Partner School Stories

Real World Application of P2 Strengths

By Todd Kaiser

One of the perks of living in a college town is the connections and relationships we as teachers have with faculty from the two colleges in our town, SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University. Many children in our school come from families who are employed by one of the universities. This year, I am fortunate enough to have the sibling of a student I had a few years ago, whose father is an environmental economist at Clarkson University, Martin Heintzelman.  

He was happy to come and speak to my class about environmental issues and decision making. The lesson began with a brief introduction to what economics is and how pollution impacts economics. He then split each group of four into two groups of two, a set of mathematicians and a set of engineers. The goal was to recognize that the mathematicians needed to accomplish their task in order for the engineers to accomplish their task. There had to be some teamwork that would be applied. The catch though was that the mathematicians worked first and were given candy for their correct efforts. The decisions of the mathematicians affected how successful the engineers could be. If the engineers were not successful in building their paper airplanes because of the mathematicians, they would not receive any candy.

A few years ago, when Martin came to visit our class, some of the mathematicians sabotaged their engineers! They did all their work correctly and earned plenty of Jolly Ranchers, yet they ruined the supply of paper for the engineers to create the paper airplanes. There was no teamwork shown. It was very interesting to see the selfish strategies used in order to earn extra Jolly Ranchers and prevent the engineers from earning any!

This year was very different, as the students endeavored from the beginning to cooperate across tasks! Martin commented to the class during the reflection period about how working together for a common good for both groups was the hope of the activity.  He then shared how this applies to real life with environmental economics. It fit perfectly as we have studied symbiosis and mutualism. Martin was very quick to compliment this year’s class and he attributed it to the work of The Positivity Project.  

It was amazing to see the kids willingness to help each other out during the experience and even more impressive to see the kids equally distribute the candy when the activity was complete, even though the groups did not earn equal amounts of Jolly Ranchers.

Through regular use of the 24 character strengths, frequent activities to build relationships, and leading the #OtherPeopleMatter Mindset, we are noticing a significant change in our students. I have been impressed by the way students have handled themselves in class this year. This is still work in progress, but we are beginning to see the daily lessons learned in class carry over to their lives outside of class. The impact these kids can have on their future and more importantly, the future of others, is impressive.

Todd Kaiser
Proud husband, dad, teacher and coach just trying to make a difference each day.