Yesterday was my first Bonding Day. In my school, Bonding Day basically means teachers orchestrate a series of team-building activities for students, usually in some park in Stockholms. The purpose is for our 150 students to have fun together, and, by cooperate in teams, build friendships and a generally nice atmosphere school.
The investment for this is as follows: teachers spend one and a half full day planning, and students miss one full day of classes during Bonding Day.
As I enjoy the teaching part of being a teacher, I felt a bit frustrated that all this energy went into an activity that doesn't directly further students' understanding of school subjects. Even though I did not have to participate in the planning, I was indignant on behalf of my colleagues. But that was before Bonding Day.
Yesterday morning, as students gathered in their respective groups, a slightly nervous suspense built slowly. Each teacher took a group to that teacher's station, and then the fun started. My station was measurements, and it was hilarious watching these kids trying to figure out the different tasks. Also a bit abhorrent. Of the 11 groups that passed my station, only 3 could correctly identify North within 30 degrees West or East. I saw the groups struggle with leadership, and it was clear that those groups which featured cooperation succeeded best.
At each station the kids got some money (school "money") depending on how well they did the tasks. When all the stations were finished, we all ate lunch together and then it was auction time.
Students selected one representative from each group to bid on cake decorations, for the cake competition which would finish the day. The auction was - well, as auctions go when the participants are teenagers holding fake money. I must remember to spend some time on auction-psychology during the Social Psych level of analysis this spring.
The highlight of the day, however, was the actual cake-making. Somehow, what had started as a beautiful day with not a cloud in sight, suddenly turned into a grim raining and hailing inferno. It was cold, wet, and utterly great. Students gathered under umbrellas, completely engrossed in making and protecting the cakes.
After the competition, and the yumminess which followed, some groups performed a song their group had written during the day. They were all very good and received well-earned applauses. The idea was that the songs would be judged by a jury, and that together the song and cake contest would produce a winning team. Because of the rain and hail, however, teachers were disorganized in putting together a song-jury and the winning team became the team with the cutest cake.
All in all, this was a fantastic day. Students were thinking, laughing, cooperating, arguing and trying new things. Teachers also enjoyed the day, and had many fun stories to tell each other afterwards over glasses of wine in the nearby bar. My school is known for having a great social atmosphere and close bonds between students and students, students and teachers, and teachers and teachers. I now think that that Bonding Day definitely is a major way in which we make these bonds happen.