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story.lead_photo.caption STAFF PHOTO SAMANTHA BAKER • @NWASAMANTHA Holly Haak from Thomas Jefferson Elementary makes a food donation bag Monday for the Second Street Pantry while her team, the Pirates, participate in The Amazing Race to a Great School Year team-building exercise in downtown Bentonville. Eight teams competed in the “race” to visit eight stations and complete a challenge.

BENTONVILLE -- When some school staff members returned from summer break Monday, they hit the ground running -- all the way around the downtown square.

Exactly one week before students return to school, the Thomas Jefferson Elementary staff reported back to work at 7:30 a.m. Monday. It was then they learned they'd be participating in a competition modeled after the reality television game show "The Amazing Race."

At A Glance

‘The Amazing Race’

“The Amazing Race” is a CBS reality television game show that features teams of two racing around the world competing in physical and mental challenges. One team is usually eliminated each week; the winning team receives $1 million. The series has run since 2001. There have been 24 seasons.

Source: Staff Report

The 47 staff members, all wearing custom-made green T-shirts, were grouped into eight teams. Each team was distinguished by a certain kind of funny hat they had to wear throughout the activity. Teams earned points based on how they did on each challenge.

The teams took turns engaging in various challenges, from filling bags at a food pantry to collecting rubber ducks while wading in the fountain on the square. Phat Tire, the Spark Cafe and the 21c Museum Hotel were among the businesses that hosted challenges.

Thomas Jefferson counselor Diana Berry organized the event that was intended as a team-building exercise. She began working on it at the beginning of May, she said.

"It was a lot of work," Berry said. "All the businesses have been wonderful about cooperating."

The teams were arranged to match up staff members who don't usually work together.

"They're not used to being together. So we get them out of their comfort zone," Berry said.

The Pirates team -- wearing pirate hats, of course -- did a lot of jogging from challenge to challenge. At one point, a man driving a pickup on East Central Avenue shouted, "Run, run, run!" as the Pirates ran by, each one holding a hand on his head to keep his hat on.

The group was running from Phat Tire to a fingernail-painting station on the southeast corner of the square. There they were told to find people willing to get their fingernails painted. Any team that could paint a man's fingernails was awarded 1,000 points, the highest point award of the day.

The Pirates, upon learning the rules, immediately gravitated toward a man holding his 1-year-old daughter on the north side of the square. Matthew Smith, a bearded man in a blue work uniform, eventually submitted to the group's pleas to paint his nails. Crystal Smith, his wife, stood by and took pictures.

Earlier that morning, on their second challenge, the Pirates packed six shopping bags full of food at the First United Methodist Church's Second Street Pantry. Sandra Hutchens, volunteer director, told the team the food pantry, now in its fourth year, served nearly 14,000 people last year.

At Phat Tire, teams had to find answers to questions about the store. One question was, what's the highest-priced brand and model bicycle in stock? The answer: a Santa Cruz Bronson that costs $6,199.

Dena McConnell, Thomas Jefferson's librarian and a Pirates team member, called the Amazing Race a great way to start the school year and to get to know co-workers. She added it's a way to help build community at Thomas Jefferson.

"Building community is important," McConnell said. "If we have that among us as a staff, it will trickle down to the students and parents, too."

The Pirates were the second team to arrive back at the school, but ended up winning the competition. They earned 50,000 bonus points for following directions as requested and turning everything in correctly, Berry said. The team that returned to school first had not followed directions correctly.

Karrie Arbuckle, principal, said when staff members regrouped, they would discuss how it went and what team-building lessons they learned.

The event helped the school form relationships with area businesses and other organizations, Arbuckle said. The school tries to involve the community through its mentor program. Community members are paired with a student, and they meet once a week, Arbuckle said. Last year the school had 13 mentors.

The school's theme this year is "Destination: Learning." The Amazing Race event "really fit that theme," Arbuckle said.

NW News on 08/12/2014

Print Headline: Staff Engages In ‘Amazing Race’

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