Highland School students show the school board how they’re thinking outside the box

    Highland School’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) activities have kids thinking outside the box and the Crookston School Board was treated to a presentation Monday from Highland teachers, students and Principal Chris Trostad. Students, Logan Brekken and Ashton Hoffman, also showed off robots that they helped build and “code” to do things like move around the room and make noises.

    Dan Halland, Highland sixth grade teacher, told the board that STEM activities have helped kids learn how to be hands-on especially when reading out of a book “isn’t always everyone’s favorite thing.” His classroom has made aluminum foil boats that float with pennies added to them and have incorporated a truss bridge building project with past special presentations from engineers of Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates.  

    With the foil boats, Halland said one project held 314 pennies and another held 341 pennies. In regards to the bridge-building project, in 2017, one bridge held 160.4 pounds and weighed only 160 grams or just over a quarter pound.

    “Why not do an activity so we can understand it better?” Halland asked rhetorically, later noting how appreciative he was to receive assistance through the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) to help fund some of the activities.

    “The kids love it, they love to work with their hands,” he added.

    In fifth grade, teachers Erica Uttermark and Kristi Griffin have been working with coding education to have students use building skills to create robotics. After receiving a grant through the education foundation to purchase iPads and LEGO WeDo kits, they have combined hands-on building using LEGO bricks with coding software to enable teachers and their students to learn about programming in the classroom.

    Fifth grader Ashton Hoffman told the board that he and a friend made “code” for one robot and fifth grader Logan Brekken said she coded her “dash robot” by herself. The students explained that they used “lots of math” like figuring acute and obtuse angles, and plotting different coordinates.

    “Coding is basically through the iPad telling things what it needs to do, which directions to go,” Uttermark clarified.

    She added earlier that the students have been driving their LEGO robots down the hallway together and can pick many different ways to build it.

    “It’s a lot of trial and error,” added Griffin.

    Uttermark mentioned that her students will be visiting a preschool room to teach STEM and “they become the teachers” incorporating english and reading as part of the “Holidays Around the World” initiative.

    Board chair Frank Fee commended their work saying he was impressed with what they’re doing and for the teachers taking the initiative to incorporate STEM into their education plans.