Thinking Outside the Box

By: Genevieve Bisson

Last week, some of the Pandoo Foundation employees traveled to Shanghai, China for the Global Issues Network (GIN) Conference. After a series of adventures to get all our visa papers together, off we went with three suitcases overflowing with scissors, buckets, marbles, mission briefs, shirts, and tarps. We were truly traveling teachers.

One of the goals during GIN was to host the team building activity. As we like to gamify everything, a few of us joined creative forces and came up with a real life Pandoo Nation Rescue Camp. We made mission briefs that included each of the groups’ tasks. In a span of 40 minutes, the groups needed to act as NGO’s in order to provide water to a village affected by a volcanic eruption. To accomplish this task, they needed to build a free standing pipeline. They needed to do all of this using recycled material to keep the Zero Waste theme of the conference alive. Challenge accepted!

Clock ticking, off the groups went, dividing tasks and fully taking on this mission. During the activity, I got the chance to go around and witness the innovation and leadership of the 18 groups. WOW!

We had wondered if they would think of also using the box where we had placed all the materials. Our team was quickly smiling at each other since not only were the students using the boxes but all the stickers on them, instruction papers…. Literally everything they could get their hands on, they found a resourceful way to incorporate it in their designs.

It was amazing to witness them put all their brains together. By the end of the activity, we had mixed results. Some completed the task perfectly; others didn’t get to finish.

At the end of the activity, I led the debriefing session. I asked the kids if they thought this challenge was a competition between teams. The vast majority raised their arms in unison. No surprise there as we are often called to race and compete to “win”. I explained that the goal wasn’t to see who could save the most families. In fact, they all had the same goal. I announced the collective total of families they were able to provide water for. I went on and told them that when it comes to helping others, we should never compete but always collaborate. After all, couldn’t we achieve more if we all learned to work together? Helping is already winning.

One thing that stood out in the students’ reflections is that everyone agreed that the activity was, at times, frustrating, really fun, and required a whole lot of creativity, teamwork, and communication. Personally, I was delighted at the outcome. We were able to bring valuable lessons in both teamwork and international aid — two things I am passionate about.

Thank you again to the Shanghai Community International School for the invitation. Though we still left China with the same three full suitcases, we also left with more priceless memories.