From This Week’s Lessons: Embracing Interdependence

One of this week’s objectives for my College Skills classes was to get students to understand that they need to develop a college support network and embrace interdependence for success.

So one day we did two activities:

1. The Chair Lift (adapted from Skip Downing)

2. Video Clip: “Finding Green Food” from The Land Before Time.

In the chair lift activity, one student sits in a chair at the front of the room.  His job is to remain seated in the chair.  Another student is instructed to “cause the chair to rise 18 inches off the floor.”  Generally, I choose a good-sized male student for the chair and the tiniest female student possible for the “raising of the chair.”  The rest of the class is instructed to observe and consider what they would do in the “chair raiser’s” position.  The chair raiser usually struggles at first, walking around the chair, pushing it a little, making a half-hearted attempt to lift a side of it, and declaring things like, “This is impossible!” Sometimes one or both students involved in the demonstration ask questions as they try to figure out this puzzle.  All the while, I just keep repeating the directions: “Your job is to stay seated in the chair.” and “Your job is to cause the chair to rise 18 inches off the floor.”  Eventually, the students observing will begin to offer suggestions until finally they determine the task is possible if several (usually at least 4 who are instructed to be careful and lift with their legs to avoid injury) of them work together. I follow this with a minute paper: “What’s the life lesson here?”

Next, we watch the clip from The Land Before Time.  My students get super geeked out about this movie.  Apparently, it’s quite popular with their age group.  I never have to summarize the plot for them; they do it themselves.  If you’re not familiar, this is an animated adventure film starring anthropomorphic dinosaurs in search of The Great Valley, a place that has been spared from the devastation of a series of catastrophic events (earthquake, volcano, etc.).  As plant-eaters, they need to find “green food” despite the fact that most of the land is now barren.  In the clip, they find a tree with green leaves way up at the top, and have to figure out how to get to them since none can reach the leaves alone (including Petrie who should be able to fly but can’t because he’s too scared and has never learned).  Here’s what happens:

The Land Before Time


We do another minute paper: “What’s the life lesson here?”

Students then do pair/share, followed by small group discussion about these life lessons.  They write out what they’ve learned to share with the large group, and then we go over those lessons together:” don’t be afraid to ask for help, “sometimes a seemingly impossible goals is possible with the help of a team,”  “don’t be too proud or stubborn to seek help when you can’t do it alone,” and so and so forth.  This leads to a mini-lecture on building your college support network and an assignment to begin doing that via the Staff Interview Assignment (only after we’ve already done “appropriate e-mailing), where students are forced to go out on campus and engage with one of a list of volunteer staff members.


Filed under Higher Ed, Teaching & Learning

2 responses to “From This Week’s Lessons: Embracing Interdependence

  1. In the words of Petrie…”yep, yep, yep.” My kids (16 and 18) had several of these movies. I enjoyed watching with them.

  2. niecey678

    i love the staff interview assignment. i believe that it is very important for students to find a ‘go to’ person on campus that will help them navigate the new challenges that college brings.

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