Raima Islam ’21
10 December 2018
Startingin early November, the Passaic Valley Critical Thinking Team implemented an activity to encourage critical thinking during lunch periods in the cafeteria. Every Friday, a word puzzle, logic problem, or other activity geared towards improving students’ questioning and critical thinking skills is posted on the white board in the middle of the cafe. The first two students to submit the correct answer receive a prize.
The activity and Critical Thinking Team operate under the guidance of Ms. Lori Kelly, Professor-in-Residence from William Paterson University. The Passaic Valley Critical Thinking Team is comprised of twelve teachers and administrators: Mr. Michael Carlucci, Mr. Joseph Feinstein, Mr. Andrew Greco, Ms. Cheryl Joseph, Ms. Richeall Kennedy, Mr. William Phillian, Ms. Ana Radice, Mr. Richard Ramos, Ms. Gianna Riccardi, Mr. Cornelius Van Ess, Ms. Pia Vanderstreet, Ms. Geraldine Volonnino, Mr. Joseph Wassel, and Ms. Leanne Weiss.
Ms. Kelly elaborated on how the idea came about. “After meeting with a team of teachers and discussing the importance of questioning and critical thinking, Mr. Phillian and Mr. Carlucci came up with an idea to challenge the students to think more critically during a time when they would normally have idle time,” explained Kelly. “The team was enthused about the idea. Mr. Feinstein took on the charge of supplying the prizes for the winners and the activity was born.”
The Critical Thinking Activity is currently held every Friday during fifth, sixth, and seventh periods in the
cafeteria. Ten minutes before the end of the period, a word puzzle, riddle, or numerical problem is written on a whiteboard at the front of the cafeteria by a teacher in the Passaic Valley Critical Thinking Team.
Students then have the opportunity to write their answers on a sheet of paper and give it to the teacher. The first two students to submit the correct answer win a prize. Currently, first prize is a $5 certificate towards lunch in the cafeteria. Second place is a coupon for two free cookies. In the future, a “Critical Thinker” T-shirt, designed by Sabrina Riley ’19 and made by the Art Department, will be added to the prize pool.
The creation of the PV Critical Thinking Team is a part of a comprehensive plan to find ways to encourage the use of critical thinking throughout the school. “The activity gives the teachers a chance to interact more with the students because the teachers can challenge the students to solve problems and riddles,” remarked Phillian. “We’d like to enable students to be more productive and rewarded during lunchtime.”
Many students enjoy the new Critical Thinking Activity, rushing up to the white board as soon as the announcement is made. Betul Koc ’21 especially likes the trickiness of the problems. “The riddles are a fun way to challenge your mind and I really enjoy the satisfaction that comes when you figure out one,” stated Koc. “I feel like the riddles are a good addition to our lunch periods because it brings people from all grades and all different groups together to engage with each other and challenge themselves.”
The activity began as a trial in November. Due to its success, the Critical Thinking Team has expanded the project and looks to include it in 4th period lunch in the near future. “From what I can see, the students enjoy the activity. They will stop me in the hallway and ask, ‘Are we doing a riddle today?’, ‘Give me a hint, I want to win today,'” stated Feinstein. “The excitement from the students is far beyond what we expected from this activity in such a short amount of time.”