SJHS 6th graders learn importance of teamwork through Youth Leadership


The Crawford County Youth Leadership Program is underway for its 12th year and on Wednesday some Southeast Junior High School sixth graders learned the importance of teamwork in an attempt to save as many lives as possible… sort of. An activity the students did included using a pair of tablecloth as “life rafts”. With the students split into two group the two tablecloths were laid on the ground near each other.

“Now here’s our scenario,” the students were told by Tammy Pankey of Pitsco. “These tablecloths are magic carpets. They keep you safe from the lava – all the grass is lava, think like when you were little kids. You have to stay on the tablecloths but the problem is to fly away your tablecloth is going the wrong direction. You have to flip it over. You have to work as a team to get your tablecloth flipped over.”

Each group climbed onto their raft and as they tried to roll each of their own tablecloths over, one by one the students were pushed off, with only three survivors for each raft.

Mrs. Pankey gathered the students and they discussed why there were so few survivors. Too many people on each raft. Lack of communication. Lots of pushing and shoving.

“That kind of happens in small space,” Mrs. Pankey said.

“How many thought it was a competition between the two groups?” she asked.

The answer, the students thought, was obvious. A lot of hands were raised and a lot of “yes” responses.

“Did I ever say it was a competition between the two groups?” Mrs. Pankey asked. “How could you have made this way easier – if it wasn’t a competition you guys were working together as a team?”
A short brainstorming discussion resulted in some agreement: go slower and more communication.
After more discussion, there was a “eureka” moment.

“Jump over to their side so you don’t get out,” said Micah Uber. “All you said was we can’t touch the ground.”

While they still lost a couple of people, attempt number two was much more successful.

They struggled at first with students jumping back and forth between the two rafts. Then, slowly, they all started to jump onto the same raft – squeezing in as many people as they could. The last two slowly folded over the tablecloth and once it was flipped over, the students all jumped to this raft. Again, the last couple of students slowly folded the tablecloth until it was filled over. Then everyone returned to their original raft.


Sixth grade teacher Debbie Madle said these activities are important for the students to learn, especially at this age before they get into high school and college.

“You’ve got to trust each other and everybody put their ideas in – teamwork,” Mrs. Madle said.

The Crawford County Youth Leadership Program is organized by Anna Gudde, the Special Events Director for the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Gudde said on Wednesday that the program’s activities teach the students how to be more responsible, more rounded and better citizens overall. Volunteers from throughout the business community spend one day a month at schools throughout the county.

“We just do it because we’ve had a great response and that’s why we keep doing it year after year – the kids enjoy it, the teachers and my facilitators enjoy it so we just keep it up,” Gudde said.

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