dot theme to keep the lessons of the book fresh in the students’ minds! Mrs. O showed the students how many different ways communication can occur through one symbol: the dot. To open the first of a set of locks, the students had to identify a pattern of colorful dots that Mrs. O had set up around the bus. Once they figured out the pattern in the correct order, the students used magic pens to illuminate the series of numbers that would unlock the first box. Inside the first box was the key to the code of their next challenge. Language is all about identifying patterns in sounds, letters, grammar, and even facial expressions, the students learned that even colors and symbols can create a pattern and, subsequently, a message!
After they cracked the first code the students had another lock to open, this time the code was a 5-letter word. Mrs. O tapped into the students’ knowledge of biology to lead them to the word by using the life cycle of a butterfly to hint at the order of another coded message. The students had to line up pictures of an egg, caterpillar, cocoon, and butterfly in the correct order of development; each picture was labeled with a dot-dash code which corresponded to a letter on the key from the previous challenge! Similarly to how learning a new language can help someone identify the patterns of their own language, cracking the code to a set of symbols helps show the students how to look for patterns in communication around them. It took the students a bit of brain power and collaboration to figure out the word to the lock: “brave.” Bravery is a fitting concept with the themes from The Dot. It takes courage to take the first step—make that first dot—in learning a new skill or completing a new challenge! Once the students cracked this final code, the box broke open for them to see it was filled with Skittles, which we used in the next activity.
To work on practicing good listening and turn-taking skills, Mrs. O split the students up into groups of four to have organic conversations amongst themselves. When a student took a turn in the conversation, either by asking a question or making a comment, they added a Skittle to the circle on a plate in the center. The students are becoming quite familiar with each other, so their energetic conversations filled the plate in no time, leaving a beautiful ring of colorful dots. The students could see how each turn they took—each Skittle in the circle—was important in forming the entire ring. This empowerment encourages students who are less likely to participate in conversations to begin with just one “dot,” just one comment or question can help them become involved in social situations which are critical to their development. When all the groups’ conversations were over and their circles were complete, Mrs. O came by and poured water onto the plates, making the colors of the skittles run towards the center of the circle. In just a few minutes, the students were able to see how their individual dots come together to form a vibrant display. In a conversation, each comment and question adds to create an entire colorful experience!