Students across multiple age groups within the Granby Public Schools came together as part of a new 12-week initiative aimed at encouraging creative thinking and developing engineering skills among young students.
To deliver this type of experiential learning, Wells Road partnered with Starbase, a Department of Defense-sponsored program that engages elementary-age students in hands-on activities centered around the STEM and problem solving-oriented skills prevalent in engineering and related fields in the real world.
To aid in the learning experience, several students at Granby Memorial High School participated in the Starbase program as mentors, guiding the 21 fourth graders active in the program to hone their critical thinking skills. Mentors and Wells Road students alike participated in a myriad of activities, ranging from creating structures from a limited amount of school supplies to prevent water from flooding into a “Marshmallow Man,” constructing bridges, and crafting towers. The central theme of each of these activities was for students to develop an understanding of the problem they were required to address and implement their own creative solutions as a team.
As noted by Aiden Barbee, a GMHS student who attended several sessions as a mentor, the experience “quickly became something that I enjoyed and looked forward to.” When asked about what he felt both he and the students gained from the experience, Barbee added that they each “developed creative thinking and problem-solving skills, ultimately opening up the engineering pathway for the younger generation.”
The success of this program can be attributed to the coordination of several advisors: Kristin Rice, Wells Road math coach and coordinator for the Starbase program, and Ann Marzo, of the GMHS math department, who served as the high school mentor coordinator.
Throughout the program, on Tuesday afternoons from January to April, a pivotal element of students’ experience existed beyond the STEM and creative thinking skills they developed. The design of the program worked to enhance every participant’s ability to function as part of a team by improving their listening and cooperation in a safe and supportive environment where they could experiment together.
With student interest in STEM-oriented fields surging, Wells Road provided elementary and high school students with an opportunity to engage in problem-solving oriented challenges that demanded their creativity, collaboration and enthusiasm. As summarized by student mentor Andrew Meier, “As mentors, we definitely helped to push the imagination of the kids, and hopefully taught them how to think critically against different obstacles.”