Verdun encourages teamwork


Nina Quiles, Managing Editor

Sophomores Tessa Skirsky, Alyssa Gilmore, Lauren Burrell, Hope Burnett, Kevin McGeeching and Daniel Mclinden were challenged to use two-by-fours to create a bridge from one side of a ‘lava pit’ to the other. 

Experiential learning, a popular teaching trend, gives students the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities, followed by reflection on their work, to achieve a higher level of learning. On Oct. 28, English teacher Cynthia Pryor took her sophomore English classes to Verdun, a team building retreat, to explore themes from the novel Lord of the Flies.
“I thought it might be interesting to take students to Verdun to experience a situation similar to those of the boys on the island to force them to work in groups to problem solve to ‘survive’ difficult challenges,” Pryor said.
Verdun provides a safe environment for the students to consider the relationship between the physical activities and the disturbing events depicted in the novel. Pryor split the students into random groups to force them out of their comfort zones and then let the Verdun facilitators take over. Sophomore Sydney Stafford said that the groupings required students to exercise skills they didn’t know they had.
“We were all very inclusive and supportive of one another. I think it was the teamwork and trust that we built throughout the day that got us to the end,” Stafford said. “It’s a good thing to be reminded every once in a while that you still have potential.”
The activities were designed to place students in the survival mindset of the boys stranded on the island. Some activities required students to collaborate to scale a 10 foot wall or lift a tire off a 10 foot pole without touching the pole, while others required teams to solve problems in complete silence.
Sophomore Sydney Stafford’s favorite obstacle was the Walk of Life, where the students were required to help each other walk across a thin cable suspended between two wooden poles over the ground.
“[I like how] we all got to work together; we all had to be able to trust each other to get one another across and hold onto each other’s arms and stuff,” Stafford said. “Personal boundaries were out the window.”
Pryor described this field trip as a high-yield experience in that students gained invaluable insights into themselves and the novel. Sophomore Jake Sadowski learned valuable life lessons from the experience.
“I learned that everyone, no matter their status or appearance, does have something to offer. Many times we will overlook their potential based on clothes they wear or the friends they have,” Sadowski said. “If school is truly about learning, shouldn’t it be more important for children, the next generation and the inheritors of the earth, to learn practical information? I learned more about myself in team building in just a few hours at Verdun than I have [while] at school for a year.”