CENTRAL POINT — First-grader Braden Souza let out a chuckle as he used a homemade, orange-and-hot-pink elevator to single-handedly lift three classmates — all girls — Thursday afternoon.
The girls giggled, with at least one peering out a side window of the elevator and teachers smiling at the display of learning disguised as good old-fashioned fun.
First-graders have spent recent weeks researching, designing and trouble-shooting the ins and outs of simple machines as part of the District 6 Exhibition Night 2018 “Showcase of Student Discovery,” which starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Central Point Elementary School.
Gearing up to dazzle parents and community members with marvels such as 3D-printed radio-controlled cars, pint-sized tornadoes, pet care and weather broadcasting, the students of Central Point Elementary were almost too excited Thursday afternoon to focus.
In fact, had they not been eager to fine-tune their creations for the looming event, noted Principal Walt Davenport, it could almost have been described as total mayhem.
A World’s Fair of sorts for students, the event debuted last year with an arsenal of projects aimed at encouraging hands-on learning.
Each grade level had a different focus, with this year’s lineup ranging from pet care by kindergartners to the American Revolution and TV production by fifth-graders.
Hallways Thursday were abuzz with poster making and chatter about the big event. Students at all grade levels worked in teams and were able to put concepts they’d learned into real-world applications. First-grade teacher Melissa Telford smiled as students showed off a pair of pulley systems in the noisy gym.
“One of the pulleys can lift 2,000 pounds, so students did some research to see what kinds of things weigh 2,000 pounds so they could put it into perspective,” she said.
“They’re all really excited to lift some of their parents in the elevator Friday.”
In a fifth-grade classroom across campus, students practiced their demonstration of a remote-control car created on a 3-D printer. Students discussed the difference between polarized and nonpolarized motors.
Fifth-grader Joseph Combs said the RC car was his first experience using a 3-D printer.
“We basically used the 3-D printer to print the base, which everything went onto, so for the battery pack and wheels to go on. Then we learned the wiring, and we even printed the tires,” said the 10-year-old.
“We were able to wire it and have it be able to drive and stuff. At first we were just going to put the wire to the motor from the battery, but then we were like, ‘Hey, why don’t we just add a switch?’”
Joseph said students talked about real-life applications for printed car parts and learning basic wiring — ranging from electrical engineering to “being, like, a spy or something!”
Venturing into natural disasters — and even creating scaled-down versions of tornadoes and floods — third-graders focused on weather. Nine-year-old Aaylee Wells marveled at the volume of information she hadn’t previously known.
“We learned that the biggest tornado in the world wasn’t in the U.S.A.,” said the girl with confidence. “And it was an F5, which was big.”
Aaylee said students worked together to create a tornado model and even created actual cyclones inside taped-together two-liter bottles. Research on natural disasters covered everything from how to stay safe to where certain types of disasters are more likely to occur.
“Tornadoes happen mostly in Texas and in tornado alley,” said Lottie Walker, 8.
“And we learned how tornadoes formed because of the air temperature. I didn’t know that the air came from different places (Canada and Mexico). I thought they just happened.”
First-grader Talia Sanchez said learning about things and getting to try them first-hand made learning more fun.
“We learned that simple machines make work easier, so we learned about them and then we got to build one, so it was really fun,” said the 7-year-old.
“Simple machines make work easier because they have moving parts. We got to practice using it, and the only boy in the group got to lift all the girls in the group. It was so funny.”
Davenport said the smiles, excitement and energy level of students Thursday was part of the learning that leads up to Exhibition Night.
“We are really fortunate in the district to have less pressure on things like state assessment and more emphasis on quality instruction and teaching kids to apply their knowledge and skills,” he said. “Education is really about keeping students engaged in learning, and we’re also looking forward to those types of skills the workforce needs.
“The ability to collaborate, creativity, perseverance and empathy for others will be more heavily relied on than anything we learned in fourth-grade math. The other stuff is important, but teaching kids what to do with it is what it’s all about. Teachers here have come to grips with the fact that they are no longer the keepers of information. Kids right now can grab their phone and just Google whatever they want to know. Our focus is, how do we harness that?”
Davenport said teachers and administrative staff enjoyed the chaos and excitement of the weeks’ worth of projects almost as much as students.
“You know you’re in trouble when the principal brings a welder to school,” he joked.
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.