North Summit students put imaginations on display |

North Summit students put imaginations on display

Students at North Summit Elementary School recently got to show off their creativity.

One student made a robot with a jet pack. Another created one with bionic eyes that could see long distances and shoot lasers.

It was all part of an assignment that tested students’ abilities to imagine and invent. First- through fourth-graders were tasked with creating robots out of every

day recyclable items such as laundry detergent containers and paper towel rolls.

"It was engaging from the very beginning," said Lori O’Connor, the school’s principal. "One, it was robots and kids love robots. Two, they were using their own abilities to design the robots. It was a very hands-on type of project."

The assignment was part of the school’s "Thinking Skills for the 21st Century" curriculum, which teaches STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) concepts. The goal is to ensure students are prepared for the types of careers that will be available when they enter the workforce. According to O’Connor, more than 500 engineering or computer technology jobs go unfilled each year in Utah.

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"We want to have hands-on, engaging activities for the children," she said. "We really are trying to get them to use their own creativity and their imagination to solve problems. I would say that’s our No. 1 priority, trying to ensure all children are college- and career-ready. We know that to be prepared for the future, they absolutely have to be doing the problem solving that will give them the strongest foundation."

Walker Woolstenhulme, a fourth-grader who participated, said he enjoyed getting out of the classroom to build something. He and his partner created a ski-patrol robot, complete with a pair of skis.

"I liked getting random stuff like tin cans and making it into a robot," he said. "But it was kind of hard. You had to get it to stand up and stuff but it was fun."

The school has worked with a STEAM coordinator, Lola Beatlebrox, to develop several projects throughout the year for students, focusing on offering opportunities for collaboration. O’Connor said Beatlebrox’s efforts have been crucial, since it can be difficult for teachers to incorporate those types of activities into their lesson plans.

"We would love to have all teachers integrating these types of activities," she said, adding that students’ robots were on display at a school art show. "But the teachers’ plates are so full. It’s really hard. So this is like, ‘How can we make sure our students are still getting these opportunities?’ We know children need more of these opportunities. We were very happy to be able to provide that."