What happens if you challenge students to design a dream remodel of their classroom? At Portola Valley's Corte Madera School, the result is a chance to win $10,000 toward that remodel.
Teacher Kerry Keplinger's submission of her students' plans to remodel Corte Madera's STEM (which stands for science, technology, engineering and math) classroom is one of 10 finalists in the Great American School Spectacular, put on by the Great American Insurance Group.
Based on online voting, the top three projects will receive $10,000, $5,000 and $2,000. Voting started Monday, Jan. 12, and continues through Jan. 30. Individuals may vote once a day.
Ms. Keplinger's seventh- and eighth-grade STEM students came up with all the submitted ideas as a class project, Ms. Keplinger says. They were responding to a late October challenge from Portola Valley School District Superintendent Lisa Gonzales.
"Room 701 is now your project, your challenge, your personal space, your location to dream and dream big," she said. "Make the room productive. What can work better? What would you love to see? What can make this the most amazing STEM lab ever?"
Students used multimedia presentations to show their designs, including products that fit into the budget.
One student presentation emphasized tools to improve collaboration. "We feel that collaboration is the key to creating an environment where kids want to work and have fun while doing so," students Connor, Philip, Buzz and Beatty said. They suggested lots of surfaces that can be written on and erased, such as paint that turns walls into whiteboards, and moving tables with whiteboard surfaces.
Students asked for some practical things: comfortable, rolling chairs, multi-height tables, sets of simple tools such as hammers and screwdrivers, soldering kits, electronic components, headphones, power drills and volt meters.
They asked for new computers for the classroom because, Ms. Keplinger said, she now brings laptops from her math classroom for the STEM students to use. They also asked for some of the latest in technology: a 3-D printer and a computer system that allows students to see presentations in 3-D.
"I hope we win. I hope we get the word out there and get people to vote for this," Ms. Keplinger said. "I think it's important for kids to see their dreams come true and get their wishes."