Sunday, May 16, 2010

Making progress with Mid-Teen U

Mid-Teen University is an after school program for young men ages 10-13 years old. Our goal is to help young men develop into exemplary teens. We believe helping kids develop at a younger age improves their chances of “Developing into an exemplary adult” which is Teen University’s tag line.  Ideally, MTU students will be successful in the program and move on to Teen University. In order to reach this goal we focus on positive behavior, social skills, teamwork, listening and communication skills.

I am delighted to share with you that I (Terrence Brooks, MTU Coordinator) believe our goals are being met. This week I had to opportunity of witnessing positive behavior, social skills, teamwork, listening and communication skills in action. These skills were displayed during our daily challenges. Every day I present the boys with a set of challenges that forces them to utilize the skills listed above in order to accomplish their challenge.

The first challenge that was given to them was titled “A Sunken Treasure.” This challenge involves an empty water bottle and a paper clip. The top is screwed off of the bottle and the paper clip is dropped to the bottom. The goal of the game is to remove the paper clip from the water bottle without touching the water bottle. The boys were put into one group and required to work together as a team before anyone could take a chance at removing the paper clip. The story line is they are stranded in the desert without food or water when they stumbled across food and supplies (“A Sunken Treasure”) laying low beneath the surface in a container.

The only problem is the container which holds the treasure is places on top of a land mind. If the container moves the land mind is detonated. The boys were puzzled, left trying to figure out how to complete this seemingly impossible task. After about 45 minutes of frustration and anger at their failed attempts, they figured it out. To my surprise, it was not the way I expected. The way I knew to remove the paper clip from the water bottle was to fill it with water, but the boys created a new way. They decided to take a pencil that was long enough to reach the bottom of the bottle and wrap the front end of the pencil with tape. After about three or four try’s the challenge was complete and to my surprise with a new method.

There are tons of other stories, but I’ll give one more. This next challenge was to create a human knot and then unravel it. The boys were asked to form a circle and to extend their hands. Once all hands are extended each person must grab the hand of someone across from them. You are not allowed to grab the hand of the person next to you. Once everyone has grabbed a hand and created a human knot, they must unravel the knot without anyone letting go of their hand. This challenge takes lots of positive behavior, social skills, teamwork, listening and communication skills.

At first, these skills were nonexistent, but after a short while with some encouragement, the boys were on their way. As I stood aside watching them attempt to unravel this knot I was also watching my stopwatch to keep track of how long it would take them to break free.  At 5.25 seconds someone accidently let go of their partners hand and I restated the challenge. Frustrated and wanting to quit, I encouraged them to use the skills they had developed to make it to the 5.25 mark. They agreed and circled up again.

This time they actually completed the task in 3.54 seconds. I was very proud of them and they were excited to see that they worked together and completed a challenge they first believed was close to impossible. So, when I asked if they were willing to try it again in an effort to beat their record, they were thrilled about the idea. They quickly circled up and worked together to complete the challenge in 1.37 seconds.

I couldn’t believe it. The mood went from being frustrated and wanting to quit to being excited about the idea of breaking their own record. To their surprise and mine, they did. I write this story because it goes to show what the next generation can accomplish if they are given time, encouragement, challenges, love, grace and truth. While there were many of times when kids wanted to quit and actually some did, but I encouraged them to try it again, they ended up being successful. All along the way I reminded them to work together, listen to each other, communicate, have a positive attitude and they would be successful.

Because their challenges are never completed until they use positive behavior, social skills, teamwork, listening and communication skills, I believe are goals are being accomplished.