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Encinal students learn about engineering by having fun

 

Students created rockets out of PVC pipe and recycled materials, made parachutes for gummy bears, put together robots and much more as part of the first "Encinal Engineers" event on Jan. 11 at Encinal School in Atherton.

Second-grader Lucas Mathenia designed and built a bridge, and then broke it with weights. "I learned if you have a really long thick roof, the bridge will hold," he said.

Teacher Lori Sullivan said the event was amazing and engaging. "The children had a wonderful time designing and re-designing their ideas," she said. "I loved seeing them get excited about learning!"

The event involved a large team, said Alicia Payton-Miyazaki, the Menlo Park City School District's science and math teacher on special assignment, who serves as an in-house professional developer and curriculum lead in the district.

Working with teachers on the project were Encinal parents (including Sima Westwood, Aimee Mathenia, Ellen Long and Avani Khatri) and more than 30 volunteers from Menlo-Atherton High School led by Avani and Navya Anne, Erin Cole, Z Bekemeyer, Jake Albro and Elias Nasr.

Each class of students, from kindergarten to second grade, had three STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) challenges. They were "hands-on and extremely engaging engineering and design activities," Ms. Payton-Miyazaki said.

Funds for the event came from the Encinal Parent Teacher Organization and the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation.

Encinal's third- to fifth-grade students will have their own Encinal Engineers day on Jan. 25, with engineering activities from the Lawrence Hall of Science that include building robots, working in an animation studio, and building structures to withstand earthquakes.

Ms. Payton-Miyazaki said the event began as a way to get "the entire school building and designing at once." She said it also feeds into California's new science standards that include an emphasis on hands-on experience and engineering.

At the end of the day, second-grader Lucy Westwood may have captured the essence of the day. "I learned how to make stuff," she said.

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