In 1996 I was asked to be a student council sponsor at Willow Creek Elementary. We had a problem getting kids to show up to student council meetings at 7.30am.
Working with Dr. Earl Reum, we came up with the idea of using engaging science demonstrations to help illustrate some basic concepts of leadership and team building. We called the program the Science of Leadership – where kids learn how to act as leaders and develop their leadership skills using science experiences. One of our first connections used a classic demo called a Windbag or a Bernoulli Bag to teach the concept of goal setting and the idea of using lots of “outside help” to accomplish what seems to be impossible. A Windbag is a giant plastic bag measuring 8 feet long by 10 inches around. Ask how many breaths it will take to blow up the bag? About 40-50? If you know the secret, you can inflate the giant bag in a single breath. The secret is to hold your mouth away from the bag, breathe, and the fast-moving stream of air from your lungs helps to pull air in from the side. It’s Bernouilli’s Principle in action.
So how does this relate to a leadership activity? Kids are taught you can do anything you put your mind to, but people around you might lose interest or you might get bored.
A 7th grader seeking election to student council used the Windbag experience in her electioneering speech. The bag, she said, contained an impossible goal – to fill the bag. Anybody can do it she said. #1 you focus on what you want. #2 you open the window of opportunity. #3 you focus your energy. And #4 – the most important thing – is to stand back. The hardest thing for a leader to do is to stand back and let other people get involved.
So who won the Student Council election? It was the kid who gave out the free lollypops! Seriously though, this girl went on to become class president using an activity she learned in elementary school. That’s the Science of Leadership.
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