The students at Hillsboro Elementary School transformed into engineers last Thursday. Their minds raced with thoughts and ideas of how to use simple materials to create levers, ramps and even a racing car.
A precocious little girl in the book “Violet the Pilot,” written by Steve Breen.
The day’s activities centered around learning about Violet and learning to create machinery with found items.
HES principal Becky Spencer said she initially applied for a Benedum Foundation grant for one of the foundation’s early literacy activities which includes a children’s book and STEM projects related to the story in the book.
She received a grant for the “Violet the Pilot” activities, but while the Benedum Foundation saw the project as a small, parent involvement event, Spencer saw something bigger.
“Their intention was to give you materials for a parent involvement activity, but not every parent can come in the evening, and I wanted every kid to experience the STEM activity,” she said. “I made it a little bigger because I wanted to do it school-wide.”
With additional funding from a Dramas, Fairs and Festivals grant, Spencer had enough to provide a copy of “Violet the Pilot” to each student. She also used the funding to get materials for three STEM activities, which put the young minds to work to create little machines.
“We have three different STEM activities,” she said. “One, they’re creating a little balance – so learning how to create a fulcrum and a lever; how do I balance objects. The second activity is a ramp, so they have little matchbox cars and they are building a ramp. They are all given the same paper towel tube, but they are going to decide how high the ramp needs to be.
“The third one is a balloon car, and it comes with all kinds of little pieces,” she continued. “They have to put the wheels together, the frame together and it has a little part where they have to blow up the balloon and then attach it, and try to get the balloon to be the propellant to make the little car go.”
The younger grades received extra instruction, while the older students were given more leeway in putting their creations together. They also had help with their activities. The kindergarten was assisted by members of the Pocahontas County Veterans Honor Corps, while other grades had help from Pocahontas County High School students.
Along with the STEM activities, there was also a special visit from “Violet the Pilot” herself.
Dreama Burns, wearing a classic pilot’s hat with goggles and a long white scarf, read the book to each class to introduce them to Violet and her way of thinking.
“It’s been a really great experience,” Spencer said of the day.