Marshmallows are our favorite prop.
These versatile, jet-puffed mounds of sugar can be used for practically anything...and they have been by our team of Life On Point Facilitators!
The book, Great Group Games for Kids, by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, pairs the 40 Developmental Assets with fun, interactive, and often silly, games. By breaking the 40 Developmental Assets down into the eight broad categories*, students play their way into learning more about values, teamwork, serving others and self-esteem. Ragsdale and Saylor call it "Playing with Purpose."
So, we began "playing with purpose" in our groups. Using almost 30 bags of marshmallows, we have facilitated an indoor "snowball" fight, the Marshmallow Olympics, and even baked s'mores in our Camp-In. All of these games not only helped to build assets, but also assisted us in teaching the core constructs of the Life On Point Curriculum-- Self-Discovery, Life Vision/Skills, Healthy Life Choices, Positive Support and Leadership for Service.
Silliness, you might say. Well, research says, "most of the brain is activated during physical activity--much more so than when doing seatwork." In fact, according to Eric Jensen, author of numerous books on brain-based learning, sitting for more than 10 minutes at a stretch "reduces our awareness of physical and emotional sensations and increases fatigue." Jensen reports that this results in "reduced concentration and, most likely, discipline problems" (Pica, More Movement, Smarter Kids).
We are excited to say that by using these yummy props, we are activating brains and learning the assets at the same time!
"When children are given an opportunity to develop these core values and skills through play, they will be better equipped to succeed in academics, leadership, and communication" (Ragsdale, Saylor, 2010).
And we have seen the results of this! One of our groups this year had a rough start. At the beginning of the year, students in this group had a tendency to resort to fighting and arguing as their primary form of communication with each other. Facilitators in this group used the asset-rich games at every group meeting. At the end of this group session we are happy to report increased verbal communication skills, positive group interaction, better concentration in group discussion and a courtesy toward fellow group members and facilitators.
So, our facilitators say to all of you educators, facilitators and parents out there...Break out the marshmallows! Believe it or not, it is a great learning tool.
*Support, Empowerment, Boundaries & Expectations, Constructive Use of Time, Commitment to Learning, Positive Values, Social Competencies, and Positive Identity