By Robin Ward —
OAKHURST — First and foremost, I love my job as a fifth grade teacher at Oakhurst Elementary school, where I have taught going on ten years now.
It is also amazing to be part of a community that wraps its arms around the success of our children and embraces the success that kind of spirit fosters.
We have a number of organizations that put on all kinds of community activities that end up benefiting our students in the mountain area. I have been the grateful recipient of the Sierra Oakhurst Kiwanis mini-grants for a few years now. They have helped me offer challenging curriculum to my students that I would not otherwise have not be able to offer.
Pictured, but not in order, are: Bill Gao, Monica Garcia, Jonathan Reyes, Zander Irwin, Sadie Amadeo, Ginger Prentice, Dominic DeBernardi, Tristin Sherman, Hunter Washburn, Mason John, Alex Rosales, Emily Avila, Kobe King, Sam Mazaira, Julia Leyva, Tanner Garner, Jaci Morgan, Caleb Mills, Thomas Hyunh, Dayton Lee, Nicholas Jeffris, Ella Shaw, Jayda Guliacci, Ryan Rainwater, Lucas Simms, Emma Garrett and Scott Phillips
The engineering idea came to me when I applied for the Kiwanis grant. With the grant I was awarded, we purchased a bridge-making kit where my math group, the fifth graders who are in the self-named “Eyes of Brilliance” group, can replicate famous bridges like the Golden Gate and the Firth of Forth!
One thing that this engineering kit provides my students is the real world attachment of actually having “cars” traverse it. If the bridge is not sound, they need to go back into the instructions to figure out where they went wrong, and fix it.
“I think the bridge is fun,” says student Zander Irwin. “It’s fun to build and challenging,”
This year, I was able to purchase an “amusement park” Kinex kit, where students can build all kinds of miniature rides just like a carnival would have. The real world attachment added to this is “park safety.” They are learning that you can’t “tweak” a ride with weights and paper clips — this would not be safe. They need to be patient, follow directions and work as a group to build the rides.
A kit most recently built is a carousel. The most important aspect of building something so intricate as a group is communication. The students are split into groups daily. Each day when math is finished, they need to touch base with the group before them and go from where they left off.
“The carousel was one of my favorite amusement park projects,” student John Reyes notes.
Earlier this year, they built an amazing roller coaster but, due to lack of communication, it was not “structurally sound” and needed to be taken down. They were all so saddened by that defeat, they worked incredibly hard to make sure this ride would work. This was the most detail-oriented project because as the carousel must go around, it needs to have two horses per axle and the horses need to go up and down interchangeably.
“The roller coaster was pretty nice to work on with other people, especially when you imagined you were actually working in a roller coaster,” Emily Avila says. “I think people should try this because it is not only for kids — it can be also for adults. I recommend it one-hundred percent for everybody.”
I am beyond proud of my students as they are of themselves!