Is there any way to teach kids how to handle a hands on problem—to keep it from a case of hands in, and hands on the materials, yet nothing is done and time is up and no finished product? I wish I had a magic answer. For a team to master hands on will take time. Younger teams typically have not mastered the conceptual idea of the type of teamwork needed to complete a hands on problem in the time allotted. Remember though, that every team will be in the same age group and working with the same age-related issues.


Div I—Spend some time with getting new or younger teams used to the idea of the types of materials typically found in a hands on problem and for what the materials can be used. For example, clay, tape, rubber bands and labels are glue or tape and can be used to hold something together and make a base. Straws, and pencils add length—pencils are more durable but have more weight. Straws provide more flexibility. Paper clips can attach things or can be opened up for length in attachment or for poking a hole. My favorite is paper. It can be used in so many ways; folded it has a lot of strength and torn correctly can be quite long…These are just a few examples, but let them practice building height, length, etc., with various materials.



Div II, Div III, Competitive—Here is a strategy that can be useful for many teams. Try it, and let me know how it works.

When the team walks into the room they will immediately be told what type of problem it is. If it is a hands on or hands on/verbal, coach them to scan the table for everything that is on the table and make a mental note of what each could potentially do. Do not touch materials. This is critical, so coach this as a habit. Once they touch they begin to lose track of what the problem will be—they do not know at this point and materials could be damaged. That may start a scuffle amongst the team and not a good way to begin a team activity! Once the judge begins to read the problem have the kids close their eyes, or look away while the problem is being read in order to focus on the problem. Your auditory kids will understand the problem better by focusing on hearing it. Your visual kids may want to read the problem afterward but do not have them read along with the written problem presented on table as it will usually not be exactly the same in format so there is a chance for the team member getting lost in the written work and not understanding the problem.