By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Fourth-graders and their teacher taught me a valuable lesson during our final Junior Achievement session last week at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport.
Having taught the JA fourth-grade curriculum many times before, I felt comfortable — maybe too comfortable — with the lesson’s instructions and details as I entered the classroom that Thursday morning. The students greeted me cheerfully. I gave them a whirlwind recap of what we’d learned in the previous sessions and told them what fun we would have that morning playing another game.
“It’s about interdependence,” I told the students, explaining that businesses around the world depend on one another for products and services. We explored that concept in a colorful flyer that illustrated the making of a computer and how it ends up in the buyer’s possession.
I distributed game materials for each of the eight small groups: one game board per group and a set of stickers, each representing a part from a different country. The students didn’t know that I had secretly slipped one set of stickers to their teacher, Mrs. Novak. They would have to discover on their own the missing link in the supply chain. Without referring to my volunteer guidebook, I explained that the students would build a computer by collecting parts from each of the groups.
“You will have five minutes to collect the parts to build your computer,” I explained to the students. The minute I gave them permission to start, all of them made a mad dash from one group to another. That should have been a signal to me that “interdependence” was not being played out!
Instead, I anticipated the reaction from previous classes: hands waving in the air as students said, “Mrs. Fye,” we’re missing a part! We can’t finish our computer!” This time, only one student approached me and said that his group was missing a part.
When time was up, I asked the students whether their groups were missing a part. All chimed in, “Yes.” I told them that their teacher had the missing link in their supply chain. Each group approached Mrs. Novak’s desk to claim their missing part. Then I discovered that most of the groups were missing at least two parts. That wasn’t supposed to happen!
Mrs. Novak came to my rescue. She explained to the students that each group should have designated one person to collect a sticker from each of the other groups and then return to home base to place the stickers on their game board. With everyone moving around in circles to collect stickers, no one was left behind to provide the stickers. In my haste to get the game going, I failed to communicate an obvious instruction.
Despite that mistake, I think the lesson on interdependence made an impact. The students witnessed in a tangible way that everyone needs to work together — including the JA volunteer — to bring a project to completion. That’s a lesson that bears repeating in the fractured world we live in today.
“None of us is an island, an autonomous and independent ‘I,’ separated from the other,” Pope Francis said in a “TED” talk last year. “We can only build the future by standing together, including everyone” (PBS News Hour, April 27, 2017).
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)