November 17, 2023

Pumpkin design activity unites teams of WMS students

By Ed Pierce

Building trust and learning how to navigate conflict were just a part of a unique activity at Windham Middle School as student teams decorated and carved pumpkins with the winning pumpkin and team being unveiled at a schoolwide assembly on Nov. 9.

A Windham Middle School's team of seventh-grade students
gather with teacher Anne Fougere after a school assembly
where they learned they had won the school's 'Pumpkin 
Carving and Design' contest. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE 
A total of 30 different advisory teams at the school met, selected a pumpkin, voted how they wanted their pumpkin to look and then set about turning their pumpkin into the design they chose. After a few days of work on the activity, the teams displayed their creations for their peers in the hallway outside the school gymnasium with judges including WMS Principal Greg Applestein, Assistant Principal AJ Ruth, and RSU 14 Assistant Superintendent Christine Frost-Bertinet selecting the winning pumpkin.

Student advisory teams featured small groups of participants from all grade levels at Windham Middle School and teachers with the exercise and activity intended to build strong connections within the teams of students, foster creativity and to refine communications by drawing together students with diverse backgrounds and different personalities tasked to work on a common problem.

The winning team’s entry as chosen by the judges was a pumpkin that was painted to look like an ice cream cone with a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped by a cherry. It was created by a group of WMS seventh graders led by health teacher Anne Fougere.

She said it was a great opportunity for members of her advisory team to work on leadership abilities, think outside the box and that the students developed a strong sense of solidarity, making them more invested in themselves and others.

Fougere said that team building is crucial for middle school students because it helps them to develop essential life skills such as communication, leadership, problem-solving, and collaboration, and these skills will benefit them not only in their academic pursuits but also later in their personal and professional lives.

This pumpkin decorating activity was challenging enough to encourage student growth and development but was not so difficult as to be frustrating or overwhelming.

Seventh grader Makenzie Reynolds was a member of Fougere’s team and said that she found the hardest part of the activity was painting cherries on the winning pumpkin and making them look real.

“We used clay, pipe cleaners and red paint,” Reynolds said. “It took two or three days to finish everything, but I liked winning.”

Max Robinson, a seventh grader and another member of Fougere’s team, said he found the entire process interesting.

“We first had a Google document with different choices and then we all voted,” Robinson said. “I liked the different aspects of our design especially the cherry and the ice cream.”

Robinson said his involvement in the winning project included spending three days helping to paint the pumpkin with acrylic paint.

“I learned from this event that although something looks hard, if you keep trying, you will accomplish your goal,” he said.

Seventh grader Lauren Nickel was also a member of Fougere’s winning team and said what she will take away from this activity is much can be accomplished when working as a team.

“I’ll remember how much fun we had doing it together,” Nickel said. “The hardest part of doing this for me was the cone part of the design and trying to figure out how to make it look like a real ice cream cone.”

According to Nickel, the easiest part of the project was the actual painting of the pumpkin.

“I helped paint a couple layers and it wasn’t difficult,” she said.

Members of the winning team include David Poungi; Illijah Shaw; Teagan Whitaker; Ellie Tarbox; Kenzie Reynolds; Maya Salazar; Gage Riche; Lillianna Nobe; Maxwell Robinson; Alina Robbins; Lauren Nickel; Annabelle Riley; and Annaliese Reiner.<

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