Early Learners: "Can we siphon water to the top of the 4-story building across the street?"
Last year, our Early Learners (EL/PreK students) developed a relationship with the builders across the street at the Afton Building. It started with EL students watching them work and asking questions about what their building would become. The Afton's architect visited to show us his plans and talk with students; EL students later gave the workers cupcakes to welcome them to the neighborhood. In return, they put EL students' artwork on display in front of their building.
Later in the year, EL students extended their interest in siphoning water through tubes in their classroom to a bigger goal: Siphoning water out of their classroom window, across the street, to the top of the Afton Building! With their new knowledge of how water moves and problems that might need to be solved, our students presented their idea to the Afton supervisors. They liked the idea, agreed it was possible, and even offered to let us use their equipment to help make it happen!
During this project, students wrote elaborate plans, figured out how to overcome "water bubble obstacles" and pumping issues, as well as became experts on water "output" and "input" requirements to make water move. Maybe best of all, our students demonstrated the qualities of being great neighbors, made friends with the Afton folks, and worked hard together to accomplish a lofty goal.
3-4 Class: "How can we use alternative transportation to improve Boise?"
A while ago during a lunch-out outing, 3-4 students started asking great questions about alternative modes of transportation in downtown Boise, as they observed the new bus station being constructed underneath the U.S. Bank building. They started wondering why it was going in and how it would affect people traveling through downtown.
That discussion led to broader consideration of diverse forms of alternative transportation people from different countries use. Students started recognizing and making connections between modes of travel like, walking, biking, using public transportation (buses, taxis, subways, light rails), even traveling by boat, and how these alternatives might be easier on the environment than everyone driving a car.
To deepen their study, the 3-4 class partnered with the Boise Bicycle Project, an inspirational local non-profit dedicated to repairing, refurbishing, and finding bikes for people (especially kids) in our community who don't have bikes. Our students incorporated their physics study knowledge of how basic machines work, as they worked alongside Boise Bicycle Project workers to learn how to make bike repairs and build bikes from the ground up.
During this unit, students also met with members of City Council to find out what they had planned for Boise's downtown transportation system. They wrote letters to the Mayor with suggestions for improvements and shared things that were important to them. The 3-4 class also visited a local architecture firm to learn how architects and engineers widen or redesign existing roads to make room for bikes lanes and pedestrians. All of these activities expanded our students' understanding of how alternative modes of transportation can improve life for Boise residents.
Lastly, our students worked with the Boise Bicycle Project workers to organize and distribute bikes to refugee children in our community. They learned how to organize a community-based effort like this, but they also saw first-hand how they have the power to make a positive difference in other kids' lives in Boise.