How a 4th grade class helped us build a better team!

Categories: News

Fourth Graders make great team builders, ThinkATR

Let’s face it, team building exercises are a necessary part of developing a great management team. With so many choices it’s hard to know which one will engage your group and leave them wanting more.

When a small group of us was tasked with coming up with an entire day of team building challenges for a group of about 20, we weren’t even sure where to begin. We were intrigued by the idea of building bikes for kids but these days they come pre-assembled, and we needed to step up our game. Our Sales Manager contacted a friend who is a Fourth-Grade teacher in Colfax IL, a rural farm town in Central Illinois and he agreed to lend us his class for a few hours.

Children help our Compliance Manager Chris Jackson assemble the seat while others help our regional Sales Manager Paulia find more parts.

After boarding a small charter bus, we arrived at the school gymnasium which had been setup with 2 fully assembled children’s bikes and 6 more that had the wheels,peddles, seats and kickstand removed. Our staff split up into groups of 3 and the Fourth-grade class was divided up equally amongst the 6 teams. Our staff was then blindfolded and paired up with 2 children on either side, who acted as their eyes. The children were instructed to follow the lines on the gymnasium floor to reach the parts which had been scattered about until they had the necessary parts and tools to complete the assembly.

A quick wave as the kids guided our Customer Service Manager Elise Comens through the maze of lines.

It was fun for all as the children expertly guided our team through the acquisition and assembly process which took about 20 minutes to complete. The children were unaware that 2 of the bikes and a new laptop were about to be donated to a couple of their classmates who had recently lost everything they owned in a house fire. The remaining 6 bikes were then decorated by the kids for the upcoming Christmas Holiday and loaded up into the cargo compartment of the bus. The kids weren’t done with us yet, so we headed off to their classroom for a friendly game of; Are You Smarter than a 4th Grader? We had so much fun sitting at their tiny desks while each child helped us navigate the 25 surprisingly difficult questions as we competed amongst ourselves for bragging rights.

We had about an hour drive to our next destination so we passed around the bus microphone so each person could tell the group about their first job, how they found their way to our company and what they liked and disliked about their jobs. That hour flew by as we became increasingly comfortable talking about things we rarely think of and none of us knew about each other.

ATR Team Building Event
Getting the bikes ready to donate to the OSF Children’s Hospital.

Our next stop was the OSF Children’s Hospital in Central Illinois where we unloaded the remaining bikes and prepared to tour the facility. The staff was amazing.They told us about the Hospital and the awesome work that goes on behind the scenes. We had planned on just dropping the bikes off but our gracious tour guides Wendy and De had something very special planned for us that literally brought us to tears.

It was amazing watching our staff donate the bikes they had just assembled to children in need. There are simply no words to describe the emotions we all felt as we wheeled the bicycles into their rooms one at a time. Some of the children had never owned a bicycle before and all were grateful and filled with joy.

A quick game of Foosball for (l-R)Chris Jackson, Ken Ehresman, Dan Hendershot and Randy Coons.

The morning had certainly been productive, but we still had more planned for the team who were eager to take on the next challenge which was 3 escape rooms. This turned out to be a lot of fun and more challenging than expected. The themed rooms are filled with hidden clues, combination locks and puzzles you must solve to escape. Everyone got out before the buzzer sounded but some needed more help than others but in the end it was all in good fun

Our final stop was a local Grill House where everyone gets to visit the meat locker before gathering around a massive indoor grill. It was very rewarding to see our team laughing and joking around as they cooked their prize steak to perfection and discussed the day’s activities. A few of us opted to let the grill masters show us how it’s done which gave us an opportunity to observe the group. I was amazed at how comfortable everyone had gotten around each other in just 1 day. We started the day off with 20 managers from across the U.S. that barely knew each other and ended the day as friends that felt more like family. On our drive home we shared in one of my family’s favorite traditions as we passed the microphone around one last time to share what our favorite part of the day was.

Hanging out with a group of Fourth Graders seems to have worn off on (L-R) Randy, Isaac and Dan!

The day had been a total success, and the only concern we had was how in the world are we going to top this next year! As with most companies, communication amongst ourselves is crucial to our success, and there is no doubt we broke down virtually every barrier that existed and it was a day we’ll never forget.

Author: Brodie Ehresman

Brodie Ehresman is one of the originating family owners of the two facilities formed in 1992 and is acting Director of Marketing for ATR.