The first full day of Compass: different than before

Aug 9, 2010   //   by Anna Zaniewski   //   Compass News, Summer Program 2010  //  2 Comments

For this year’s summer program, we tried something we haven’t done before in Compass: giving the students a full day of activities to get to know each other before starting classes.

In previous years, we always jumped right in on the first day with classes.  We decided to try to make the goal of building community more explicit this year, and felt that having the first day be classes-free would help further that goal.  The schedule was scavenger hunt in the morning, liquid nitrogen ice cream social in the afternoon, followed by some free time- which ended up being frisbee (as per the compass tradition)- and a game night in the evening.

For the scavenger hunt, clues led students around campus where they received both the next clue and some piece of the materials needed to build a mysterious object.  After about two hours of doing silly things- singing to a dinosaur, preaching on Sproul Plaza, trying to stick paper airplanes into the ceiling of the physics reading room, they had amassed the supplies needed to build a anaglyph camera adapter for taking red-blue 3D images.

It was interesting watching the group dynamics.  The students almost universally stuck to a set of rules that they had internalized about scavenger hunts- in particular that the teams are competing for something.  Even after all the hunting was over and they were in the classroom to assemble their boxes, the teams worked only within their groups.  After one team got their device working, I suggested to the other groups to ask around for help-meaning outside their own group- but they were very hesitant to do so.

Later that afternoon, we made liquid nitrogen ice cream, by mixing liquid nitrogen (donated by the department!) with half and half and sugar.  When the students had their fill of ice cream, we shattered cheese, flowers, fruit, and froze soap foam.  This was a good activity for the first day:  everyone seemed to be excited and enjoying themselves.

At the after dinner game night, we brought out the apples to apples, settlers of catan, dominion, and, according to Compass tradition, Mafia (which, by the way, was epic).

In all, I think having the first day be focused solely on community building was successful, and I feel that in the 7 or so hours I spent with the students, I got to know each one at least a little bit.  This makes me happy:  the new Compass students are awesome!


  • Game night was awesome!
    It was great to meet all of this years Compass students!

  • You let them build paper airplanes on Sunday? So that’s why they seemed so prepared for the paper airplane activity Monday…

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