Written by Mark Jaeger
Wednesday, 18 November 2009 22:44
Competition created to clear school for sophomore testingSome of the most memorable lessons learned by juniors and seniors at Ozaukee High School last week occurred on the streets of downtown Milwaukee.
Credit The Amazing Race — a competition which required 110 students to find their own way on a scavenger hunt from the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to Marquette University.
The race was the latest innovation by the district to give greater emphasis to student performance on the annual Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams.
At the high school, that meant turning the building over to sophomores who faced two days of standardized testing last Tuesday and Wednesday. Prior to each day’s testing, students were treated to free breakfasts.
To ensure that the students were insulated from distractions of daily school business, activities were planned for the remaining grades outside the building.
Principal Kevin Parker said the special treatment has been an effective way to improve performance and communicate to students how important the state testing is to the district.
It also posed a challenge to the staff to find meaningful activities for the other students.
On Tuesday, the freshman class made an educational outing to the Milwaukee County Zoo.
But it was the Amazing Race that captured the imaginations of the students and staff.
The competition was patterned after the popular CBS television show that sends teams around the globe, but the destination was not quite as exotic.
Students were divided into 12 teams and taken by bus to Milwaukee’s East Side. Each team was assigned a faculty member who acted as a facilitator.
“We wanted to make sure the students took on the role as leaders, and that they had an opportunity to experience things they couldn’t do in Fredonia,” Parker said.
Teams were given a packet of instructions, including 100 scavenger hunt questions, bus schedules and $14 in cash for each student. The money was to be used for lunch and to pay for bus fare from one campus to the other.
“For a lot of students, it was the first time they would be riding on a county bus,” said English teacher Kristina Bruggeman, who coordinated the race.
Bruggeman said she took part in a similar city scavenger challenge when she was a freshman at Marquette.
The winning team was determined by the number of questions answered correctly and trivia challenges met. Scavenger items included getting a team picture in front of the Usinger Sausage building, a brochure from the Milwaukee Central Library and learning the
password to enter the Safe House restaurant.
“Some of the kids have Internet access on their phones and were calling to get answers, but in most cases they actually had to be at the location to get the clue,” Bruggeman said.
Bonus points were awarded for each dollar returned at the end of the day.
Bruggeman said gamesmanship came into play, with most teams being miserly on their spending.
“The winning team decided ahead of time to bring bag lunches and walked the seven or eight miles from UWM to Marquette. They didn’t spend any of their cash,” she said.
“At the end of the day, about half of the money was turned back in by the teams.”
Parker said it didn’t take long for the teams to realize that the only way to succeed in the race was to put aside any fear of talking to strangers.
“We wanted the day to be educational, but also to have a cultural and outreach value,” he said.
“Some of the kids started out being pretty shy, but after a while they got more comfortable and people got to know our kids. It was like, ‘Here comes another kid with a pink sheet. What do you need?’” Bruggeman said.
One of the groups visited a residence hall at UWM that is home to 3,000 students.
“It was eye-opening to them when they realized that is more people than live in all of Fredonia,” Parker said.
Bruggeman said teams of juniors and seniors were assigned at random, without any regard to friendships.
“I think the most important thing that came out of the day was learning to work as a team,” she said.
“When we first looked at the members on the winning team, I think a lot of us thought, ‘This is going to be a dysfunctional group.’ Still, they each realized they had a job to do and made it work.”
That winning team was a group of seniors assigned to science teacher Terry Hendrikse. They each won a $10 gift card from Walmart.
All teams will be invited to a free pizza party to be held before an upcoming basketball game.
During the second day of testing, freshmen, juniors and seniors took part in a volunteer projects at Harrington Beach State Park, Riveredge Nature Center, the Mequon Nature Preserve and the school district grounds.
“All the students came back really excited about their volunteer experiences,” Parker said.
The time was so rewarding, he said, he is thinking about having sophomores take part in activities on the afternoon of the second day of WKCE testing.
OZAUKEE HIGH SENIORS who won the school’s version of the Amazing Race posed in front of the hallway warrior emblem painted by students during last week’s volunteer day. The team’s faculty advisor was science teacher Terry Hendrikse. Photo by Mark Jaeger