The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a group as “a number of individuals assembled together.”
The dictionary defines a team as “a number of persons associated together in work or activity.”
On Wednesday, helping students in the Summer for Success program divine that distinction fell to Laurie Staiger.
“They’re in groups, right now,” she said.
Staiger, career instructor at Beacon College, played team whisperer to students in her learning essentials course, among the rigorous courses Beacon College’s summer immersion college experience for high schoolers, Summer for Success, where students receive a taste of a college and some beefy tools for managing learning differences they can use to succeed while still in high school.
“Learning Essentials is important to every student since it gets students, new to college, thinking about how they learn and study best,” Staiger said. “The course helps create, build and solidify vital academic survival skills that are important for one’s success in academia. Students don’t know what they don’t know, and Learning Essentials helps bridge that gap between high school and higher education.”
That morning, she separated students into four groups at four tables. Their task: assemble assorted 100-piece puzzles.
This is learning? one incredulous student asked.
“Believe it or not,” Staiger said, “you are learning lessons.”
One lesson surely was that puzzles are, well, puzzling.
“I’m lost again,” groaned Ashlyn Margas of Stevensville, Md.
The group at Table IV, Samuel Mayo, of Montgomery, Ala., and Shale Arora, of Sandy Springs, Ga., worked a Guardians of the Galaxy puzzle.
Ashlyn took a breath, reset, and dove in, again.
Samuel and Shale joined in.
Things started taking shape.
“Oh my goodness!” Shale exclaimed. “Oh my goodness! We got this.”
And they did.
Soon after that, the team sat admiring their completed work.
Just not before Table 2, which minutes before gave birth to a cuddly baby panda puzzle.
Speed, however, wasn’t the point.
For students who began the morning as unallied groups, most of the students through the exercise found the missing puzzle piece that transforms groups into teams.
“The groups that did work as a team, had clearly defined roles and one, or two, ‘leaders’ directing the work flow, and they were communicating, which included not only talking, but also listening to each other,” Staiger said.
An important piece students will take with them long after a successful summer.
“It also gives them a chance to feel successful which they may not have felt in the past,” Staiger said. “Once that success is found they want more of it and will attempt things that might have intimidated them before.”