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This is Possible Because People Love You

This is Possible Because People Love You
Posted on 05/21/2019
Arvada High School Principal Gina Rivas checks out the work of a Swanson Elementary student in the school’s new STEM lab.It was like Christmas morning for students who were having fun showing off their brand-new STEM lab at Swanson Elementary to some curious grownup VIPs. Take Cade Hill, for example; he was trying out the new Bridge Build app. Cade loves bridges; he even builds a few homemade versions in his backyard.

“We have a retaining wall. I built a bridge across it, and I can actually walk on it,” said Hill.

“So, it's safe? One hundred percent safe?” asked fellow Swanson student Alessandra Ellis.

“Yeah,” replied Hill.

“Let’s hope it never falls down,” said Ellis.

For Ellis, the Pixie station was her favorite.

“You could do 3D things. You could paint, you could do it in crayon, you could do it in highlighter. It's cool,” she said.

We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s rewind.

Just a few minutes earlier, Swanson’s STEM lab officially opened, with Swanson student-reporters documenting every angle. This was a big deal for a Title I school that was once on the closure list. For the past few weeks, the kids have had some sneak peek time, experimenting with scratch coding, snap circuits, 3D printing, and more.

“We’ve just been blown away by their potential in what they’ve already created,” said Digital Teacher Librarian Shannon Feely. “They were not given any instruction; they were just exploring.”

“Just to see the genuine excitement, curiosity, and just passion that they’re already showing in just the short amount of time they’ve been there has been truly inspiring,” added Swanson Principal Kristina Carothers.

It was the same story at Thomson Elementary, another Title I school that also has a new STEM lab.

“Their learning is so different in the STEM lab than it is in the classroom,” explained Thomson Digital Teacher Librarian Rita Pereira. “For some of our kids, I’ve seen them just excel in the STEM lab, whereas in the traditional classroom, it might be a little bit trickier for them.”

Both labs wouldn’t have happened without a $560K grant from The Gill Foundation and support from the Jeffco Schools Foundation. Tim Gill, who made it big in tech, is a Wheat Ridge High School graduate and uses foundation money to affect change in highly-impacted communities. Thomson, Swanson, and North Arvada fit the bill.

“We see a lot of students from underrepresented communities that wouldn’t normally go into STEM fields, or at least our statistics show that they don’t go into STEM fields,” said Jeffco STEM Pathway Designer Heather Waldron. “The whole Arvada articulation area has been doing a lot of work around problem-based learning and tech integration. They were right on the cusp of something like this.”

Other North Arvada elementary schools – Secrest and Hackberry Hill – are set to get Gill STEM labs this summer. North Arvada Middle School and Arvada High School will follow next spring using additional Gill Foundation money.

“They’re able to take that to the middle school and build on that and then to the high school. We’re doing the work that we’re asking kids to do,” explained Thomson Principal Natalie Berges Tucker. “To be collaborative, to be problem solvers, to be creative and what that might look like. And I'm really excited to see what does that look like for our kindergartners now when they get to 12th grade.

Carothers and Feely are equally excited for their students.

“I can’t think of a group more deserving of a special space like this, and I'm so glad that we have this for you,” she said.

“This is possible because people love you, and they believe in you. All of these people know that you are the future and you guys are going to solve these problems,” Feely said to her students. “We talk about a quote, 'You have more power in your fingertips than any other generation has had.' What are you going to do with that?’"

See the JPS-TV version of this story here or below.

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