Sweet success: Students tackle problem-solving in bake off challenge

In a scene that rivaled the nail-biting excitement of a cable reality show, eighth-grade students in Lauren Zajdel’s Makerspace course at Notre Dame Middle School put their teamworking and problem-solving skills to the test during an intense and sometimes humorous bakeoff challenge to kick off the year.

Modeled after the hit Netflix show Nailed It!, students in both the 6th grade and 8th grade classes were divided into three teams of three and given 40 minutes to compete in order to replicate complicated cakes and confectionery. 

With the help of faculty judges, teams were awarded three bonuses to use anytime during the competition: a “panic” bonus, which allowed teams to get three minutes of assistance from one of the judges; a “nag” bonus, which allowed judges to distract the other teams for three minutes; and a "freeze" bonus that gave the activating team one minute to continue working while competing teams had to stop their project.

Judges included Spanish teacher Marisol Aguilar-Fernandez, Head of School Andy Guest, Middle School Principal Brandon Jezdimir and seventh grade religion teacher Tina McLaughlin.

“These kids are learning skills to help them in the workplace in the areas of teambuilding, group project and problem-solving. It is a very hands-on IB approach to learning,” Guest said. “Beyond that, it is fun to watch the students work together creatively. I am looking forward to tasting their creations in the end.”

Each team was rated on a four-point scale for presentation, group work, taste and creativity. The 6th grade class theme was monsters and included a skeleton, Mike from Pixar Animation Studios’ popular children’s movie, “Monsters Inc.,” and Pennywise, the dancing clown from Stephen King’s “It.” The 8th grade class chose a food theme featuring a sushi roll, McDonald’s hamburger meal and a pepperoni pizza.

“It's nice to see the students working together and having fun while problem-solving to fix their creation on the fly,” McLaughlin said. “In the community and in the workplace, you have to evaluate and make decisions quickly with the best information you have. This type of activity is an excellent way to grow those critical thinking and leadership skills.” 

When the dust settled, 8th-grade students Zoe Hoke, Owen Marks and Jeffrey Guo took first place for their version of Pennywise. First place also was awarded to the McDonald’s burger team.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three school are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org